A Brief History
Random House
Weekly Reader

  1.  Terror Castle
  2.  Stuttering Parrot
  3.  Whispering Mummy
  4.  Green Ghost
  5.  Vanishing Treasure
  6.  Skeleton Island
  7.  Fiery Eye
  8.  Silver Spider
  9.  Screaming Clock
10.  Moaning Cave
11.  Talking Skull
12.  Laughing Shadow
13.  Crooked Cat
14.  Coughing Dragon
15.  Flaming Footprints
16.  Nervous Lion
17.  Singing Serpent
18.  Shrinking House
19.  Phantom Lake
20.  Monster Mountain
21.  Haunted Mirror
22.  Dead Man's Riddle
23.  Invisible Dog
24.  Death Trap Mine
25.  Dancing Devil
26.  Headless Horse
27.  Magic Circle
28.  Deadly Double
29.  Sinister Scarecrow
30.  Shark Reef
31.  Scar-Faced Beggar
32.  Blazing Cliffs
33.  Purple Pirate
34.  Wandering Cave Man
35.  Kidnapped Whale
36.  Missing Mermaid
37.  Two-Toed Pigeon
38.  Smashing Glass
39.  Trail of Terror
40.  Rogues' Reunion
41.  Creep-Show Crooks
42.  Wreckers' Rock
43.  Cranky Collector

Book of Mystery Puzzles

Find Your Fate
  1.  Weeping Coffin
  2.  Dancing Dinosaur
  7.  House of Horrors
  8.  Savage Statue

  1.  Hot Wheels
  2.  Murder To Go
  3.  Rough Stuff
  4.  Funny Business
  5.  An Ear For Danger
  6.  Thriller Diller
  7.  Reel Trouble
  8.  Shoot the Works
  9.  Foul Play
10.  Long Shot
11.  Fatal Error

Random House

The Original 43: Paperback

Windward Books: 1972 - 1973

The first Random House Three Investigators paperbacks consisted of just two published under the Windward Books division: #1 The Secret of Terror Castle in 1972 and #2 The Mystery of the Stuttering Parrot in 1973. This was the First Paperback Edition for the two titles and they were slightly smaller than their hardcover counterparts (5 1/4" x 8 1/16", essentially the same size as the hardcover's textblocks) and contained Harry Kane's internal illustrations with brand new cover art by Ed Vebell. The background of the covers was initially reflective silver; therefore, the books were also called the Silverback Editions. The price of the books was marked in the upper right hand corner of the cover. Covers with two prices can be found: $0.95 and $1.25, which probably represent the First and Second Printings of the books. There was also a very hard-to-find circa 1976 issue of both titles that had a plain white background. This was most likely a Third Printing. It is interesting to note that Terror Castle contained the revised Alfred Hitchcock introduction that appeared in Scholastic's 1971 Paperback Edition (see Scholastic). This was quite an oversight by Random House.

The Marchesi Twelve: 1978

In 1978, Random House decided to permanently convert its retail/trade format from hardcover to paperback and began that process by publishing a First Paperback Edition for ten more of the existing titles, plus a Second Paperback Edition of #1 The Secret of Terror Castle and #2 The Mystery of the Stuttering Parrot to replace the Windward Books. The twelve new books featured new cover art drawn by Stephen Marchesi and they retained their internal illustrations. Because of the Marchesi cover art, the books are often referred to as the "Marchesi Covers" or "Marchesi Twelve." To identify them on book store shelves as part of the Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Series, there was a silhouette of Hitchcock's head on the upper spine. In terms of dimensions, the books measured 5 1/8" x 7 9/16"; the size Random House would use for every forthcoming paperback edition of the original 43. Including Terror Castle and Stuttering Parrot, the twelve published were:

  #1 The Secret of Terror Castle
  #2 The Mystery of the Stuttering Parrot
  #3 The Mystery of the Whispering Mummy
  #6 The Secret of Skeleton Island
  #7 The Mystery of the Fiery Eye
  #8 The Mystery of the Silver Spider
  #9 The Mystery of the Screaming Clock
#10 The Mystery of the Moaning Cave
#11 The Mystery of the Talking Skull
#12 The Mystery of the Laughing Shadow
#15 The Mystery of the Flaming Footprints
#18 The Mystery of the Shrinking House

Random House most likely published only those twelve in paperback (instead of all 28 books) because of partial conversion: significant stock of the remaining sixteen titles still existed in the Trade Hardcover Edition and needed to be sold before a First Paperback Edition could be published. This practice continued on through 1981, as Random House slowly brought out a First Paperback Edition for the remaining sixteen titles.

Hitchcock Covers: 1979 - 1983

By 1979, the Trade Hardcover Edition was extinct, so that year's two new titles, #29 The Mystery of the Sinister Scarecrow and #30 The Secret of Shark Reef, were instead published simultaneously in both First Paperback and GLB Editions. As explained in the hardcover page, there were no internal illustrations. In addition, the paperback format was new, with covers identical to those on the corresponding GLB books, featuring art by Robert Adragna (who was now the exclusive artist for the series) and the silhouette of Alfred Hitchcock's head in the upper right corner of the cover, as well as an additional, matching silhouette on the upper spine. Because of the two silhouettes, collectors usually refer to titles in this paperback format as "Hitchcock Covers."

Why Stephen Marchesi was not retained as the series' cover artist is quite a mystery. His style was somewhat abstract and perhaps Random House was looking for a more realistic approach like the series had always enjoyed with the other artists.

From 1979 - 1981, Random House also published a First Paperback Edition for the remaining sixteen titles of numbers 1 - 28. All followed the same format as #29 The Mystery of the Sinister Scarecrow and #30 The Secret of Shark Reef, featuring new cover art by Robert Adragna, the Hitchcock silhouettes and no internal illustrations. As a result of of partial conversion, the books were not published in order, but instead appeared each year as follows:

  #4 The Mystery of the Green Ghost
#19 The Secret of Phantom Lake
#20 The Mystery of Monster Mountain

  #5 The Mystery of the Vanishing Treasure
#21 The Secret of the Haunted Mirror
#22 The Mystery of the Dead Man's Riddle
#24 The Mystery of Death Trap Mine

#13 The Secret of the Crooked Cat
#14 The Mystery of the Coughing Dragon
#16 The Mystery of the Nervous Lion
#17 The Mystery of the Singing Serpent
#23 The Mystery of the Invisible Dog
#25 The Mystery of the Dancing Devil
#26 The Mystery of the Headless Horse
#27 The Mystery of the Magic Circle
#28 The Mystery of the Deadly Double

By mid-1981, all of numbers 1 - 28 were finally available in paperback and the Trade Hardcover Edition was probably completely gone from book stores shelves. There was a problem, however, as the series was not uniform: the twelve paperback titles from 1978 with Stephen Marchesi covers were glaringly different from the eighteen "Hitchcock Covers." Therefore, from 1981 - 1983, Random House made an attempt at uniformity by issuing late printings of at least ten (see below) of the twelve titles in the now standard format: new cover art by Robert Adragna and the two Hitchcock silhouettes. Incredibly, however, these late printings retained their internal illustrations.

The details of the late printing "Marchesi Covers" to "Hitchcock Covers" conversion are quite fascinating and invite much more in depth discussion. Click here for a closer look, including some details on how two of the twelve, #7 The Mystery of the Fiery Eye and #8 The Mystery of the Silver Spider, were probably never converted.

Keyhole Covers: 1981 - 1987

As discussed in previous sections, Alfred Hitchcock passed away in 1980 and was replaced by Hector Sebastian in 1981's #31 The Mystery of the Scar-Faced Beggar. That title, along with all subsequent new titles (through 1987's #43 The Mystery of the Cranky Collector), were instead simultaneously published in Paperback and GLB Editions as part of the The Three Investigators Mystery Series. The keyhole design replaced the Hitchcock silhouettes on the cover, as well as on the spine (thus, titles in this format are referred to as "Keyhole Covers") and Robert Adragna provided the cover art with no internal illustrations.

In 1983, possibly to keep the series fresh and to eliminate the costly royalties going to Alfred Hitchcock's estate, Random House decided to update the writing style and completely remove any reference to Hitchcock from numbers 1 - 30. Thus, in 1984 and 1985, the Revised Edition was published in paperback only, with Reginald Clarke (for #1 The Secret of Terror Castle only) and Hector Sebastian replacing Hitchcock.

Like #31 The Mystery of the Scar-Faced Beggar and subsequent titles, the books were now part of The Three Investigators Mystery Series and the keyhole design was used on the front cover and spine instead of the Hitchcock silhouettes. The Adragna cover art remained unchanged and there were no internal illustrations. It is very interesting to note that Random House only revised Terror Castle through #30 The Secret of Shark Reef. Scar-Faced Beggar, which actually introduced Hector Sebastian and #32 The Mystery of the Blazing Cliffs, which has a Sebastian introduction where he mentions knowing the boys "only briefly," were not changed. Important note: no GLB books were published with the revised text.

Although the Revised Edition is not very popular with fans, its existence provides the only opportunity for collectors to have a complete, uniform, set of paperback Three Investigators books: Robert Adragna cover art, no internal illustrations and the keyhole design on the cover and spine.

Bullseye Books: 1991 - 1992

In 1991 and 1992, the original Three Investigators series returned in a high quality Bullseye Paperback Edition (referred to by collectors as the Bullseye Books) under Random House's Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. division. The books featured new cover art by either Roger Loveless or Dominick Finelle, no internal illustrations and a brand new typeface for the text. As the Bullseye Paperback Edition was simply intended to be a new edition of the 43 "Keyhole Covers", the Revised Edition's text was used for the titles before number 31 (i.e. no Alfred Hitchcock). The cover art was surrounded on three sides by a brightly colored border containing question marks and the question mark was also the new symbol used on the spine.

Unfortunately, only twelve of the original 43 books were published in the Bullseye Paperback Edition before it was discontinued. The twelve were:

  #1 The Secret of Terror Castle - June 1991, Roger Loveless
  #2 The Mystery of the Stuttering Parrot - June 1991, Roger Loveless
  #9 The Mystery of the Screaming Clock - October 1991, Roger Loveless
#10 The Mystery of the Moaning Cave - June 1991, Dominick Finelle
#11 The Mystery of the Talking Skull - December 1992, Roger Loveless
#21 The Secret of the Haunted Mirror - June 1991, Dominick Finelle
#26 The Mystery of the Headless Horse - April 1992, Dominick Finelle
#32 The Mystery of the Blazing Cliffs - November 1992, Roger Loveless
#33 The Mystery of the Purple Pirate - June 1991, Dominick Finelle
#35 The Mystery of the Kidnapped Whale - June 1991, Roger Loveless
#36 The Mystery of the Missing Mermaid - May 1992, Roger Loveless
#39 The Mystery of the Trail of Terror - October 1991, Dominick Finelle

Interestingly, the back of each book listed all 43 titles in the series, suggesting that Random House's intent was to publish the entire series in this edition.

Dodge Issue: 1998 - 2000

From 1992 - 1997, Random House, along with Robert Arthur's daughter Elizabeth Arthur, renewed the copyrights of the first eleven titles. That process culminated in a re-issuing of those titles in order from 1998 - 2000. The new books again contained the Revised Edition text, with either Revised Edition or Bullseye Paperback Edition typeset, depending on what was most recently published. Cover art was by Bill Dodge and featured a Sherlock Holmes style symbol on both the cover and spine.

These books were not a new edition, but simply a "current" issue of either the Revised or Bullseye Paperback Editions with different cover art. The typesets and ISBNs remained the same. In terms of printing identification, several titles have copyright page numberlines that appear to continue where their Revised Edition printings stopped, while others contain completely new numberlines in the form of 20 19 18 17 16 15 14 13 12 11. The rational behind all of that is quite a mystery.

To complicate matters even more, all eleven Dodge Issue titles were also available in a hardcover library binding known as the Econo-Clad Edition. These books were not published by Random House, but were simply the Dodge Issue with a new binding (rebound). The company that provided this product was Econo-Clad Books (now known as Sagebrush Education Resources). Physically, the rebound books are slightly larger in size than the paperbacks, identical cover art. The spines are a solid color with simply the author and title printed; the Sherlock Holmes symbol is not present.

The new binding was added before the books were sold to end-users (e.g. libraries) and put into library circulation. In other words, the books were rebound-from-new. Therefore, all eleven rebound titles have a new Econo-Clad issued ISBN that distinguishes the books from the original paperback issue. That technically makes the rebound titles a new edition, but the situation is complex. Inside the covers, the original paperback ISBN still applies and is present as the textblock was not altered.

So which ISBN identifies the book? Both: the internal ISBN shows that the book was published by Random House and the external ISBN shows it was rebound by Econo-Clad Books before being distributed. Which ISBN is used to sell the book and list it in the Library of Congress? Econo-Clad's, because it is on the outside and represents the most recent change.

I'm sure you're wondering why other rebound books don't have an ISBN. The answer is because they are rebound by the end-user (via a bookbinder such as Permabound) after being purchased by the end-user.

The Econo-Clad edition is now out of print. When it was available, prices were $12.00 per book, as opposed to the $3.99 price of the paperback. The collectible value of the Econo-Clad Edition is hard to determine, because after all, they are just rebound paperbacks. Because of that, in this website, I have chosen to not distinguish them as a new edition on each book's link on the left, but for completeness have included all their pertinent information.

Printing Identification

It is simple to determine the printing of almost all of the Three Investigators paperback books. Like the post-1973 hardcover editions, the copyright page numberline gives all the necessary information. The only exceptions are the Windward books, which were published before 1974. Unfortunately, it is very difficult to identify their printings because, other than the noted price change and cover change from reflective silver to white, no additional changes were made during their print runs. These two titles are actually somewhat difficult to acquire and it may very well be that only three printings exist.

Inner List

With the exception of the Windward books, all of the paperback titles contained an inner list, usually at the back of the book. Except for the Bullseye Edition, this list only contained the number of titles available at a particular book's printing. Like the hardcover editions, paperback titles were reprinted with each new set of books (as necessary, i.e. partial conversion) and the lists were updated accordingly. For collectors, this allows for the estimation of a paperback title's printing date. As mentioned above, Bullseye book inner lists contained all of the books in the series, whether they were available or not.


All paperback titles printed in 1978 and 1979 did not have the book's number on the spine. For example, a First Printing of the First Paperback Edition of #11 The Mystery of the Talking Skull (printed in 1978) does not have a number on the spine, but the Eighth Printing (most likely printed in late 1980) does.

All of the paperback titles published in 1981, with 1981 printings, had an insertion placed inside the front or back cover consisting of a Mystery Quiz with a removable bookmark. The bookmark featured Stephen Marchesi's cover art from #10 The Mystery of the Moaning Cave and its back listed the 30 or 32 titles available (titles printed in the latter part of 1981 had 32 titles listed to reflect the publishing of numbers 31 and 32). The Mystery Quiz consisted of a set of three questions and there were two variations of the sets: the first with answers 1) Magic Circle  2) Vanishing Treasure  3) Invisible Dog and the second with answers 1) Haunted Mirror  2) Sinister Scarecrow  3) Skeleton Island. Higher quality images of the Mystery Quiz pages can be downloaded as a zip file here: mq.zip. Note: an interesting anomaly is that First Printings of #17 The Mystery of the Singing Serpent can be found without the bookmark; in fact, this appears to be the more common variant.

In 1983, a variation of the Mystery Quiz bookmark was available for free in libraries that carried Three Investigators books. Although the bookmark featured the same Marchesi art, it was larger and contained the phrase I Love Mysteries! on the front. The back listed all 36 paperback titles available at the time, with a noted price of $1.95.

There were two paperback boxed sets released by Random House. The first probably became available in late 1978 or early 1979. That set originally contained the 1978 paperback editions, with Marchesi cover art, of numbers 1, 7, 8, and 10 in a dark blue box with additional Marchesi art on its sides. At least one late issue of the set can be found with Robert Adragna's cover art on #1 The Secret of Terror Castle. The second boxed set became available in 1984 and contained numbers 3, 26, 27 and 37, all with Adragna cover art. The box was the same as the first set, but a decal on the spine listed the different titles.

Collector's Notes

If a complete Random House paperback collection is desired, the following is available:

  • Numbers 1 and 2 in the Windward Edition, with both reflective silver and white covers by Ed Vebell; internal illustrations
  • Numbers 1, 2, 3, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 15 and 18 with Stephen Marchesi cover art; internal illustrations
  • Numbers 1 - 6 and 9 - 30 with Robert Adragna cover art and Hitchcock's silhouette on the cover and spine; internal illustrations only in numbers 1, 2, 3, 6, 9, 10, 11, 12, 15 and 18; 7 and 8 are probably not available in this format
  • Numbers 1 - 43 with Robert Adragna cover art and the keyhole symbol on the cover and spine; no internal illustrations and all have Hector Sebastian
  • Numbers 1, 2, 9, 10, 11, 21, 26, 32, 33, 35, 36 and 39 in Knopf Bullseye Edition with Roger Loveless or Dominick Finelle cover art; no internal illustrations and all have Hector Sebastian
  • Numbers 1 - 11 with Bill Dodge cover art; no internal illustrations and all have Hector Sebastian

Most of the paperback titles are fairly easy to acquire and are typically around $3.00 - $8.00 per book. A few are very difficult to find, such as both Windward titles with white backgrounds, many of the "Marchesi Twelve" with Robert Adragna covers and the last title in the series, #43 The Mystery of the Cranky Collector.

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This page last updated on 02-Sep-03