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The Golden Salamander (1949)

Novel (252 pages, 72,023 words)

First edition 1949
First edition 1949
US first
US First edition
Film tie-in edition
Heinemann Uniform Edition 1975
Uniform edition
Super Detective Library 1956
Comic strip version
in Super Detective Library
US Book Club
US book club
Endpaper art by Charles LaSalle
Endpaper artwork
from US book club edition
DVD on Amazon


The Book

The book is dedicated "to my wife".

Archaeologist David Redfern, on his way to the fictional town of Kabarta in Algeria to catalogue and pack up some antiquities which have been bequeathed to the British Museum, sees a wrecked lorry with a cargo of rifles and machine guns. When, after some soul-searching, he tries to report this to the authorities, he involves a young local artist and the girl who runs the local hotel, leading to the boy's death and his own and the girl's great danger.

Publishing History

This was Canning's third post-war book for Hodder and Stoughton, published in 1949 at 8/6 with a print run of 13,160 copies. The US edition by Mill & Co came out at the same time, and there was a Peoples Book Club (US) edition with vivid cover and endpaper graphics and an imprint date of 1948, possibly reflecting a serialisation in that year. There was a second impression published at 6/- in 1952 with a film tie-in jacket showing Trevor Howard and Anouk Aimée. There was a 1953 paperback with a print run of 60,000. In 1956 a comic strip version was issued in Super Detective Library No 72.

The Golden Salamander is allotted one chapter in The Collector's Voice: Volume 3, Imperial Voices by Susan Pearce et al., Ashgate Publishing, 2002, pages 262-268.

The Film

The book was filmed at Pinewood Studios and on location in Tunisia in 1950, directed by Ronald Neame, starring Trevor Howard and Anouk Aimée, and with Herbert Lom, Miles Malleson and Wilfred Hyde White in supporting roles. Trevor Howard had appeared in Canning's play Beggars' Bush in 1940 before he was famous, which may have been a factor in the casting. In this film he looks a little too old for the role of David Redfern, but the film is one of the best of those made from Canning's books at the time. A DVD was released in 2011 and is available from Amazon. A very full review of the film with background information has been posted on the Cinema Sojourns blog.