FIRST EDITIONS OF IMPORTANT MYSTERY, DETECTIVE NOVELS RARELY OFFERED TOGETHER AT AUCTION
Drawing on his experience at the famous Pinkerton private detective agency, Dashiell Hammett’s momentous 1929 debut novel, Red Harvest, defined the archetype for the literary private investigator. The tale of murder and its exploration of corruption and violence in America often ranks among the greatest English-language novels of all time.
A first edition of the classic work is among an exceptional collection of mystery and detective literature offered at Heritage Auctions’ Sept. 14 rare books auction. “A collection like this only comes along once in a lifetime and indeed required a lifetime to assemble,” says James Gannon, director of rare books.
The Red Harvest first edition is expected to realize $30,000.
Also offered is Hammett’s 1930 follow-up, The Maltese Falcon, his most popular work and among the most beloved of the genre, Gannon says, thanks to Humphrey Bogart’s brilliant turn as Sam Spade in John Huston’s 1941 cinematic adaptation.
“This single-owner collection features several books by authors who, like Hammett, wrote for the hard-boiled pulp magazine Black Mask,” Gannon says (see “In Search of Adventure”). “Perhaps the most famous of these authors, Raymond Chandler, has several works featured in the auction, including a presentation copy of his last masterpiece, The Long Good-Bye from 1954.”
Additional Black Mask contributors with books in the auction include Paul Cain with his tough-as-nails Fast One from 1934, and Raoul Whitfield with his impressive 1930 debut Green Ice.
Little Caesar by W.R. Burnett, published in 1929, provided the standard by which all gangster portrayals are judged with Edgar G. Robinson’s acclaimed performance as Caesar Enrico “Rico” Bandello in the 1931 film. “And the nearly impossible to find If I Die Before I Wake by Sherwood King,” Gannon adds, “served as the source for Orson Welles’ 1947 classic noir film The Lady from Shanghai.
“The enduring popularity of crime literature owes no small debt to the frequency of successful film adaptions made during the Classical Hollywood era,” Gannon says, “and the KoKo Collection includes several of these landmark books.”