M'lud, members of the jury - it is with a sense of deep mortification that I must confess to a hitherto shameful ignorance of the life and work of Miss Margery Allingham (late of this parish) and must therefore throw myself on the mercy of the court. In mitigation, I can only ask the court to take into account my recent diligent study of Miss Julia Jones' absolutely first rate account of the life of this eminent exponent of the fine art of detective fiction.
Seriously, though, this is an excellent biography that explores Margery Allingham's life as both a woman and a writer.
One of the main themes of the book is the tension between writing as art and writing as necessity. Jones draws out those aspects of Allingham's background and personality that drove her to write as an act of creativity, coming to regard her books as her children. At the same time, she was a professional who wrote in order to earn a living, taking her from the world of the penny dreadful and the first women's magazines to international fame as a queen of crime and guest appearances on Woman's Hour.
As a woman, Margery Allingham lived a complicated and often chaotic life split between the London of commercial publishing and the large house in rural Essex, which she and her husband, Pip, could never quite afford. In addition to visitors, the country house was also home for a variety of friends, family, inherited servants and miscellaneous dogs and horses.
As a newcomer to Allingham, I watched the BBC's dramatisation of Campion
alongside reading "The Adventures of Margery Allingham" and was able to appreciate the way in which she had woven material from her life and experiences into her fiction.
A fascinating insight into the life of a fascinating, talented and slightly eccentric lady.