This week I start my new blog series, The A-Z of Crime Fiction. I aim to cover vintage crime fiction as much as is possible. Please feel free to send nominations for who should represent each letter, some are obviously more popular than others and there are definitely still gaps which I shall endeavour to fill! Please do give your nominations in the comments for what you would have picked for the letter this week! Anyway, let’s get started!
Margery ALLINGHAM (1904-1966)
Born in 1904, in London, to parents who both wrote it was fairly inevitable that Allingham would write herself, she basically said if you couldn’t beat them you had to join them! That she would become one of the great crime fiction writers wasn’t an inevitability of course. Agatha Christie is said to have favoured Allingham’s writing within the genre though the feeling wasn’t always mutual. Allingham was affronted that she was compared to Christie when her own writing career started earlier and had lasted longer! Allingham had her first work published aged 8 whilst Christie was in her 30’s.
Allingham is one of the Queen’s of Crime alongside Christie and Dorothy Sayers.
Allinghams’ famous protagonist, Albert Campion, was introduced into literature in 1929 in “The Crime at Black Dudley” where he took a minor role but moved into a starring role in later books and appeared in a further 17 novels and 30 short stories. Campion was a name used by the character to hide his true identity which is never revealed though he is a member of the gentry. Allingham is said to have indicated that Campion ascended to the throne when asked by author Patricia Hansford Johnson whatever had happened to him and early novels certainly hint at the fact that he is in line to the throne! There is speculation therefore that Campion was George VI who unexpectedly came to the throne after the abdication of his brother. That said whilst George VI ruled, Campion continued investigating crime!
London is central to a lot of Allingham’s work with Campion living at 17a Bottle Street, a flat above a police station. His right hand-man, Lugg, a former cat burglar, brings the working class humour to proceedings whilst the relationship with Amanda, who becomes Campion’s wife, develops with highs and lows over several novels and supports that Allingham was a writer of characters involved in stories rather than straightforward whodunnits with narrators.
Many crime fiction fans favour Allingham over Christie, particularly because – they suggest- Allingham can be read over and over whereas once you’ve read Christie and know what happens there’s little point in repeating the endeavour!
There are a number of Campion books which garner the most love and they are The Tiger in the Smoke (1952 ) Traitors Purse (1941) and Coroner’s Pidgin (1942) but many love Sweet Danger (1933) and Police at the Funeral (1931).
JK Rowling is a big fan!
Allingham died from breast cancer in 1966 and her husband finished her last novel under her direction.
Pop back next week for B