Books still to collect: 81

Thursday, 31 March 2011


Some books have arrived in the mail. I won one of those hardback ebay auctions that I blogged about a week or so ago. The Monster Mountain and Phantom Lake large hardbacks went for about £40, but I was fortunate enough to be the high bidder on this lot:
Three really nice condition small hardbacks, all first printings (or therabouts; they all list 6 titles on back cover and have blue stains to top edge of paper). Absolutely beautiful, they are, the picture doesn't do them justice.

So, another two nice additions to the collection and the first hardback in my doubles pile.

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

A Long Way for a Short Cut

Wigtown is a village in Southern Scotland famed for having second hand bookshops, so I thought it may be a good idea to drop in on my way to work, just to check if anyone had any nice Three Investigators books. Wigtown is, as anyone who has ever been there will testify, in the middle of fucking nowhere, and it took a detour of 100 miles to squeeze it into my journey from Glasgow to Hampshire. I’m glad I did, though, because this is what I found in the Box of Frogs shop:

Nice, eh? I snapped up the Crooked Cat paperback and Whispering Mummy hardback (a snip at only £3). I decided against the omnibus editions at this point as I found them to be a little tatty. Sharp eyed bloggers will spot the Hardy Boys titles poking their spines in. If you are a Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew collector, you could do worse than pay The Box of Frogs a visit as they had a couple of shelves heaving with some really nice vintage examples. I see that one of the Hardy Boys is a Harold Hill edition. Here is my hot tip for the day folks. If you ever come across any Harold Hill Hardy Boys books with their dustjackets, BITE THE DEALER’S HAND OFF. Hardy Boys fans go nuts for them, as they had different cover art than their American counterpart editions. Bloke by pen name of Varty did them. Most dealers in the UK are unaware of this, however, and tend to lump all old Hardy Boys dustjackets together, so the Harold Hills and Sampson Low editions are usually priced about the same, normally in the £10 bracket. I say, get them on eBay where they will fetch anything upwards of £40.

Wigtown is an excellent place, if you are a book collector. It has about a dozen or so bookshops, including what claims to be Scotland’s largest second hand book shop. Unfortunately, none of the other shops that were open had any Three Investigators for me, so I left with my modest haul of booty and only another 400 miles to drive home.

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Car Hole

I managed to find the time have a quick look in the garage last weekend and here's what I found: These are all books that I've picked up over the last couple of years. Nothing too startling here, and a bit disappointing not to find any hardbacks as I was sure that there was at least one large hardback in there somewhere. Maybe it's buried deeper and will require a more extensive mining operation to uncover. Still, it's nice to see that 1st paperback Vanishing Treasure, always a tricky one to find as it was never reprinted with that cover. That 3rd edition Stuttering Parrot is quite hard to come by as well, and the An Ear For Danger is quite lovely too. Nectar!

Monday, 21 March 2011

Lord Save My Soul

On Sunday, I popped in to the shopping centre in East Kilbride on some non-Three Investigators related business. Or so I thought. However, when I noticed that despite it being The Lord’s day, there was a charity shop open. Imagine my surprise when I didn’t find any Three Investigators paperbacks, but found this instead: Wow! When did you last find a hardback Three Investigators in a charity shop? I reckon its years since I’ve found one, yet here it is. Condition is a bit shite though, as you can see in the picture. The previous owner, Paul Morton, had taken to doodling on the cover of the book, shading out some of the lettering with a pen. Looking at the pen marks, I realised that this was not a random scribbling, but clearly a code worthy of Jupiter Jones himself to solve! You see, he had scribbled out certain letters, which when written out, clearly formed a word. The letters are; “G A O T R O R O.” What does this mean? Fuck knows, I am not Jupiter Jones, if I ever bump into Paul I will be sure to ask him. Mind you, that is if he hasn’t murdered everyone in his entire family yet. What am I talking about? Ever watch The Shining with Jack Nicolson? Hmm? Then check out the inside back cover of the book:
He also wrote this epithet on the title page and across the top edge of the pages. I’m telling you, no-one in the Morton household is safe, it is only a matter of time.

A great result, scribbled pages and ominous religious prophesies notwithstanding, and the first hardback in my new collection.

Ground Money

I found myself on Byres Road with Doctor Scott last Saturday. We had just eaten a very agreeable lunch in the Curry Leaf when two quite extraordinary things happened. The first was that I looked down and saw a twenty pound note just lying there on the pavement. A twenty pound note! I immediately bent over and grabbed it, hoping that no-one noticed me picking it up. After all, I didn’t want the owner to be some poor old granny and that was her shopping money for the week. I’d much prefer the owner to have been some undeserving ned who would only have spent it on fags and buckie, so that’s what I convinced myself was probably the case. Doctor Scott and I both decided that the best thing to spend the ground money on was a nice chocolate cake and a blu ray film that we could enjoy as our curry digested, so we continued on towards Tesco. Before we got there, however, we had to pass the Oxfam bookshop. Sometimes the prices in Oxfam bookshops can be extortionate, for example this time they had a Doctor Who book priced up at £39.99. Inside, the first thing I noticed was a shelf full of 1970s Collins Hardy Boys hardbacks, you know, the ones in the same format as the Three Investigators small hardbacks. Unfortunately, they didn’t have any Three Investigators hardbacks, but what they did have was this:
A superb set of eleven 2nd edition paperbacks! And at only £3.00 for the lot, a bargain was had. Nice books, they appear unread, although they all have the previous owner, one Moira Leishman of Kilmarnock’s name on the title page. If you’re reading this, Moira, your books went to a good cause. In case you haven’t realised it, this was the second extraordinary thing that happened. How often do you find that many Three Investigators books in the one shop these days? Doctor Scott seemed a little bemused at me buying these books, asking me, “Will you read them?” I said that I would , even though the correct answer should have been, “probably not.”

The remainder of the ground money went on a chocolate cake, a pint of milk and a blu ray of Edge of Darkness with Mel Gibson. The film wasn’t bad, but frankly not as good as the Three Investigators books. Or the chocolate cake for that matter.

Not a bad days collecting then, as I have added ten books to the collection and one to my doubles pile. And all paid for by an undeserving ned who would have just spent it all on blaw anyway, given half the chance.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Anything nice on AbeBooks?

Thinking about other possible sources of Three Investigators books, I thought I may have a squint at AbeBooks. I’m glad I did, for in amongst the crazy ads (£744.04 for an Armada paperback copy of Laughing Shadow – I kid you not) I found this absolute gem:
Descibed as: “First UK edition hard back binding in publisher's original panoramic colour illustrated paper covered boards, illustrated end papers. 8vo. 8'' x 5½''. Contains 160 printed pages of text. Superficial wear to the lower spine end. Near Fine condition book in Fine condition illustrated dust wrapper, not price clipped.” What a cracker and reasonably priced at £33.85 including postage. I think it’s a bit early to be paying these kind of prices for single books at the moment, so I’ll keep my powder dry for now as it were. Nice book, though.

What's on eBay?

I thought I would have a look on eBay to see what Three Investigators books are on offer. The usual bunch of single paperback editions are listed, but I came across a seller who has some very interesting lots. The first lot of theirs I looked at contained this picture:
Fair enough, and the description of “good, clean condition, original owner, smoke and pet free home, slight yellowing of pages due to age” seemed reasonable. The current price for this lot is £4.99 with one bid. Then I looked to see what else they were selling and spotted this:
Honestly, is that the best picture you could manage? This is by far the best Three Investigators lot listed currently and easily by far the worst picture. I have no idea what the seller was thinking about when they went with this graphic. The other lot they have listed:
frankly doesn’t look much better does it? Although at least they managed to get the picture the right way up. Anyway, I’ll certainly be putting some bids in for all of these lots, you never know your luck and if you’re not in, you can’t win. I suspect they will all go for a much higher price than I can afford at this point, I really must get around to listing that Fireball XL-5 book to raise some funds so I can increase my bids. I see they also have a nice pictorial cover Jennings book that I will bid on, however that topic is outwith the scope of this blog, so I will mention it not.

Steve Zodiac to the rescue!

I nipped into the charity shops in Basingstoke this afternoon with a view to checking out what Three Investigators books were available. I was quite shocked to see that The Sue Rider and Cancer Research have both closed down, leaving only four shops. As expected, the YMCA and RSPCA and that housing charity one yielded nothing, but the D section on the kid’s books shelf in the BHF looked like this:
If you can draw your gaze away from that tasty looking sultry blonde on the Cindy Dees spine for a minute, you will notice the tell tale signs of the Crimebusters omnibus: Rough Stuff and Funny Business. AHA! I thought. A book for my collection. Then I thought to myself, “Don’t you already have a copy of that in your garage?” The book was £1.25, so I put it back and didn’t buy it. In my experience, the Crimebusters omnibuses are by far the easiest Three Investigators to find, so even if it turns out I don’t have a copy in my garage, I’m confident that I’ll find another, cheaper copy, somewhere else.

Good to see Terrence Dicks still writing Doctor Who books, my goodness what age must he be now, not to mention what weight?

I then had a look at the oversized books where all the annuals are displayed and I saw this:
Lovely! A 1965 Fireball XL-5 annual for only £1.50! Bargain, surely, so I snapped it up.

Now, I know you may be saying to yourself, what a stupid arse, he’s gone into a shop, NOT bought the Three Investigators book he went in to buy and instead bought a shitty old annual. What kind of a blog is this? Bear with me folks till I explain my plan. You see, back in the day, when all of this was trees, I would have expected to get about £25 for this annual. These days, I know I won’t get anywhere near that, but it still must be worth more than £1.50. My scheme, therefore, is to immediately sell this annual on eBay and use the money raised to bid on some Three Investigators books. Good idea, eh? (good idea good idea good idea clap clap clap). I'll let you all know how the auction goes.

On the subject of my garage, I know I have a number of Three Investigators books stuffed away in boxes and crates, I’ll check it out at the weekend when I get home to Glasgow and report back my findings here.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011


I have been prompted by blog follower Davy to mention the AHATTIASMADD. What the fuck is that I hear you ask and rightly so. The AHATTIASMADD is, of course, the Alfred Hitchcock And The Three Investigators Appreciation Society (Maybole and District Division). This is the club that Big Tiny, Me, Aztek and John Swan formed in 1981. What happened was, if during a meeting someone said something you agreed with you had to say "Good idea!" three times while clapping your hands in front of and then behind your body. Similarly, if someone said something you disagreed with, you had to chant"Bad Idea!" three times, with appropriate fore and aft body hand clapping. If you think that sounds a bit weird, please bear in mind that we were only 15 at the time. Ah the folly of youth. There was also a newsletter, but it was only one typed page and frankly, not very good.

The collection begins!

The time has come for me to start putting books into this collection. Where better a place to start looking than close to home, ie in my flat. Over the past couple of years I’ve been picking up the occasional Three Investigators paperback in the various Hampshire charity shops near where I stay. A quick shufty revealed this lot of books:
Not a bad start, eh? Although I see that even though I have only bought nine books, I have already got myself a deadly double! In this case, two copies of 3rd paperback Dancing Devil. Doubles are easy to deal with. You simply have a look at the books, decide which one you want to keep and put the other in your auction pile. When this pile gets big enough, stick it on eBay to raise some money to buy more books.

Overall condition of these books is acceptable. The Whispering Mummy has a bit of a worn spine, but is clean enough inside. The 1st Singing Serpent is excellent and appears unread. That Green Ghost honestly could have been printed yesterday; it is immaculate. The rest are VG – Fine, the Terror Castle having a creased front cover.

So there we are folks, the collection is up and running, only 220 books to go!

A word about my previous collection.

This will actually be the fourth Three investigators collection I have amassed. The first consisted of the books I bought myself back in the 1970s when I was a lad and they were my favourite books. I no longer have any of these, but as far as I can remember, I had the following:

Large Hardback:
Stuttering Parrot (I got this as a School Prize)
Coughing Dragon
Nervous Lion
Phantom Lake
Headless Horse (I remember buying this in a newsagents shop in Girvan. It had a dustjacket and at the time I found it absolutely stunning.).

Small Hardback:
Moaning Cave
Talking Skull
Laughing Shadow
Singing Serpent

Paperback (all 1st editions):
Terror Castle
Whispering Mummy
Vanishing Treasure
Fiery Eye
Screaming Clock
Crooked Cat
Flaming Footprints
Shrinking House
Monster Mountain

I pretty much stopped buying them at this point, stung by criticism from my Granda who told me I was too old to be reading them. This was after I had bought the Headless Horse hardback as mentioned above, and it was the last book I bought. Mind you what the fuck did he know? If I was too old when I was 13, what am I now? The last paperback I bought was Monster Mountain the previous year, 1977.

Looking at this collection, it was actually not bad, with the vast majority of the first 20 titles represented. I remember reading Green Ghost and Silver Spider as books I had borrowed or otherwise got hold of. Anyway I stopped reading them even before I stopped buying them, as it was several years before I got around to reading Monster Mountain.

I gave all of these books away to a charity jumble sale. Was I mad, I hear you ask? Well, possibly. It seemed like the thing to do at the time.

A few years later (when I was 18), I bought about half a dozen hardbacks in a library sale. I really can’t remember much about what titles were included, but they were mostly small hardbacks. I’ve no idea what happened to these , I assume they just got chucked out during one of my many house movings.

Around 1992, I made the decision to build a collection of Three Investigators, my interest having been piqued by the sight of a 2nd paperback Deadly Double in a charity shop. Over the next decade, I built a very impressive collection, including all large hardbacks (apart from Screaming Clock), all small hardbacks and every edition of every paperback imprint. These books were all got the hard way, i.e. in charity shops, car boot sales, second hand bookshops, ads in local papers etc. This collection was put together in the days before eBay, at least I didn’t use eBay to buy any of them. I did use eBay, however, to put together my US editions collection – that is another story.

About five years ago, I sold every one of them. Some of them made a pretty penny (I remember £75 for my minty Phantom Lake with DJ). But now it’s time to get them all back. Where will I start?

What will this collection consist of?

A complete British Three Investigators collection consists of 228 books. "What’s that?" I hear you cry. "Surely there are only 43 Three Investigators books and 11 Crimebusters, making a total of 54 books." In a way you would be right, however in order to make this the Best. Collection. Ever. we must collect every title in every available edition. There are in fact seven different editions of the Three Investigators books published, as well as several omnibus editions. These editions comprise two in hardback and five in paperback. The Crimebusters series is a little more straightforward, having only one edition as well as some omnibus editions. So, what do these editions look like and how do we arrive at the figure of 228 books? Here’s how it works:
The 1st Hardback edition looks like this:

Notable and easily identifiable as they are large books, sometimes referred to as “tall” editions, I’m going to refer to them as large hardbacks. The first 28 books in the series were published in this format, between 1967– 1979. Most had the graveyard picture of the boys as front and end papers. Numbers 19 to 28 were published with a dustjacket.

Total number of books to collect: 28

The 2nd hardback edition is like this:
Only books 1-24 were published in this edition. Easily identifiable as the spine shows a small picture, separate from the front cover. This makes this edition stand out on a bookshelf and is easily my favourite format.

Total number of books to collect: 52

The first paperback editions took this format:

The first 24 books were available in this format, with one book (number 5 – Vanishing Treasure) having two different covers.

Total number of books to collect: 77

Paperback edition 2 looks like this:
This is where it starts to get complicated, as not all of the titles were made available in this edition. There were in fact 26 books in this edition, between numbers 1 to 30.

Total number of books to collect: 103

The third imprint looked like this:
Again, not all titles were made available in this edition, there being 29 of the first 38 titles available in it.

Total number of books to collect: 132

Paperback edition 4 looked like this:
31 editions from the 43 titles were available in this edition.

Total number of books to collect: 163

In a drastic departure from the established norm, the fifth and last paperback edition changed the name of the books, removing the “Mystery” and “Secret” of and placing the series under the banner The 3 Investigators Mysteries. Therefore The Mystery of the Moaning Cave became simply “The Moaning Cave”, thus:

30 books were put out in this format.

Total number of books to collect: 193

There were several omnibus editions, each of which collected three books from the series. There didn’t appear to be much thought put into which titles would be included in any edition. All were in paperback apart from one magnificent edition published by Collins for Marks and Spencer an a store exclusive. There were 21 omnibus books published, some were reprints of previous omnibus editions with different cover art.

Total number of books to collect: 214

Only 11 Crimbusters books were published and these were all in the same paperback format.

Total number of books to collect: 225

In addition, the first six Crimebusters titles were published as omnibus editions with two stories in each book, making three Crimebusters omnibus editions.

Total number of books to collect: 228

And that, fellow blogger, is how we arrive at the magic figure of 228. Now we have a target, let’s see how we get on. The counter at the top of the page will be updated every time I add to the collection. Let's get on with the hunt!