Margery Allingham

Last updated

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
Pen nameMargery Allingham
Maxwell March
Genre Mystery, crime fiction
SpousePhilip Youngman Carter
Parents Herbert Allingham and Emmie Allingham

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's 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

Childhood and schooling

Margery Louise Allingham was born on 20 May 1904 in Ealing, London, the eldest daughter of Herbert John (1868-1936) and Emmie Allingham, née Emily Jane Hughes (1879-1960). She had a younger brother Philip William, and a younger sister Emily Joyce Allingham. Her family was immersed in literature, her parents were both writers. Her father was editor of the Christian Globe and The New London Journal, to which Margery later contributed articles and Sexton Blake stories, and he had become a successful pulp fiction writer, and her mother, as Emmie Allingham 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

While she was enrolled at the Regent Street Polytechnic she wrote a verse play, Dido and Aeneas, which was performed at St. George's Hall, London, and the Cripplegate Theatre, London. Allingham played the role of Dido and the scenery was designed by Philip Youngman Carter. [2]

South Street, Tolleshunt D'Arcy: Allingham and Carter lived in the far house South Street, Tolleshunt D'Arcy.jpg
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 had heard during a séance, though later in life this was debunked by her husband. Nevertheless, Allingham continued to include occult themes in many of her 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 that her themes clashed with her natural light-heartedness, she decided instead to try the mystery genre.

Campion and success

Her breakthrough occurred in 1929 with the publication of The Crime at Black Dudley . This introduced Albert Campion, initially as a minor character, thought to be a parody of Dorothy Sayers’s Lord Peter Wimsey. [3] Campion returned in Mystery Mile , thanks in part to pressure from her American publishers, who had been taken with the character.

With a strong central character and a format to work in, she began to produce a series of Campion novels. At first she also continued writing short stories and articles for magazines such as The Strand Magazine , but as her Campion saga went on her sales grew steadily. Campion proved so successful that Allingham made him the centrepiece of another 17 novels and more than 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 the one hand, and the shady world of the criminal class on the other, often accompanied by his scurrilous ex-burglar servant Magersfontein Lugg. During the course of his career Campion is sometimes a detective, sometimes an adventurer.

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 possibilities together. [4] As the series progresses, however, Campion comes to work more closely with the police and MI6 counter-intelligence. [5] He also falls in love, gets married and has a child, and as time goes by he grows in wisdom and matures emotionally.

The style and format of the books moved on: while the early novels are light-hearted whodunnits or "fantastical" adventures, [5] The Tiger in the Smoke (1952) is more a character study than a crime novel, focusing on the serial killer Jack Havoc. In many of the later books Campion plays a subsidiary role, no more prominent than the roles of his wife Amanda and his police associates, and in the last novel he is a minor character.

In 1941 Allingham published a non-fiction work, The Oaken Heart, which describes 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. [6]


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 at her request, and was published in 1968.

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. [7]

Allingham was buried in the newer cemetery in Tolleshunt D'Arcy, which is across the road from the graveyard of St Nicholas's Church and about half a mile to the south. [8]


A film version of Tiger in the Smoke was made in 1956 and a highly popular series of Campion adaptations, now available on DVD, was shown by the BBC in 1989–90. It is titled simply Campion and stars Peter Davison as Campion and Brian Glover as Lugg. [9]

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


Albert Campion series

By Margery Allingham

  • 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 Widow
    • The Name on the Wrapper
    • The Hat Trick
    • The Question Mark
    • The Old Man in the Window
    • The White Elephant
    • The Frenchman's Gloves
    • The Longer View
    • Safe As Houses
    • The Definite Article
    • The Meaning of the Act
    • A Matter of Form
    • The Danger Point
  • 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). [10] Serialised in the U.K. in John Bull (1952)
  • 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

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

By Youngman Carter

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

By Youngman Carter and Mike Ripley

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

By Mike Ripley

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

Short stories and novellas


Radio Plays

Stage Plays

Other works by Margery Allingham

As Maxwell March (a pseudonym)

Related Research Articles

Detective fiction is a subgenre of crime fiction and mystery fiction in which an investigator or a detective—either professional, amateur or retired—investigates a crime, often murder. The detective genre began around the same time as speculative fiction and other genre fiction in the mid-nineteenth century and has remained extremely popular, particularly in novels. Some of the most famous heroes of detective fiction include C. Auguste Dupin, Sherlock Holmes, and Hercule Poirot. Juvenile stories featuring The Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, and The Boxcar Children have also remained in print for several decades.

Ellery Queen is a pseudonym created in 1929 by crime fiction writers Frederic Dannay and Manfred Bennington Lee and the name of their main fictional character, a mystery writer in New York City who helps his police inspector father solve baffling murders. Dannay and Lee wrote most of the more than thirty novels and several short story collections in which Ellery Queen appeared as a character, and their books were among the most popular of American mysteries published between 1929 and 1971. In addition to the fiction featuring their eponymous brilliant amateur detective, the two men acted as editors: as Ellery Queen they edited more than thirty anthologies of crime fiction and true crime, and Dannay founded and for many decades edited Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, which has been published continuously from 1941 to the present. From 1961, Dannay and Lee also commissioned other authors to write crime thrillers using the Ellery Queen nom de plume, but not featuring Ellery Queen as a character; several juvenile novels were credited to Ellery Queen, Jr. Finally, the prolific duo wrote four mysteries under the pseudonym Barnaby Ross.

Ngaio Marsh New Zealand writer

Dame Edith Ngaio Marsh was a New Zealand crime writer and theatre director. She was appointed a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1966.

Albert Campion is a fictional character in a series of detective novels and short stories by Margery Allingham. He first appeared as a supporting character in The Crime at Black Dudley (1929), an adventure story involving a ring of criminals, and would go on to feature in another 18 novels and over 20 short stories. Supposedly created as a parody of Dorothy L. Sayers' detective Lord Peter Wimsey, Campion established his own identity, and matured and developed as the series progressed. After Allingham's death her husband Philip Youngman Carter completed her last Campion book and wrote two more before his own death.

<i>Mystery Mile</i> novel by Margery Allingham

Mystery Mile is a crime novel by Margery Allingham, first published in 1930, in the United Kingdom by Jarrolds Publishing, London, and in the United States by Doubleday, Doran, New York. Following his first, supporting appearance in The Crime at Black Dudley (1929), it is the first of many novels starring the mysterious Albert Campion, and introduces his butler/valet/bodyguard Magersfontein Lugg.

<i>The Crime at Black Dudley</i> novel by Margery Allingham

The Crime at Black Dudley, also known in the United States as The Black Dudley Murder, is a crime novel by Margery Allingham, first published in 1929, in the United Kingdom by Jarrolds, London and in the United States by Doubleday Doran, New York. It introduces Albert Campion, her misleadingly vapid detective, who would go on to appear in another 18 novels and many short stories over the next 30 years.

<i>Flowers for the Judge</i> novel by Margery Allingham

Flowers for the Judge is a crime novel by Margery Allingham, first published in February 1936, in the United Kingdom by Heinemann, London, and in the United States by Doubleday, Doran, New York. It is the seventh novel to feature the mysterious Albert Campion, aided by his grouchy manservant Magersfontein Lugg.

<i>Look to the Lady</i> novel by Margery Allingham

Look to the Lady is a crime novel by Margery Allingham, first published in January 1931, in the United Kingdom by Jarrolds Publishing, London, and in the United States by Doubleday, Doran, New York, as The Gyrth Chalice Mystery. It is the third novel featuring the mysterious Albert Campion, accompanied by his butler/valet/bodyguard Magersfontein Lugg.

<i>Death of a Ghost</i> novel by Margery Allingham

Death of a Ghost is a crime novel by Margery Allingham, first published in February 1934, in the United Kingdom by Heinemann, London and in the United States by Doubleday, Doran, New York. It is the sixth novel with the mysterious Albert Campion, aided by his policeman friend Stanislaus Oates.

<i>Sweet Danger</i> novel by Margery Allingham

Sweet Danger is a crime novel by Margery Allingham, first published in October 1933, in the United Kingdom by Heinemann, London and in the United States by The Crime Club as Kingdom of Death; later US versions used the title The Fear Sign. It is the fifth adventure of the mysterious Albert Campion, aided as usual by his butler/valet/bodyguard Magersfontein Lugg, and introduces the recurring character of Amanda Fitton.

Magersfontein Lugg is a fictional character in the Albert Campion detective novels, written by Margery Allingham. Servant and factotum to Mr Campion, Lugg is a former burglar, with a gruff manner, who hinders Campion socially as much as he helps detection-wise.

<i>Coroners Pidgin</i> novel by Margery Allingham

Coroner's Pidgin is a crime novel by Margery Allingham, first published in 1945, in the United Kingdom by William Heinemann, London and in the United States by Doubleday Doran, New York as Pearls Before Swine. It is the twelfth novel in the Albert Campion series.

<i>The Tiger in the Smoke</i> novel by Margery Allingham

The Tiger in the Smoke is a crime novel by Margery Allingham, first published in 1952 in the United Kingdom by Chatto & Windus and in the United States by Doubleday. It is the fourteenth novel in the Albert Campion series.

The gentleman detective, less commonly lady detective, is a type of fictional character. He has long been a staple of crime fiction, particularly in detective novels and short stories set in Britain in the Golden Age. The heroes of these adventures are typically both gentlemen by conduct and also members of the British gentry. The literary heroes being in opposition to professional police force detectives from the working classes.

<i>Cargo of Eagles</i> novel by Margery Allingham

Cargo of Eagles is a crime novel by Margery Allingham, first published in 1968, in the United Kingdom by Chatto & Windus, London. It was incomplete at her death in 1966 and completed by her husband Philip Youngman Carter. It is the nineteenth novel in the Albert Campion series.

Mike Ripley was born in 1952 and is the British author of the award-winning ‘Angel’ series of comedy thrillers as well as a critic and archaeologist.

Severn House Publishers is an independent publisher of fiction in hardcover and ebooks. Severn House specialises in publishing mid-list authors in both the UK and the USA. Established in 1974, Severn House began republishing out-of-print titles by popular library authors. The publishing house now specialises in providing libraries and the public worldwide with reinforced editions of brand new contemporary fiction, as well as rare or previously unpublished works. Since 2011, Crème de la Crime has been part of Severn House Publishers. In September 2017, Severn House was acquired by Canongate Books.

Barry Pike is the chairman of the Margery Allingham Society and an authority on Margery Allingham and other Golden Age detective writers, e.g. Gladys Mitchell & Dorothy L Sayers. Supporter of the Simon Russell Beale fan club.

Robin Stevens is an American-born English woman author of children's fiction, best known for her Murder Most Unladylike series. She has spoken of the Golden Age of Detective Fiction as an influence on her work.


  1. 1 2 "Margery Allingham". Classic Crime Fiction. Retrieved 26 October 2014.
  2. Thorogood (1991) p. 87
  3. 'The Great Detectives: Albert Campion' by Mike Ripley , Strand Magazine
  4. Herbert, Rosemary (1999). The Oxford Companion to Crime and Mystery Writing . New York: Oxford University Press. pp.  14. ISBN   0195072391.
  5. 1 2 Stevenson, Jane (19 August 2006). "Rereading: Margery Allingham, Queen of Crime". The Guardian . Retrieved 10 July 2014.
  6. City of Westminster green plaques Archived 16 July 2012 at the Wayback Machine ,; accessed 26 October 2014.
  7. Allingham, Margery (2006). The Margery Allingham Omnibus. London et al: Vintage (Random House). ISBN   9780099503729.
  8. Google Earth
  9. Riddington, Ken (producer) (2009). Campion (DVD). London: BBC Worldwide. OCLC   448112963.
  10. New York Daily News, 17 May 1958 and after
  11. Thorogood (1991) pp.278, 398

Further reading