Margery Louise Allingham was an English writer of detective fiction. Her most memorable character is gentleman sleuth Albert Campion. She wrote short stories and journalism for magazines such as The Strand Magazine but Campion’s popularity was such that Allingham wrote 25 novels and over 20 short stories about him. Four of the novels were either completed or written entirely by Youngman Carter (her husband) after her death in 1966. She wrote a number of non-Campion books as well, including some under the pseudonym of Maxwell March.
Albert Campion is a pseudonym and it is hinted in the early novels, though never actually stated, that he is a member of the royal family, although perhaps some way from the crown. He was educated at Rugby and Cambridge and, of course, is a gentleman. Behind his big glasses (there are hints that he does not really need them) and his vacuous expression, Campion is ingenious, resourceful and a successful adventurer and detective.
Campion is assisted by his manservant Magersfontein Lugg, an uncouth ex-burglar who has a habit of getting huffy with Campion and addressing him as ‘cock’ or ‘cocky’. As required by amateur detectives who first saw daylight in the 1920s and 30s, Campion has Scotland Yard on his side in the form of Inspector (later Superintendent) Stanislaus Oates. Oates is as conventional and rule-bound as Campion is free and easy. During WWII Campion is involved in the secret service and after the war he continues to have a connection there.
Campion also has many friends and allies, conventional and unorthodox, in London and across England, often including professional criminals. Campion’s secret to success is, as he tells Oates, to "take a drink with anyone, and pick your pals where you find 'em".
As the series progresses Campion works more closely with the police and MI6. After numerous false starts, he gets married to Lady Amanda Fitton and has a child and becomes a more rounded character while Amanda becomes a significant character in her own right. Allingham’s early novels are light-hearted ‘whodunits’ while the later ones involve more character study than crime to the point where in later books Campion becomes a fairly minor character.
A treasure trove of information on Margery Allingham is available on the Margery Allingham Society’s website.
Books by Allingham and other authors are available from Mystery & Mayhem on the home age under various categories such as Tough Guy PI.