Monday, March 26, 2018

Welcome and title list

I remember when I first ran into the Mystery League. It was a rainy day at a used bookstore in Wells, Maine; when The Mystery of Burnleigh Manor caught my eyeIt must have been the strange, Art-Deco shaped letters in green on the spine. I picked it up for a couple of bucks ... and it sat on my bookshelf for many years.

Eventually I came across this article by Diane Plumley: The Mystery League: Great Crime Fiction or Only Super Deco Dust Jackets? which piqued my interest in the series. Then I came across J F Norris'  blog IMPRESSIVE IMPRINTS: The Mystery League, 1930-1933 and the November 1992 issue of Firsts: Collecting Modern First Editions, which has an article by Ellen Nehr on the series (still available as a back issue from the link). There is also an article on Tenth Letter of the Alphabet by Alex Jay which has reproduced a number of period articles and ads for the Mystery Guild - scroll way to the bottom of that post. 

While most collectors seek the editions with the minimalist dust jacket art, I was interested in the stories themselves. I buy old mysteries to read them, not to let them languish on the shelf; so I am not too concerned with condition or dust jackets**. So with these low expectations, I was able to acquire "reading copies" of the entire series in less than a year from eBay,, and surprisingly, Amazon; picking them up for a self-imposed budget of $10 each, although I did stretch to $12 ... well, maybe $14 ... for a couple. Patience pays off. 

The above linked articles provide great information on the cover art, promotion schemes, and distribution of this series. So what I can offer you that is new? It is my plan to read my way through the series (again), this time compiling a cast of characters and a concise synopsis for each; so prospective readers will have some idea which books they may enjoy seeking.

Last year, on a trip to New York City, I went on a little spy expedition to take a look at the League's published address of 11 West 42nd Street, to see if anything recognizable remained after - what? almost 90 years. I was pleasantly surprised at what I found. Look for the photos in this post!

Here are the 30 titles in the series. I believe this is the order of release, but some sources vary. The 31st was announced to be Death Holds the Key by David Frome, but it was never published by the League. Please note the titles themselves were not numbered, I have added numbers just to indicate the sequence of release.

  1. The Hand of PowerEdgar Wallace, 1930
  2. The Curse of Doone. Sydney Horler, 1930
  3. The House of Sudden Sleep. John Hawk, 1930
  4. Jack O'LanternGeorge Goodchild, 1930
  5. Mystery of Burnleigh Manor. Walter Livingston, 1930
  6. The Invisible Host. Gwen Bristow and Bruce Manning, 1930
  7. *The Day of Uniting. Edgar Wallace, 1930
  8. *The Monster of Grammont. George Goodchild, 1930
  9. *The House of Terror. Edward Woodward, 1930
  10. *The Hardway Diamonds Mystery. Miles Burton, 1930
  11. *Peril. Sydney Horler, 1930
  12. The Maestro Murders. Frances Shelley Wees, 1931
  13. Turmoil at Brede. Seldon Truss, 1931
  14. Death Walks in Eastrepps. Francis Beeding, 1931
  15. The Secret of High Eldersham. Miles Burton, 1931
  16. The Gutenberg Murders. Gwen Bristow and Bruce Manning, 1931
  17. The Merrivale Mystery. James Corbett, 1931
  18. The Tunnel Mystery, J. C. Lenehan, 1931
  19. The Mystery of Villa Sineste, Walter Livingston, 1931
  20. The Hunterstone Outrage, Seldon Truss, 1931
  21. Murder in the French Room, Helen Joan Hultman, 1931
  22. Bungalow on the Roof, Achmed Abdullah, 1931
  23. The False Purple. Sydney Horler, 1932
  24. Two and Two Make Twenty-Two. Gwen Bristow and Bruce Manning, 1932
  25. For Sale - MurderWill Levinrew, 1932
  26. The Ebony Bed Murder, Rufus Gillmore, 1932
  27. Spider House, Van Wyck Mason, 1932
  28. The Mardi Gras Murders. Gwen Bristow and Bruce Manning, 1932
  29. The Stingaree Murders. W. Shepard Pleasants, 1932
  30. Death Points a Finger. Will Levinrew, 1933
#31 was planned to be Death Holds the Key by David Frome. The League did not survive to publish it. It was later published by Grosset and Dunlap under the title Scotland Yard Can Wait.

*Released simultaneously in a boxed set of five.

**Reproduction dust covers for most of these titles are available from Facsimile Dust Jackets, LLC, doing business as Just enter the title name in their search box. The preview photos also allow you to read (barely) all the material on the dust jackets.

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