|Dating Volumes published by the Detective Book Club|
The Detective Book Club began issuing their volumes in April 1942. Volumes were not individually dated. The primary source of dating information, into 1983, is Michael L. Cook's Murder by Mail. Inside the Mystery Book Clubs 2nd edition, 1983. There was an earlier edition in 1979, and Cook's Detective Book Club listings first appeared in The Armchair Detective of May 1976. That list was compiled with the assistance of Theodore M. Black, then president of the club (and a descendant of the original Walter J. Black).
Cook's listing provides the month and year most of the volumes were issued. One complication is that occasionally left over print runs would be combined in perhaps random ways to produce 3-in-1's that were used for promotional volumes. The most common of these are probably those with three different Erle Stanley Gardner novels.
A second complication is that business was good enough that Black created a second club within the club, the Inner Circle, for readers who wanted more than one omnibus a month. From Cook's listing it appears that Inner Circle most commonly issued two volumes at a time, bi-monthly. Inner Circle volumes are identified by Cook (and, from Cook's authority, in this checklist) though the end of Cook's listing. There is no way, though, from the volumes themselves, to tell of a volume was a regular issue of the Detective Book Club, a special promotional volume, or issued for the members of the Inner Circle.
Cook's checklist ends with October 1983. Dating volumes that are not included in Cook's list is largely arbitrary, based on the original publication dates of the novels included in each volume. There are a few cases where an issue date can be identified by a passing comment in a book review - for example the Los Angelos Times, in an article on Barbara Seranella, mentions that her Unwanted Company was a Detective Book Club selection for May (of 2000) - one of the few confirmations that the club's existence continued into the new century.
|Dating Volumes issued after October 1983|
The Detective Book Club included books quite soon after publication. Because it seems like a reasonable approach, this checklist continues, after 1983, to continue to assign each volume to a specific year. If you examine any of the listings post October 1983 you should observe that each title is followed by a year in parentheses. This year is based on the date of the novel's original publication in the US. Occasionally both the UK and the US publication dates are shown, each identified. These dates are based on bookseller listings and library catalogs.
These post-1983 dates are only approximations. Lacking access to book club shipping invoices (someone probably has a stash of books in storage somewhere with a dated packing slip inserted into each volume) using the content's publication dates is at least consistant and very likely to be close to correct. If an omnibus contains volumes published in multiple years then the most recently published novel is used to assign a year to the omnibus. For example one volume assigned to 1987. with Tony Hillerman's Skinwalkers, includes 2 titles first published in 1986, and one title published in 1987.
It is extremely unlikely that any book issued in the January of a given year contained any novels that were published in that same year. We know, for example, that the volume assigned by Cook to January, 1982 contains three novels that were first published in the United States in 1981. So it is very safe to assume that from 1983 onwards, some of the volumes arbitrarily assigned to each of those years were really issued by the club in a subsequent year.
|What happened to the Club in 1992-1993|
The short answer is "I don't know - maybe nothing". However:
|First editions from the Detective Book Club|
The Detective Book Club focused on producing collections of recent reprints of mysteries; usually novels but occasionally
a pair of novellas or an anthology. But there are a few cases there a story's appearance in the Detective Book Club represents the first US Edition of
a book or even the first edition period.
|A mis-labeled volume from 1998|
|The lead title in a volume from 1998 (-ish) has the wrong author on the front cover. The front lists Marian Babson as the author of A Maze of Murders. The spine and title page show (correctly) Roderic Jeffries. I discovered this from a listing by on-line bookseller Turtleman Books, who has had an extensive selection of detective book club issues for sale.|
|Errors or typos in Michael L. Cooks's Murder by Mail||
There are a very few minor errors in Cook's fine reference to the Detective Book Club (and other book clubs) though 1983.
Several are noted below.