London: George Newnes, Ltd., 1936. First edition. Periodical. This May, 1936 issue of The Strand Magazine (Vol. XCI, No. 545) is remarkable - the only published item we have encountered to feature the signatures of Winston S. Churchill, Agatha Christie, and Clare Boothe Luce. This issue contains the first publication of Churchill’s essay “Queen of the Seas” about the legendary ocean liner the Queen Mary. Churchill signed “from | Winston S. Churchill | 1936” on p.43 in three lines in black ink above his printed name. Christie signed “Agatha Christie” on p. 3 in black ink above the printed title of her story, “Poirot and the Triangle at Rhodes”. Affixed to the inside rear cover is the illustrated bookplate of Clare Boothe Luce - perhaps one of the few people who could secure the signatures of both Churchill and Christie. Luce signed in black ink “Clare Boothe Luce” in the lower blank margin of her bookplate.
The magazine itself approaches very good condition, particularly considering the inherent fragility of the format. The covers are bright, clean, complete, and firmly attached, with only minor wear to hinges and extremities. All spine print remains legible. The contents are clean and complete. The magazine is housed in a magnificent custom solander case and nested chemise. The four-fold, marbled paper-lined, pale blue cloth chemise resides within a quarter navy blue morocco clamshell case with raised, gilt-ruled spine bands, pale blue cloth interior, and marbled paper-covered boards. The navy morocco, blue cloth, and blue & gold marbled paper of course nods to both the Queen Mary and the “sparking blue water” Hercule Poirot looks across in the opening sentence of Christie’s story.
Upon her maiden voyage on 27 May 1936 Queen Mary represented both the might of Britain’s naval power and the height of sophistication in craft and luxury. Chronicling her wonders as "the epitome of Britain", Churchill could not know the important role the ship would play for him. In the mid-1930s, Churchill was out of power and out of favor and Queen Mary was the most extravagant ship of her kind. Half a decade later, during WWII the Queen Mary would serve a different purpose. Many of the liner’s luxuries were stripped to make way for practical uses such as the transatlantic transportation of troops, and supplies. And on several occasions Queen Mary transported Prime Minister Churchill, travelling as “Colonel Warden” on the ship’s manifest for security.
Dame Agatha Christie (1890-1976) remains the best-selling novelist of all time, best known for her works of mystery. Christie’s most famous character was the fastidious and logical Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot, who ultimately featured in 33 novels, more than 50 short stories, and one play. When this story was published, Christie was already a celebrated author and the release of any new Poirot mystery was an anticipated event. In 1956, the year after Churchill resigned his second and final premiership, Agatha Christie was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire in honor of her contribution to British literature.
Journalist, playwright, Congresswoman, ambassador and recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Clare Boothe Luce (1903-1987) was ambitious, charming, accomplished, intelligent, and promiscuous. Such was her notoriety that in 1944, in her first term in Congress, the 41-year-old Luce was elected “Woman of the Year” by a poll of American newspaper editors, pushing Eleanor Roosevelt into a distant second place. Her life intersected on many planes with her longtime friend, Winston Churchill. She also had a tempestuous affair with Churchill's only son, Randolph, whom she met at Chartwell in the early 1930s while having an affair with Bernard Baruch. Clare was already a force in her own right in 1935 when she married Henry Robinson Luce (b.1898), the influential creator of the Time-Life magazine empire. They remained married – albeit with infidelities, drama, and increasingly “scant compatibility” - until Henry’s death in 1967. Item #005697