Mystery Books 1970-1979
The Blessing Way by Tony Hillerman
The Blessing Way is Tony Hillerman’s first published book and the first of his Navajo Tribal Police series featuring Leaphorn & Chee. When Lieutenant Leaphorn discovers a murder victim with a mouth full of sand and no prints leading to the body, Leaphorn’s first instinct is that a supernatural killer is at fault. As he trails a killer known as ‘Wolf-Witch’ the path is strewn with mysticism and murder.
The first editions of The Blessing Way were published by Harper and Row, New York in 1970. First printings of the first edition have a full number line and “First Edition’ printed on the copyright page. Fine first editions can list for upwards of $2,500 and can be worth much more if it is a signed or association copy.
The Day of the Jackal by Frederick Forsyth
The spy thriller The Day of the Jackal is about a professional assassin who is contracted by the OAK French terrorist group to kill Charles de Gaulle, the President of France in 1963. Author Frederick Forsyth wrote the book in a reported 35 days as an attempt to make sorely needed money, although it took him a year and a half to find a publisher for the 140,000-word manuscript. The Day of the Jackal received the Best Novel Edgar Award in 1972. In 1973 a film adaptation was released, starring Edward Fox and Michael Lonsdale.
The Day of the Jackal was first published in 1971 by Hutchinson & Co, London as an 8,000 print copy run with 358 pages and bound in red-gold cloth. The novel was very successful and the US edition appeared a few months later, published by Viking, NY with a cover by artist Paul Bacon.
The Rocksburg Railroad Murders by K.C. Constantine
The Rocksburg Railroad Murders is the first book in the 17 volume ‘Rocksburg’ series by K.C. Constantine, set in the fictional rust-belt town of Rocksburg in Western Pennsylvania. Rocksburg is based on the author’s hometown of McKees Rocks, just outside of Pittsburgh.
When a man is found beaten to death with a Coke bottle on the platform of the Rocksburgh Railroad Station, detective Mario Balzic must use his wits and knowledge of psychology to find the killer.
The first edition of The Rocksburg Railroad Murders was published by Saturday Review Press in 1972. The original dust jacket has a $5.95 on the front flap.
The First Deadly Sin by Lawrence Sanders
The First Deadly Sin was Sanders’ second novel and the first of his Edward X. Delaney ‘Deadly Sins’ series. The main protagonist of The First Deadly Sin is Captain Edward Delaney, who was a minor character in Sanders' first novel, The Anderson Tapes, which won the 1971 Edgar Award for the best first novel.
In The First Deadly Sin, Delaney has taken a leave of absence to care for his sick wife but returned to work to investigate a high profile murder. The novel was the basis of the 1980 film starring Frank Sinatra as Delaney and Faye Dunaway as his wife. It was originally slated to be produced by Roman Polanski before he fled the country, so the production was taken over by Brian G. Hutton. Bruce Willis also makes his acting debut in this film as an extra.
The First Deadly Sin was published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons in 1973. The original dust jacket has an $8.95 price on the front flap.
The Godwulf Manuscript by Robert B Parker
In The Godwulf Manuscript, Private Investigator Spenser is hired by an unnamed university in Boston to track down a stolen illuminated manuscript from the Middle Ages. The search for the manuscript uncovers criminal activity within a radical student group.
Author Robert B. Parker taught full-time at Northwestern University after earning his Ph.D. from Boston University in 1971. These credentials, along with the publication of over 70 novels, eventually earned him the nickname ‘The Dean of Crime Fiction.’ It was in his first year of teaching that he wrote his first Spenser novel, The Godwulf Manuscript.
The Godwulf Manuscript was published by Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston in 1974. The original white dust jacket design is by Paul Bacon and has a $5.95 price on the front flap. First printings have ‘First Printing c’ on the copyright page. First printings in fine condition, even with a signature, can be found between $500 and $1000.
Where Are the Children? by Mary Higgins Clark
Nancy is the model housewife, living with her husband and their two children in Cape Cod. But when her children go missing from their yard, Nancy’s skeletons from her former life - the one where she narrowly escaped being charged with the murder of her first two children - comes back to haunt her.
Where Are the Children is the first mystery novel published by Mary Higgins Clark, who was a forty-eight-year-old widow and mother of five when it was published. Clark sold the novel to Simon and Schuster for an advance of $3,000. Her next book, A Stranger is Watching, was published in 1977 and earned Clark an advance of $1.5 million for the paperback and hardback rights.
The first edition of Where Are the Children was published by Simon and Schuster, New York and Talmy Franklin, London in 1975.
Looking for Mr. Goodbar by Judith Rossner
Looking for Mr. Goodbar follows Theresa Dunn, a young woman living in New York City who is a school teacher by day and picks up men at singles bars at night. The story is based on the real-life murder of Roseann Quinn, a school teacher in NYC who was killed by a man she met at a singles bar in 1973.
Author Judith Rossner first wrote an article for Esquire about the murder, but it wasn’t published, most likely to not interfere with the trial of Quinn’s killer. Looking for Mr. Goodbar was highly successful, selling over 4 million copies and spending 36 weeks on the New York Times Bestseller list. The 1977 film based on the novel starred Diane Keaton, Tuesday Weld, and Richard Gere.
The first edition of Looking for Mr. Goodbar was published by Simon & Schuster, New York, in 1975. The original US dust jacket has $7.95 on the front flap. The first UK edition was published by Cape, London in 1975.
Murder at the ABA by Isaac Asimov
This bibliomystery, written by the prolific author Isaac Asimov, revolves around a murder at an American Booksellers Association convention. The writer and amateur detective Darius, modeled on real-life writer Harlan Ellison, discovers the body of a friend and protege and investigates.
Cameos of real-life people, including Asimov, appear in the novel, which was written at the bequest of Asimov’s publisher in the short time frame of three months. Asimov has mentioned that Murder at the ABA was a favorite of the books he had written.
The first edition of Murder at the ABA was published by Doubleday and Company, Garden City, NY in 1976. The original dust jacket describes the book as “A Puzzle in Four Days and Sixty Scenes.” Published as Authorized Murder in the UK.
A Morbid Taste for Bones by Ellis Peters
A Morbid Taste for Bones is the world's introduction to the mystery-solving monk, Brother Cadfael. Set in the Middle Ages, it is called a "Mediaeval Whodunnit." The book stood out among its contemporary peers who relied on lurid themes to entice readers and started a rise in historical mysteries.
Published in London by Macmillian in 1977, A Morbid Taste for Bones was written by Edith Pargeter under the name Ellis Peters. The Cadfael Chronicles were adapted for radio and television.
The first edition dust jacket includes the price of $8.95, a complete number line starting with 1, and is clearly stated as a First Edition.
True Confessions by John Gregory Dunne
After a bisected corpse is found in an abandoned lot in Los Angeles, a catchy nickname is given to the murder victim: “The Virgin Tramp.” True Confessions is a noir novel that centers around two Irish-Catholic brothers, one a policeman and one a priest, who are affected by the murder. The book was inspired by the real-life 1947 Black Dahlia murder. The screenplay for the 1981 film adaptation was co-written by Dunne’s wife, writer Joan Didion.
True Confessions was published in 1977 by E.P. Dutton & Co, New York. First editions can be found at very affordable retail prices, although a signature greatly increases the value.
Eye of the Needle by Ken Follett
Eye of the Needle is a World War II thriller novel written by British author Ken Follett. It was originally published in 1978 by the Penguin Group under the title Storm Island. This novel was Follett's first successful best selling effort as a novelist, and it earned him the 1979 Edgar Award for Best Novel from the Mystery Writers of America. The novel revolves around a German Spy, with the codename ‘The Needle’ because of the stiletto dagger he uses to kill. The Nazi’s victory hinges on this spy, but his fate rests in the hands of a lonely Englishwoman whom he grows to love. The book was adapted into a 1981 film starring Donald Sutherland.
The first edition of Eye of the Needle was published by Arbor House, New York, in 1978. The original dust jacket has an $8.95 price on the front flap.
The Cater Street Hangman by Anne Perry
The Cater Street Hangman is the first novel by the British historical mystery novelist Anne Perry and the first of her Thomas Pitt series. In this novel, young inspector Thomas Pitt leads an investigation into the death of a maid at the Ellison household. The two young Ellison daughters join the investigation, and Pitt finds himself drawn to one of them.
The first edition of The Cater Street Hangman was published by St. Martin’s Press in New York in 1979. The first UK edition was published by Robert Hale, Ltd. in the same year. The original dust jacket features a women’s profile and describes the novel as “A Novel of Romance and Danger Set in Victorian London,” with a price stamp of $8.95 on the front flap.
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Author Bio: Amy C. Manikowski is a writer, bookseller, trail-diverger, history buff, and pitbull lover. She graduated from Chatham University with an MFA a while ago, and after wandering aimlessly settled in Asheville NC.