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Sunday 10 June 2018

The Margery Allingham Birthday Lunch

held at the University Women’s Club, London
Report by Radmila May

The Annual General Meeting of the Margery Allingham Society took place in the charming Central London
University Women’s Club in Audley Square near Park Lane on Saturday May 5th 2018.  It was followed by lunch in the Club’s elegant dining room which was the 19th celebration of what would have been Margery’s 114th birthday. After the starter and the main course, dessert consisted of, as traditionally, a birthday cake. The diners were then addressed by the guest speaker, Ruth Dudley Edwards, writer of award-winning titles, who was introduced by Mike Ripley whose Campion titles follow the further exploits of Albert Campion, Margery’s famous sleuth and by Barry Pike who had just been re-elected as the Society’s chairman.

Ruth spoke with great admiration of crime writers of the Golden Age including Margery Allingham and the leading role in reviving titles long out of print by authors some of whom are long forgotten. But she also spoke of the advantages enjoyed by those writers before social changes, changes in the environment and the advent of modern technology. Fog, for instance, used so iconically by Dickens in the opening chapter of his greatest novel and early crime fiction, Bleak House. Smoking – such a standby, when a writer wanted to inject a moment of suspense into a narrative and so useful for creating a sinister, conspiratorial atmosphere. Bad, blurred photographs and snaps taken by street photographers, known as ‘mug-fakers’. Servants, aristocrats, such as Campion himself. Rationing during and after World War II. Real fur. Phone boxes (although I have been told that monitoring electronic communications is now so sophisticated that villains of various dyes have gone back to using phone boxes not to say the ordinary post. What Ruth spoke of as over-protectiveness of children.

And lastly ‘political incorrectness’. Both these last two will feature in Ruth’s forthcoming novel Death of a Snowflake  the satirical novel Ruth is working on at the moment. While Ruth was speaking we diners nibbled on the delicious cake which Ruth had cut before beginning her speech and applauded her at the end.

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