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05 February 2006 @ 10:53 am
Margery Allingham's Campion Series  
I'm currently undergoing a "Classic Mystery and Crime" phase, albeit one restricted to a very specific author, the amazing Margery Allingham, who sometimes gets credited as one of the "Four Queens of British Crime" together with Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh and Dorothy L. Sayers.

Perhaps it's Allingham's versatility which makes her stand out as a writer. She is inventive, she is witty, never fails to surprise. Her plots range from classic "Who-Done-It?" over bona fide treasure hunts, romantic melodrams to dark, noirish thrillers. So it's no wonder most people tend to associate Allingham not with her individual novels, but with the enigmatic persona of her favoured hero, upper class sleuth Albert Campion. And if I write enigmatic I mean it, as a great deal of the character's fascinating and at times rather endearing qualities derive from the fact that he always appears to keep the reader at bay.

Solving a large variety of cases, most of them taking place in the English countryside, it is Campion himself who remains the entire book series' largest puzzle. Allingham is wonderful at dropping hints and revealing her hero piece by piece.Background, family, the at times rather screwed-up love life.Over the course of the novels, the character grows and changes. First introduced as a somewhat distant, but otherwise perfectly self-confident adventurer, who hides his razor-sharp mind behind silly jokes, blank expression and affable manner, Campion becomes increasingly affected by the things that happen to him.Gets older, more reluctant, painfully aware of his own failures and isolation.

It's fascinating to witness this transition from formulaic hero to character.
 
 
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Cavendishcavendish on February 5th, 2006 09:25 pm (UTC)
Taking my time :-)
Finally, after having corrected and packed and stapled all that there was to correct and pack and staple; after having fed the fish and prepeared some bread for myself for school tomorrow; I have now decided to call it a day and turn to some nicer things.

Which is reading your lj-entry while having a nice glas of red whine :-)

Your entry makes me even more intersted in the books and its main characters than I already was. Now I woder: Which kind of book will I get? The treasure hunt? The thriller? And which Campion, so to speak: The reluctant or the self confident one?

Well, lets see :-)

For now, I will be the reluctant teacher hero having survived another day ;-) signing off :-)

*waves*

And again: Thanks for all the help you offer (And for everything else ;-)) )

Frank
Christine: self portraitneuralclone on February 6th, 2006 01:54 am (UTC)
Yes, it's an intriguing little series, isn't it? And undeservedly neglected these days (unlike Christie and Sayers who are reprinted on a regular basis).

Bimo: Albert_keen_observerbimo on February 7th, 2006 09:42 am (UTC)
Yes, it's an intriguing little series, isn't it? And undeservedly neglected these days (unlike Christie and Sayers who are reprinted on a regular basis).

Here in Germany Margery Allingham doesn't even fall into the "neglected" category but is virtually unknown, in contrast to Christie and Sayers.

I discovered the Campion series only by accident, while browsing Ebay for some Dr. Who/5th Doctor related material. The TV version starring Peter Davison as Campion popped up in my search, I got curious enough to purchase some of the episodes and got hopelessly addicted ;-)

From that point it was only a small step to acquiring the individual novels. Thankfully quite a lot of them are quite easily obtainable as used copies, via amazon.co.uk. And there is also a British publishing house called Vintage, which seems to be in the process of reprinting most of the series.

These books are so much fun to read. I totally love how Allingham introduces the individual characters and always finds a way to play with the reader's expectation.

Do you have any particular favourites?