Thursday, 30 April 2015

Remembering Margery Allingham and the Campion series, produced by the BBC ...

A Lagonda 16/80 featured extensively in the series. The car used in the series is now kept in Germany

Campion is a television show made by the BBC, adapting the Albert Campion mystery novels written by Margery Allingham. Two series were made, in 1989 and 1990, starring Peter Davison as Campion, Brian Glover as his manservant Magersfontein Lugg and Andrew Burt as his policeman friend Stanislaus Oates.

A total of eight novels were adapted, four in each series, each of which was originally broadcast as two separate hour-long episodes. Peter Davison sang the title music for the first series himself; in the second series, it was replaced with an instrumental version.

Series 1 - 1989
"Look to the Lady"
A mystery surrounding an ancient chalice. Features Gordon Jackson as Professor Cairey. Original air dates 22 and 29 January 1989.
Book first published in 1931.

"Police at the Funeral"
The death of a member of a wealthy family. Features Timothy West as Uncle William Faraday. Original air dates 5 and 12 February 1989.
Book first published in 1931.

"The Case of the Late Pig"
A man appears to have died twice. Features Michael Gough as Mr Hayhoe. Original air dates 19 and 26 February 1989.
Book first published in 1937.

"Death of a Ghost"
A painter's legacy leads to murder. Features Jean Anderson as Belle Lafcadio and Carole Ruggier as Rosa. Original air dates 5 and 12 March 1989.
Book first published in 1934.

Series 2 - 1990
"Sweet Danger"
The ownership of a tiny kingdom leads to a deadly treasure hunt. Features Lysette Anthony as Amanda Fitton and David Haig as Guffy Randall. Original air dates 12 and 19 January 1990.
Book first published in 1933.

"Dancers in Mourning"
A series of pranks, and worse, upset a leading theatre star and his bizarre household. Features Ian Ogilvy as Jimmy Sutane and Pippa Guard as Linda Sutane. Original air dates 9 and 16 February 1990.
Book first published in 1937.

"Flowers for the Judge"
Murder visits a respectable London publishing house. Features Robert Lang as John Barnabas and Barrie Ingham as Ritchie Barnabas. Original air dates 23 February and 2 March 1990.
Book first published in 1936.

"Mystery Mile"
Campion must protect the family of an American judge on the trail of a sinister crime boss. Features Lisa Orgolini as Isobel Lobbett and Miles Anderson as Anthony Datchett. Original air dates 9 and 16 March 1990.

Book first published in 1930.

Margery Louise Allingham (20 May 1904 – 30 June 1966) was an English writer of detective fiction, best remembered for her "golden age" stories featuring gentleman sleuth Albert Campion.
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 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.

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. As the series progresses he works more closely with the police and MI6 counter-intelligence. 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, 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.

Margery Allingham: the Dickens of detective writing
Margery Allingham’s books show the evolution from well-plotted, bloodless stories to psychologically acute crime novels

By Jake Kerridge

Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot, James Bond, Philip Marlowe, Lord Peter Wimsey… Hardly a week goes by without a venerable fictional detective being de-mothballed so some new author can make a bit of cash out of their old-fashioned charm. Enjoyable as some of these new books are, I’m not sure we can say that all the original writers would have approved. But somebody who was an early adopter of the idea of a crime series being continued by other hands was Margery Allingham (1904-66), the creator of the aristocratic sleuth, Albert Campion. Virtually on her deathbed she decreed that her husband, Philip Youngman Carter, a former editor of Tatler, should keep the Campion saga going.
With an uxoriousness that he had not been notable for showing when his wife was alive, Carter carried out her wishes and wrote a number of Campions before his own death three years later. A manuscript he left unfinished has now been completed with a good deal of wit, style and Allingham-esque lightness of touch by Mike Ripley, the former crime fiction reviewer of this newspaper, under the title Mr Campion’s Farewell.
This seems like a good opportunity, then, to reassess Allingham’s work. Literary historians usually lump her together with Agatha Christie, Dorothy L Sayers and Ngaio Marsh as one of the “Queens of Crime” from the so-called Golden Age of English detective fiction – roughly, the period between the wars. The history of crime fiction in the 20th century has often been presented as the evolution of the “detective story” – bloodless, lightweight, prizing plot over characterisation – into the “crime novel”: grown-up, disturbing, psychologically acute. Allingham’s Campion novels offer a rare example of this evolution taking place within the work of one author.
She started off as perhaps the most frivolous of the lot. Christie and Sayers, both older than Allingham, were more deeply affected by the First World War (in their respective early books Poirot is a refugee and Peter Wimsey is recovering from shell shock). Allingham, born within a few months of Evelyn Waugh, was part of that post-war generation of Bright Young Things who devoted themselves with the utmost seriousness to levity, in reaction to the grim times just passed. Her early books are full of genial young toffs, ever ready with quips as they casually outwit master criminals and track down stolen treasures.
In The Crime at Black Dudley (1929), she introduced the gangly, bespectacled Mr Campion, who masks his intelligence behind a slightly irritating stream of sub-Bertie Wooster prattle. “Campion” is a pseudonym, used by our sleuth to hide the fact that he is of noble blood. Later in life, Allingham would imply that he was actually the Duke of York, the future George VI.

Queen of crime
You might not read Margery Allingham's detective novels for the plots, but her stories and insights are so irresistible that guests keep stealing them, discovers Jane Stevenson

Jane Stevenson

At least twice in my life I have owned the complete works of Margery Allingham, but I keep finding that some have gone astray. The detective-story collection is stockpiled in the spare bedroom, and over the years I have found that the Allinghams effortlessly top the list of Books Most Often Nicked (I stole half of them from my mother in the first place; thin wartime Penguins with brittle, browning paper and advertisements for Kolynos toothpaste or Craven "A"s in the back). Quite a few people pass through this house, and I can only think that guests pick up an Allingham to read in bed, get hooked and take it away. I can't think of any other writer who has quite this effect, certainly not among the interwar queens of crime.

Agatha Christie and Ngaio Marsh are fundamentally focused on "how". Their characterisation is crude, a bundle of quirks and characteristic utterances - Poirot's "little grey cells" - while the actual writing is un- demanding. Once the puzzle has been solved, there is no point in looking at the book again: if you accidentally pick up a Christie you've read before, you put it down again as soon as you realise it's the one where the murderer turns out to be the butler's identical twin brother. Gladys Mitchell's books you are sometimes, but not inevitably, pleased to revisit. She turned out more than 60 potboilers and an occasional perverse masterpiece (The Rising of the Moon is my personal favourite).

By contrast, all Allingham novels (except perhaps the first two) will, like those of Dorothy Sayers, stand a good deal of rereading. But for all her considerable intelligence and art, and her obvious feminism, Sayers's fiction is made hard to read by her snobbery and racism. She quite patently saw working-class people as lesser beings than the effortlessly superior Lord Peter, and she was profoundly anti-semitic. This is not a problem with Allingham, who was a person of genuinely wide human sympathy. For example, generally in interwar detective stories, charwomen feature as imbecilic, drunken crones. But Miss Diane in The Beckoning Lady is a precisely observed character with a history and something of an inner life, presented without condescension.

Allingham also has the enormous advantage over Sayers of being fond of her hero, but not in love with him. Albert Campion starts his career as a silly-ass-about-town in the Peter Wimsey mode, but he rapidly quietens down to a far more mature and reflective personality who is palpably affected by the changing textures of English life between the early 1930s and late 60s. Postwar, it is increasingly clear that Campion's real business is with counter-intelligence (Allingham hugely admired Le Carré), and the detective stories are merely interruptions to a professional life lived not in the books, but between them.

She is the least puzzle-minded of great detective-story writers. The question that always interests her most is "why". Her plotting is a device to express character: why specific people are led to do the things they do, a concern that significantly advanced the genre. One aspect of the enduring appeal of her books is that she was truly interested in how a life which seems monumentally weird from outside can be one particular person's normality. What "ordinary" means for a dodgy undertaker, perhaps, or a retired chorus girl. It is this capacity for observation which has often made people think of her as "Dickensian". Dickens invented surprisingly little, but walked about London (he was a great walker), and kept his eyes and ears open.

Allingham, as she moved about in shops, on trains or buses, in the street, did the same. As her books demonstrate, she was a shameless eavesdropper. Fat and friendly, she wandered through life looking innocuous and easy to talk to, and the troubled, the boastful or the just plain weird gravitated towards her. There is a certain advantage for a woman novelist in being middle-aged and overweight. You acquire a curious social invisibility: strangers sometimes carry on in front of you as if you weren't there; or if they chance to fall into conversation, they talk, on occasion, with a surprising lack of inhibition. Allingham's uncontrollable weight was a source of anxiety and distress in her life (it arose from a thyroid problem), and she was often sad and anxious, but she kept her griefs strictly to herself. The people she encountered found her charming, sympathetic and jolly, and she made good use of this. She listened, and she remembered - not merely to what people said, but to how they said it. She has as good an ear for the quirks of individual speech as any English novelist, and a great gift for seeing what was in front of her. As with Dickens, the panorama of human oddities she presents reflects reality. I was brought up in London, and I have been much given to mooching about talking to strangers. Over the years, I have encountered not a few London characters who could have come straight out of one of her books.

Another thing which makes her books worth revisiting is that she has such an acute sense of place. Many of them are love-songs to London itself, where she lived on and off throughout her life. She could do Mayfair when she wanted to, yet she was sharply observant of run-down working-class areas, which to her were not mean streets, but bursting with complex life. As she became more prosperous, however, she moved out to an old house in a small Essex village, Tolleshunt d'Arcy, though she maintained a pied-à-terre in Great Russell Street. Her two homes thus gave her two areas of focus: East Anglia/Essex and London. All the books are set in one or the other. In an interesting short story, a "lady of the manor" has a well-organised life that includes a monthly weekend in London. Her family do not enquire what she does there; but she is, in fact, meeting a lover. Allingham did no such thing, but as her character enters her little flat, arranged entirely without reference to the interest or convenience of her or anyone else, she becomes, in a fundamental sense, a different person. The story implies that even if Allingham's affair was with London in general rather than someone in particular, her two lives were very separate in her mind.

She is unusual among detective novelists in having a real understanding of the way the country works. Country life and city life are intricately textured in completely different ways; she understands a lot about both. I lived in the English countryside for a long time, and when I had to deal with much the sort of old fellows Allingham describes in books such as Mystery Mile, I often recalled, during tortuous negotiations, Amanda's philosophical advice with respect to questioning an old countryman - "not only will you not learn anything at all, but all your rabbits will die". Allingham could see that "coming the yokel" was often a deliberate strategy employed by tough and shrewd people to force negotiations on to their own ground, and by no means an indication of stupidity.

I doubt if anybody reads a Margery Allingham for the detection, since the plots are mostly fantastical to the point of campness. Her most interesting individual twist on the genre was to abandon detection entirely and write what I think of as a "convergence" story. That is, you, the reader, meet both the criminal and the detective early on. Thus suspense related to discovery is set entirely to one side, and the interest is transferred to questions of the villain's psychology and how, or if, the detectives catch up with him (The Tiger in the Smoke and Hide My Eyes are the classic instances). I imitated this structure in London Bridges, a fond homage to Allingham's thrillers in which all the "detection" that there is takes place on page 274 in the course of about two minutes.

Each one of her books has its own atmosphere. Not only is it distinctly located in a particular place, or places, but each one is a very precise reflection of the mood of the year in which it was written - which, again, is unusual in a crime novelist of her vintage. Interwar detective stories tended towards nostalgia and a certain fuzziness about dates which would make the books easier to reissue. Allingham's earliest books are like that, but the war made a great difference to her. She wrote a memoir of life in Tolleshunt in the first year of the war (The Oaken Heart), and this seems to have drawn her attention to the speed at which attitudes and mentalities were changing, a subject that came to fascinate her.

Thus the stories written during and after the war respond precisely to change. I am writing a biography of a man of Allingham's generation, the painter Edward Burra, and when I was reading up on social history, moving forward in time through his life, it occurred to me that her crisply observant evocation of the specific textures and concerns of the present moment would be very useful, precisely because she wasn't intentionally writing a commentary on the times. This turned out to be absolutely the case. Though her work is fantastical, it is rooted in observation of the differences between the formative experiences of one generation and the next.

She must have been one of the first writers to observe the alienating potential of tower blocks, even while the concrete was still setting in the first wave of postwar town planning. "It's not quite like a street," says a policeman in The China Governess, contemplating a tower-block corridor. "A lot can happen without the neighbours knowing." Equally, she was the first mass-market British writer to involve computers in a plot, as early as 1952 - a Hollerith, in fact, the punch-card precursor to true computers - in The Tiger in the Smoke

All the books include a murder and its resolution, and most of them also have a love story. The first is a genre requirement, the second an optional extra that allows Allingham to maintain the light-hearted tone she generally prefers. But if one looks at the deeper currents in her work, one theme that repeatedly arises is how individuals adapt to the changing world and, above all, to their own displacement by their natural successors. This is the central theme of More Work for the Undertaker, for example. Much of her work protests the refusal of one generation to recognise the legitimate needs of another; or looks at how they can coexist with mutual respect. Heavy themes for light fiction; but handled with such ease and grace that it is only in retrospect, if at all, that one realises the book has engaged with some very serious ideas.

From Coroner's Pidgin by Margery Allingham

"My dear man," said Gee-gee pityingly. "We can't have a row. After all, Johnny is who he is, isn't he? I know its fashionable to pretend to ignore that, but one doesn't really, does one? No, we can't have Johnny involved in anything definitely unpleasant. That's absurd, Johnny's sans reproche. I'll get this chap to see reason, but it's not going to be a walkover. Doctors have got completely out of hand, these days. I'll have to concentrate on him if you don't mind. I'll see you downstairs, shall I?"

The last remark was not a question and he opened the door again. He spoke once more before he disappeared.

"Thanks for the coffee. Awfully good of you. There's not a lot of help in the kitchen, I'm afraid."

"You'd be surprised," said Mr Campion briefly, and went downstairs.

He picked up his hat on the way and walked quietly out of the house. He met no one, and was thankful. The darkness swallowed him as he struck south-west purposefully. Having reached a decision he felt relieved; this was the end of them all, as far as he was concerned. There was just one more thing that must be done and then he'd wash his hands of them.

As he strode on through the misty darkness he tried to put the whole business out of his mind, but it was not so easy. After long years of practice he had developed a routine, and now, despite his inclinations, his brain persisted in carrying on quietly with the investigation. Every scrap of information which he had gathered in the twenty-four hours revolved before his inward eye, trying to slip into the pattern which was already forming. The discovery that Gold assumed automatically that Johnny was privileged beyond all the normal bounds of civilized behaviour, was one of these. It had been odd coming from him and had reminded Mr Campion of an incident of his own youth when the nurse of the small friend who had just pushed him into the Round Pond, had turned to his own avenging Nanna, and had said in exactly the same tone of startled protest:

"But he's a Duke."

At the age of four and a quarter, Mr Campion had taken a poor view of the excuse and did so now, with the added advantage of knowing that ninety-nine percent of the world agreed with him. All the same, he found it interesting to note that the remaining one per cent still existed, and was at large. Another little piece of the jigsaw slid into place.

Published May 2004
Lucas Books of Thorndon, Suffolk, ISBN 1903797-35,

Margery Allingham: an appreciation by Sara Paretsky
'Children not Sausages' by Andrew Taylor

CHAPTER 1: GROWING UP 1904 - 1920
'The Education of a Writer: Margery Allingham at Home and School' by Marianne van Hoeven
'The Rescue of the Rainclouds' by Margery Allingham

'The Apothecary': a dramatic monologue by Margery Allingham
'"My Brain is Young; I still have strength": Margery Allingham's Dido and Aeneas' by Tony Medawar
'A Medal' by Margery Allingham

'The Genesis of Blackkerchief Dick' by B.A.Pike
'Green Corn' by Margery Allingham

'A Family Likeness: the place of Margery Allingham in the pantheon of detective-story writers' by Catherine Aird
'Albert Campion – the Truth' by Roger Johnson
'100 Lines for Albert Campion' by B.A.Pike
'The Inimitable Lugg' by Geraldine Perriam
'I Should Have Listened to Mother' by Catherine Cooke
'Classifying Amanda: female and femininity in the pre-war writing of Margery Allingham' by Marianne van Hoeven
'The Real Miss 1938' by Frank Swinnerton
'For Better or for Worse: a Sociologist and Crime-writer's View of Sweet Danger' by Michelle Spring

'Maxwell March' by B.A.Pike
'Re X Deceased' by Margery Allingham
'The Man from the Shadows' or 'The Man Who Died' by Margery Allingham

'Undertakers at the Funeral' by Nicholas Fuller
'Lafcadio: the Painter and Posterity' by John Sweetman
'Campion finds the Circus' by Shirley Purves
'Dancers in Mourning: From Page to Screen' by Susan Rowland
'Fashions in Shrouds: Fashions in Forensic Pathology' by Stephen Leadbeatter

'Short and Sweet' by Martin Edwards
'The Public Spirit of Francis Smith' by Margery Allingham
'Six Against the Yard and 'It didn't work out'' by B.A.Pike
'A Proper Mystery' by Margery Allingham
'A New Sort of Web' by Amanda Whytenor

CHAPTER 8: MARGERY'S WAR 1939 - 1945
'"A fine sturdy piece of work": Margery Allingham reviewing for Time and Tide 1938-1944' by Julia Jones.
'Black Plumes: the 'forgotten' novel' by Susan Peters
'A Corner in Crime' by Margery Allingham
'Remembering Marge' by Oriel Malet
'The Permutations of James: some notes on Margery's Victorian ancestors' by Julia Jones

'Margery Allingham: an appreciation' by H.R.F. Keating
'Memories of Auntie Margery and Uncle Pip' by Guy M. Wilson
'Naming Names and Playing Games' by Jennifer Schofield
Margery and Lavinia: a letter from Edward Davis
'Margery Allingham's London' by Richard Cheffins
'From Albert to Albertine' by Jessica Mann

'Margery Allingham' by Natasha Cooper
'My Characters' by Margery Allingham
'Brief Encounter' by Margaret Yorke
'London my Market Town' by Margery Allingham
'In the Eye of the Beholder: Quirky Museums of Margery Allingham' by B.J. Rahn
'Margery Allingham: a centennial appreciation' by Robert Barnard
'The Relay (1964): Margery Allingham on Ageing' by Margaret Kinsman
'Re-visiting Campion Country' by June Thomson

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