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A Good Place To Start

Death of a Ghost 2
Pearls Before Swine 1
The Fashion in Shrouds 1

A Bad Place To Start

Cargo of Eagles 1


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Categorization is odious. There is tremendous overlap among genres. These pigeonholes are offered only as a convenience.

Margery Allingham

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Please consider recommending where to begin reading this author, or where not to. A few words about your experiences reading this author and why you make the recommendations you do will be helpful to other users. If you are the author or have studied this author extensively, please say so.

bookbug November 23rd, 2005 03:54 PM PST

Margery Allingham was a wonderful, sharp, clever writer of classic English mysteries. Start with "Death of a Ghost" or "The Fashion in Shrouds." Many others are equally delightful.

An entertaining and much more erudite answer to "where to start Allingham" appears farther down on this page--please scroll down to Julia Jones' mini-essay on the subject (passing on the way her brief note on the availability of Allingham's books). --Editor

ddjames November 16th, 2006 10:50 AM PST

Margery Allingham is my all-time favorite mystery writer. I love her combination of wit, characterization, and plotting. Of all the Golden Age writers, she was the one who grew and changed the most over time as a writer. She is currently being brought back into print by Felony & Mayhem Press in New York.

Julia Jones May 9th, 2009 03:28 PM PST

Just wanted to say that Margery Allingham's books ARE in print in the US from Felony and Mayhem. In the UK Vintage have allthe Campions in print and Hachette Audio are publishing several titles a year on CD. My 1991 biography of Margery has recently been re-published as The Adventures of Margery Allingham (ISBN 9781899262014) and has received some great reviews.

Julia Jones

editor May 12th, 2009 02:22 PM PST

The following wonderful essay on where to start reading Allingham (and why) was CONTRIBUTED TO DebbiesIdea.com BY ALLINGHAM'S BIOGRAPHER, JULIA JONES, in May, 2009:

Where to begin reading Margery Allingham? What a delicious question and how I envy readers this treat in store. To begin at the beginning is usually sound advice and with Margery beginning at the beginning offers the additional interest of seeing how experimental and adventurous she was as a writer. Okay, all her main Campion novels are in the detective Ďboxí (as she called it) but thereís a world of difference between the goofy Wodehousian spree in Mystery Mile (1930) and the intellectual questioning of new communication methods in The Mind Readers (1965). Both are set in deserted stretches of the East Anglian coast line but thereís rather more than half a lifetime of imaginative experience and writerly development in between. (I have excluded The Crime At Black Dudley (1929) and Cargo of Eagles (1968) from my first-to-last recommendation because Black Dudley was written when Margery was still uncertain about the identity of her hero and Cargo of Eagles was completed after her death.)

If a chronological approach doesnít appeal then readers can select according to taste. For bright foolery in idyllic rural settings pick Mystery Mile or Sweet Danger (1934); for greater depth of characterisation and the flavour of a mid thirties artistic household as well as a plot where relationships really matter, try Dancers in Mourning (1937). The novelist A.S. Byatt chose the wartime thriller Traitorís Purse as her personal favourite whereas I think I dither between the rich eccentricity of More Work for the Undertaker (1948) and the bleak psychological tension of Hide My Eyes (1958 Ė Tetherís End in the US). Tiger in the Smoke (1952) is undoubtedly Margery Allinghamís most famous novel, the one most people remember. Itís a bold, almost epic confrontation of good and evil in the choking fog of a postwar, post-Dickensian London. Tiger in the Smoke removes the central element of puzzle from the plot Ė the reader is never in any doubt whose hand is wielding the knife Ė but intensifies the suspense in a way that anticipates some of the best crime-writing of today.

Allingham is a detective novelistsí detective novelist. From Agatha Christie to P.D. James and Sara Paretsky her fellow-writers have praised her style and technique. But she was also a big personality, warm and witty, intellectually acute and imaginatively generous. These qualities permeate her fiction and keep her readers loyal. On reflection I donít envy the readers who are currently poised to discover Allingham. I began when I was a student and now, more then thirty years on, Iím a grandparent and the books have stood re-reading throughout. When I re-visited them recently for the new edition of my biography I discovered two of my least favourite Campions (naming no names) were far better than Iíd remembered. I think itís because this series of novels are themselves the record of a life. Iíve changed in the eighteen years since the biography was first published so itís unsurprising that there are aspects of the mature Margery that I now read differently.

So donít spend too long dithering over your initial choice. Jane Stevenson says that the Margery Allinghams on her bookshelf are the novels most likely to be filched when weekend guests return home. To avoid being tempted into such criminous acts buy now or hasten to your local library.

Julia Jones (May 2009)

PeterDuckJulia November 7th, 2011 06:12 AM PST

Hello, it's Julia Jones again. More than twenty years ago, in 1987, I was running a village bookshop in Ingatestone, Essex (UK) and got permission from Margery's sister Joyce Allingham to publish a new edition of Margery's only non-fiction title, The Oaken Heart. It was a big undertaking for me then, for various technical and personal reasons, but I was proud to be publishing a title that has meant so much to Essex people of the WW2 generation.
The book was read on the BBC and I sold lots of copies hut iut wasn't long before I realised I'd let the book down. Its presentation left a lot to be desired and more than that, for Margery's reflections to be accessible to people of a different generation, or people outside her and my home county, the book needed annotating. She wrote it in the midst of the Battle of Britain but what seemed obvious to her and her neighbours then became less obvious as time passed.
This year, seventy years after the Oaken Heart was first published, I've published a new edition which I only wish I could present to Margery and to Joyce with my admiration. It has illustration and lots of notes, unpublished diary entries and, best of all, support and comment from some of the people who were alive in that tense and frightening period - as well as from their children and grandchildren who are living in the village now.
This weekend will be Remembrance Sunday once again. I offer the Oaken Heart as a tribute to that ordinary people of the 1940s and to Margery Allingham who used her writers' skill to express the common experience.


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Margery Allingham was born in London in 1904 into a family of writers who thought that writing was the only sensible profession. Her first novel, Blackkerchief Dick, was published when she was only 19. She created Albert Campion in 1929 in The Crime at Black Dudley, and he became her series sleuth. She was one of the "Great Ladies" of the Golden Age English detective novel, along with Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, and Ngaio Marsh. H.R.F. Keating wrote of her: "A cookbook phrase perhaps best describes [her works]: boil until a rich consistency is reached."

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