As expected, the night spent reading Chris Fowler’s book about forgotten writers has started wreaking havoc with my reading plans, or at least with my to-read pile of books and ebooks.
Having read Fowler’s fun collection of short bios, I found it to be excuse enough to finally go and check out a writer that’s been on my radars for years now, but I never found the time, or motivation, or that extra bit of curiosity that would make me go and spend money and time on one of her books.
Margery Allingham is a lot more popular in the UK – where a TV series was made of her more famous character – than she was ever here in Italy. But in fact she was one of the queens of traditional English mystery – in the same league with Christie, Sayers and Marsh. Indeed she was probably the most unorthodox and the less traditional of the four – so much so that her earlier stories were often seen as a parody of Dorothy L Sayers’ books.
And I like Sayers. A lot.
Her dad, Herbert Allingham, had been a pulp writer and her mom, Emily Jane Hughes, a contributor to ladies magazines. Margery studied drama and published her first novel in 1923, at the age of nineteen (we will discount her first sale, at the age of eight, to her aunt’s magazine), but she only made a splash six years later as a mystery writer.
She created a character named Albert Campion, originally a parody of Lord Peter Whimsey, but that through the years came into his own, and became quite popular. Hence the TV series and all that.
And as I said I had been curious about Mrs Allingham, now, and Fowler’s book was the last push I needed. And when I saw The Allingham Minibus going for about a buck, well – why not?
The Allingham Minibus, also known as Mr. Campion’s Lucky Day and Other Stories, is a collection of short stories published in 1973, seven years after the author’s death, and collects both short stories from the Campion series than unrelated works. This was exactly what I was looking for – these days I don’t feel like reading a full novel, and the book promised to be a nice wide sample of the author’s best work.
And it is.
The stories are a quick read, and are perfect to lift one’s mood after the dreariness of a day spent ghostwriting. Allingham’s style is light and she works on some very interesting ideas. To set the tone, the book opens with what could only be described as a ghost story, and goes on from there.
There’s intrigue and murder and scandal, always told with a very ironic, tongue-in-cheek tone that is absolutely delightful.
I knew that book would cause me to spend a lot of money on other books – and now I want a complete set of Margery Allingham’s novels and short stories.