Margery Louise Allingham (May 20, 1904 - June 30, 1966) was an English crime writer born in Ealing, London, who produced many novels, short stories and plays, mainly in the crime and mystery genres. She is best known as creator of the detective/adventurer Albert Campion.
Margery Allingham was born in Ealing, London in 1904 to a family immersed in literature. Her father, Herbert John Allingham, and her mother Emily Jane were both writers - he 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 her mother was a contributor of stories to women's magazines. An aunt, Maud Hughes, also ran a magazine.
Soon after Margery's birth, the family left London for Essex, living in an old house in Layer Breton, a village near Colchester. She went to a local school and then to 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.
Returning to London in 1920, she attended the Regent Street Polytechnic (now the University of Westminster), studying drama and speech-training, curing a stammer she had suffered since childhood; it was at this time that she first met her future husband, Philip Youngman Carter.
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 have a thread of the occult in many novels. Blackkerchief Dick was well received, but was not a financial success. She also 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.
In 1928, she married Philip Youngman Carter, who collaborated with her and designed the jackets for many of her books. They lived on the edge of the Essex Marshes.
Her breakthrough occurred in 1929 with the publication of The Crime at Black Dudley. This introduced Albert Campion, albeit originally as a minor character. 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, 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.
Campion is a mysterious upper-class character who floats between the upper echelons of nobility and government and the shady world of the criminal class in the United Kingdom, often accompanied by his scurrilous ex-burglar servant Lugg. During the course of his career he is sometimes detective, sometimes adventurer. He falls in love, gets married and has a child, and as time goes by he grows and matures.
As Allingham's powers developed, the style and format of the books moved on; while the early novels are hardly straightforward whodunnits, The Tiger in the Smoke (1952) is more character study than crime novel, focusing on serial killer Jack Havoc and leaving Campion a minor character no more prominent than his wife Amanda and his police associates.
Her final Campion novel, A Cargo of Eagles, was completed by her husband, as her final request and published in 1968. Other compilations of her work, both with and without Albert Campion, continued to be released until the 1970s.
Although much of her work is largely forgotten today, the Campion stories and other mystery work remain popular, frequently reissued by publishers and vigorously traded second-hand. Vintage, the literary paperback publishers of Random House, began a reissue programme for Margery Allingham in 2004: so far they have reissued Sweet Danger, Mystery Mile, The Tiger in the Smoke, The Case of the Late Pig, Traitor's Purse, The Fashion in Shrouds, Flowers for the Judge, Coroner's Pidgin, The Beckoning Lady, Police at the Funeral, More Work for the Undertaker, China Governess and Hide My Eyes (December 2007). Cargo of Eagles and Mind Readers will be published in September 2008. A film version of Tiger in the Smoke was made in 1956, and a highly popular series of Campion adaptations shown by the BBC in 1989-90, starring Peter Davison as Campion and Brian Glover as Lugg.
Several books have been written about Margery Allingham and her work, including: