Agatha Christie-signed Mousetrap sells in Cheltenham

A 1954 edition of Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap – together with assorted signed memorabilia relating to the longest-running show in the West End – sold in Cheltenham for £1,900 as part of The Cotswold Auction Company’s Books, Medals, Militaria, Stamps, Coins and Collectables auction on June 6.

The volume – signed by Agatha Christie ‘For James Grout on our 6th birthday, Agatha Christie’ – formed part of the collection of actor James Grout, from Malmesbury, Wiltshire, who was best known for playing Inspector Morse’s boss, Chief Inspector Strange, in the television adaptation of Colin Dexter’s novels.

The much-loved actor passed away in 2012 and The Mousetrap, in which he appeared, was part of a large collection of books from his estate which recently came up for sale at auction.

“There’s great interest in memorabilia connected with the hugely popular Inspector Morse series, and I think that was probably a factor in the £1,900 hammer price,” said auctioneer Lindsey Braune.

Among the memorabilia included with the volume was a programme for the 25th anniversary performance of The Mousetrap at St Martin’s Theatre, London on November 25, 1977, signed by the Prime Minister at the time, Jim Callaghan, former James Bond star Roger Moore and BBC newsreader Angela Rippon.

Also of interest to enthusiasts was a signed copy of the Morse novel The Daughters of Cain, inscribed by the author for James Grout.

The dedication reads ‘For James – with every best wish to you in life always, Super Strange! Colin Dexter’. Colin Dexter was well known for his love of wordplay and ‘Super Strange’ refers to the character of Chief Inspector Strange.

A biography of playwright Tennessee Williams – The Kindness of Strangers, the Life of Tennessee Williams – featured the signatures of the cast of his play Sweet Bird of Youth, including those of Lauren Bacall, star of the golden era of cinema, and playwright Harold Pinter. The lot it formed a part of sold for £650.

Famous signatures in other books from the James Grout collection included those of actress Vivien Leigh, who played Scarlett O’Hara in the Hollywood blockbuster Gone With The Wind, and actor Leonard Rossiter, whose most famous roles included Reggie Perrin in the iconic BBC TV series of the 1970s and cynical landlord Rigsby in ITV’s comedy Rising Damp.