The Roy Vickers Collection

Roy Vickers was the main pseudonym used by William Edward Vickers (1889-1965). A prolific author of novels and short stories, he also wrote as David Durham, Sefton Kyle and John Spencer. He is best remembered for his short stories about Scotland Yard’s Department of Dead Ends, which were much acclaimed by Ellery Queen, Julian Symons and other critics. Some of his work has recently appeared in ebook form, but many of his novels remain elusive, which made it all the more intriguing when a collection of his books was made available recently by one of his descendants.

These books belonged to Vickers- one of them includes his home address at the time. However the fact that many are marked “File” on the spine suggests that he bought some of his own copies from his publisher, when they were clearing out their files, and used them in for his own filing purposes. Vickers and his family seem to have been keen to make sure that the books remained available both in English and in translation, and it may be for proof-checking and/or translation purposes that he diligently noted in several books a number of printing errors to be found in the text.

Vickers had the habit, common at the time, but nowadays abhorred by collectors, of cutting up the dust wrappers of his books and pasting the front cover and spine inside the book. This effectively destroys the value of the jackets, but the examples in his collection remain interesting curios (and, had the wrappers remained in pristine condition, the cost of this set of books would have been sky high). Perhaps the most fascinating item in this small collection is an unjacketed first edition of The Department of Dead Ends, which contains a long inscription by Vickers addressed to his daughter-in-law, complete with his reflections on the nature of the relationship between author and reader. He signed himself “Duff” – apparently the name by which this interesting and still under-estimated writer was known in the family.