Margery Allingham

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Margery Allingham
Margery Allingham.jpg
BornMargery Louise Allingham
(1904-05-20)20 May 1904
Ealing, London, UK
Died30 June 1966(1966-06-30) (aged 62)
Colchester, Essex, England, UK
GenreMystery, crime fiction
SpousePhilip Youngman Carter

Margery Louise Allingham (20 May 1904 – 30 June 1966) was an English novelist from the "Golden Age of Detective Fiction", best remembered for her hero, the gentleman sleuth Albert Campion.

Initially believed to be a parody of Dorothy L. Sayers' detective Lord Peter Wimsey, Campion matured into a strongly individual character, part-detective, part-adventurer, who formed the basis for 18 novels and many short stories.

Life and career[edit]

Childhood and schooling[edit]

Margery Allingham was born in Ealing, London in 1904 to a family immersed in literature. Her father Herbert and her mother Emily Jane (née Hughes), were both writers; Herbert was editor of the Christian Globe and The New London Journal (to which Margery later contributed articles and Sexton Blake stories), before becoming a successful pulp fiction writer, while Emily Jane was a contributor of stories to women's magazines. Soon after Margery's birth, the family left London for Essex, where they lived in an old house in Layer Breton, a village near Colchester. She attended a local school and then the Perse School for Girls in Cambridge, all the while writing stories and plays; she earned her first fee at the age of eight, for a story printed in her aunt's magazine.[1]

Upon returning to London in 1920, she studied drama and speech training at Regent Street Polytechnic, which cured a stammer from which she had suffered since childhood. At this time she first met her future husband, Philip Youngman Carter, whom she married in 1927. He collaborated with her and designed the jackets for many of her books. They lived on the edge of the Essex Marshes in Tolleshunt D'Arcy, near Maldon.[1]

Early writings[edit]

South Street, Tolleshunt D'Arcy, Allingham and Carter lived in the far house

Her first novel, Blackkerchief Dick, was published in 1923 when she was 19. It was allegedly based on a story she heard during a séance, though later in life this was debunked by her husband. Nevertheless, Allingham continued to include occult themes in many novels. Blackkerchief Dick was well received, but was not a financial success. She wrote several plays in this period, and attempted to write a serious novel, but finding her themes clashed with her natural light-heartedness, she decided instead to try the mystery genre.

She wrote steadily through her school days. While enrolled at the Regent Street Polytechnic, she wrote the verse play Dido and Aeneas, which was performed at St. George's Hall and the Cripplegate Theatre. Allingham played the role of Dido; the scenery was designed by Philip Youngman Carter.[citation needed]

Campion and success[edit]

Her breakthrough occurred in 1929 with the publication of The Crime at Black Dudley. This introduced Albert Campion, albeit originally as a minor character, thought to be a parody of Dorothy Sayers’ Lord Peter Wimsey.[2] He returned in Mystery Mile, thanks in part to pressure from her American publishers, much taken with the character. By now, with three novels behind her, Allingham's skills were improving, and with a strong central character and format to work from, she began to produce a series of popular Campion novels. At first she had to continue writing short stories and journalism for magazines such as The Strand Magazine, but as her Campion saga went on, her following and her sales grew steadily. Campion proved so successful that Allingham made him the centrepiece of another 17 novels and over 20 short stories, continuing into the 1960s.[citation needed]

Campion is a mysterious, upper-class character (early novels hint that his family is in the line of succession to the throne), working under an assumed name. He floats between the upper echelons of the nobility and government on one hand and the shady world of the criminal class in the United Kingdom on the other, often accompanied by his scurrilous ex-burglar servant Lugg. During the course of his career he is sometimes detective, sometimes adventurer. Indeed, the first three Campion novels, The Crime at Black Dudley, Mystery Mile, and Look to the Lady, were all written by what Allingham referred to as the "plum pudding" method, focused less on methods of murder or the formal strictures of the whodunit and more on mixing together rich possibilities.[3]

As the series progresses, Campion works more closely with the police and MI6 counter-intelligence.[4] He falls in love, gets married and has a child, and as time goes by he grows in wisdom and matures emotionally. As Allingham's powers developed, the style and format of the books moved on: while the early novels are light-hearted whodunnits or "fantastical" adventures,[4] The Tiger in the Smoke (1952) is more character study than crime novel, focusing on serial killer Jack Havoc. In many of the later books Campion plays a subsidiary role no more prominent than his wife Amanda and his police associates; by the last novel he is a minor character. In 1941, she published a non-fiction work, The Oaken Heart, which described her experiences in Essex when an invasion from Germany was expected and actively being planned for, potentially placing the civilian population of Essex in the front line.[5]


Allingham suffered from breast cancer and died at Severalls Hospital, Colchester, England, on 30 June 1966, aged 62. Her final Campion novel, Cargo of Eagles, was completed by her husband as per her final request, and was published in 1968. Other compilations of her work, both with and without Albert Campion, continued to be released through the 1970s. The Margery Allingham Omnibus, comprising Sweet Danger, The Case of the Late Pig and The Tiger in the Smoke, with a critical introduction by Jane Stevenson, was published in 2006.[6]

Allingham was buried in the newer cemetery in Tolleshunt D'Arcy, which is across the road from St Nicholas's Church graveyard, and about half a mile to the south.[7]


Vintage Classics of Random House, Australia, began a reissue programme for Margery Allingham in 2004: to date they have reissued her nineteen major Campion novels, beginning with The Crime at Black Dudley (1929) and ending with Cargo of Eagles (1968).[8] In the United States, the Vintage division of Felony and Mayhem Press has also reissued these books.[9] A film version of Tiger in the Smoke was made in 1956; a highly popular series of Campion adaptations (available on DVD) was shown by the BBC in 1989–90, entitled simply Campion and starring Peter Davison as Campion and Brian Glover as Lugg.[citation needed]

Several books have been written about Allingham and her work, including:

  • Margery Allingham, 100 Years of a Great Mystery Writer edited by Marianne van Hoeven (2003)
  • Margery Allingham: A Biography by Julia Thorogood (1991); revised as The Adventures of Margery Allingham as by Julia Jones (2009). This is the standard biography.
  • Ink in Her Blood: The Life and Crime Fiction of Margery Allingham by Richard Martin (1988)
  • Campion's Career: A Study of the Novels of Margery Allingham by B.A. Pike (1987)

The writer Christopher Fowler records this discovery of her influence. He is speaking of the fourth season:

“I joined the TV series “The Avengers” at the start of the Emma Peel series, where strange plots were the norm - the field in which rain drowns people, the village where nobody dies but the cemetery fills up, killer nannies, houses that send you mad - and eventually realised that these were Allingham-style Golden Age plots transposed to the medium of television, something the Avengers writer Brian Clemens confirmed to me.“ [10]


Albert Campion series[edit]

By Margery Allingham[edit]

  • The Crime at Black Dudley (1929: US title The Black Dudley Murder)
  • Mystery Mile (1930)
  • Look to the Lady (1931: US title The Gyrth Chalice Mystery)
  • Police at the Funeral (1931)
  • Sweet Danger (1933: US title Kingdom of Death/The Fear Sign)
  • Death of a Ghost (1934)
  • Flowers for the Judge (1936: US title Legacy in Blood)
  • Dancers in Mourning (1937: US title Who Killed Chloe?)
  • Mr. Campion: Criminologist (1937: short stories)
    • The Case of the Late Pig (novelet)
    • The Border-Line Case
    • The Case of the Man with the Sack
    • The Case of the Old Man in the Window
    • The Case of the Pro and the Con
    • The Case of the White Elephant
    • The Case of the Widow
  • The Case of the Late Pig (1937: originally appeared in Mr Campion: Criminologist)
  • The Fashion in Shrouds (1938)
  • Mr. Campion and Others (1939: short stories)
    • The Border-Line Case
    • The Case of the Frenchman's Gloves
    • The Case of the Hat Trick
    • The Case of the Longer View
    • The Case of the Name on the Wrapper
    • The Case of the Old Man in the Window
    • The Case of the Question Mark
    • The Case of the White Elephant
    • The Case of the Widow
    • The Danger Point
    • The Definite Article
    • It Didn't Work Out
    • A Matter of Form
    • The Meaning of the Act
    • The Mistress in the House
    • The Perfect Butler
    • Publicity
    • Safe As Houses
    • They Never Get Caught
  • Traitor's Purse (1941: US title The Sabotage Murder Mystery)
  • Coroner's Pidgin (1945: US title Pearls Before Swine)
  • The Casebook of Mr Campion (1947: short stories)
    • The Case of the Question Mark
    • The Crimson Letter
    • The Definite Article
    • The Magic Hat
    • A Matter of Form
    • The Meaning of the Act
    • Safe As Houses
  • More Work for the Undertaker (1948)
  • The Tiger in the Smoke (1952: serialised in US newspapers as Tiger Loose)[11]
  • The Beckoning Lady (1955: US title The Estate of the Beckoning Lady)
  • Hide My Eyes (1958: US title Tether's End/Ten Were Missing)
  • The China Governess (1963)
  • The Mind Readers (1965)
  • The Allingham Minibus (1973: short stories – also known as Mr. Campion's Lucky Day)
    • The Barbarian
    • Bird Thou Never Wert
    • The Correspondents
    • He Preferred Them Sad
    • He Was Asking After You
    • The Man with the Sack
    • Mr. Campion's Lucky Day
    • The Perfect Butler
    • Publicity
    • A Quarter of a Million
    • The Same to Us
    • The Secret
    • The Sexton's Wife
    • She Heard It on the Radio
    • 'Tis Not Hereafter
    • The Unseen Door
    • The Wink
  • The Return of Mr. Campion (1989: short stories)
    • The Beauty King
    • The Black Tent
    • The Case Is Altered
    • The Curious Affair in Nut Row
    • The Dog Day
    • Happy Christmas
    • The Kernel of Truth
    • Once in a Lifetime
    • Sweet and Low
    • What to Do with an Ageing Detective
    • The Wind Glass
    • The Wisdom of Esdras

By Margery Allingham and Youngman Carter[edit]

  • Cargo of Eagles (1968 – it was completed by Philip Youngman Carter after her death)

By Youngman Carter[edit]

  • Mr. Campion's Farthing (1969)
  • Mr. Campion's Falcon (1970: US title Mr. Campion's Quarry)

By Youngman Carter and Mike Ripley[edit]

  • Mr Campion's Farewell (2014 – it was completed by Mike Ripley after Youngman Carter's death)

By Mike Ripley[edit]

  • Mr Campion's Fox (2015)
  • Mr Campion's Fault (2016)
  • Mr Campion's Abdication (2017)
  • Mr Campion's War (2018)

Short stories and novellas[edit]

  • Formula for Murder. This Week, 5 May 1935
  • The Great London Jewel Robbery. This Week, 27 February 1955
  • A Matter of Form
  • A Proper Mystery
  • Bird Thou Never Wert
  • Borderline Case
  • Evidence in Camera
  • Frenchmen Wear Gloves
  • Bluebeard's Bathtub. This Week, 23 September 1956
  • It Didn't Work Out
  • It Needed Someone Innocent. Published as Wanted, Someone Innocent
  • Miss Amber
  • Publicity
  • Jubilee for Two
  • Safe as Houses
  • The Case is Altered
  • The Case of the White Elephant. Also published as The White Elephant
  • The Correspondents
  • The Danger Point
  • The Definite Article
  • The Dog Day
  • The Friend
  • The Hat Trick
  • The Lieabout
  • The Longer View
  • The Man with the Sack
  • The Meaning of the Act
  • The Mistress of the House
  • The Name on the Wrapper
  • The Old Man in the Window
  • The Perfect Butler
  • The Pioneers
  • The Pro and the Con
  • The Question Mark
  • The Wind Glass
  • They Never Get Caught
  • Tis Not Hereafter
  • You've Got to Have Brains


  • Is Golf a Menace to Marriage?
  • The Public Spirit of Francis Smith

Radio Plays[edit]

Stage Plays[edit]

  • Water in a Sieve

Other works by Margery Allingham[edit]

  • Blackkerchief Dick (1923)
  • The White Cottage Mystery (1928)
  • The Darings of the Red Rose (1930) Published anonymously in the Weekly Welcome magazine
  • Black Plumes (1940)
  • The Oaken Heart (1941: autobiographical)
  • Dance of the Years (1943: also known as The Galantrys)
  • Wanted: Someone Innocent (1946: novella and short stories)
    • Wanted: Someone Innocent
    • He Was Asking After You
    • The Sexton's Wife
    • 'Tis Not Hereafter
  • Deadly Duo (1949: UK title Take Two at Bedtime (1950)) – two novellas:
    • Wanted: Someone Innocent
    • Last Act
  • Take Two at Bedtime (1950) (novellas)
    • Last Act
    • Wanted: Someone Innocent
  • No Love Lost (1954) (novellas)
    • The Patient at Peacocks Hall
    • Safer Than Love
  • The Allingham Case-Book (1969: short stories)
    • The Border-Line Case
    • Evidence in Camera
    • Face Value
    • Is There a Doctor in the House?
    • Joke Over
    • The Lieabout
    • Little Miss Know-All
    • The Lying-in-State
    • The Mind's Eye Mystery
    • Mum Knows Best
    • One Morning They'll Hang Him
    • The Pioneers
    • The Pro and the Con
    • The Psychologist
    • The Snapdragon and the C.I.D.
    • Tall Story
    • They Never Get Caught
    • There Is a Lucky Number
    • The Villa Marie Celeste
  • The Darings of the Red Rose (Crippen & Landru, 1995)
  • Three is a Lucky Number

As Maxwell March (a pseudonym)[edit]

  • Other Man's Danger (1933: US title The Man of Dangerous Secrets)
  • Rogues' Holiday (1935)
  • The Shadow in the House (1936)


  1. ^ a b "Margery Allingham". Classic Crime Fiction. Retrieved 26 October 2014.
  2. ^ 'The Great Detectives: Albert Campion' by Mike Ripley, Strand Magazine
  3. ^ Herbert, Rosemary (1999). The Oxford Companion to Crime and Mystery Writing. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 14. ISBN 0195072391.
  4. ^ a b Stevenson, Jane (19 August 2006). "Rereading: Margery Allingham, Queen of Crime". The Guardian. Retrieved 10 July 2014.
  5. ^ City of Westminster green plaques Archived 16 July 2012 at the Wayback Machine,; accessed 26 October 2014.
  6. ^ Allingham, Margery (2006). The Margery Allingham Omnibus. London et al: Vintage (Random House). ISBN 9780099503729.
  7. ^ Google Earth
  8. ^ "Margery Allingham".
  9. ^ "Felony & Mayhem Authors".
  10. ^ The Book of Forgotten Authors, by Christopher Fowler (revised paperback edition) 2018
  11. ^ New York Daily News, 17 May 1958 and after
  12. ^ Jones, Julia (10 January 2018). "The Adventures of Margery Allingham". Golden Duck UK Ltd – via Google Books.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]