Last Saturday afternoon I walked, with Mike in tow, rather nervously up to an inconspicuous yellow door in the middle of Soho. This door lead to the Wonderland, for lack of better description, that is The Groucho Club. Was I excited? Of course I was, this is me. We were there to find out more about the lives and works of Eric Ambler and Margery Allingham and spent two glorious hours in literary heaven.
I was familiar with Margery Allingham prior to this event having had a slight obsession with the Golden Age of detective fiction since, well, as long as I can remember. I've been reading Agatha Christie since I was young, but it wasn't until Dorothy L. Sayers came on the scene that I realised quite how much I loved the genre.
Eric Ambler, on the other hand, I had never heard of and after hearing that he is generally credited with having brought thrillers to the level of literature, I was intrigued to find out more. Simon Brett, crime author etc. (I understand he is a man of many titles), spoke about Ambler to kick off the event. What I found particularly fascinating was Ambler's focus on realism which is actually pretty revolutionary when you think about it - you wouldn't expect Christie's or Sayers's stories to be plausible in the real world. Ambler creates ordinary characters that could function in the real world and puts them in extraordinary situations.
Brett suggested The Mask of Demitrios (in the US it's known as A Coffin for Demitrios) as a starting point for Ambler's work and also recommended The Levanter, which is one of his personal favourites. I picked up both titles and will share my thoughts in due course.
I for one, fell totally for Ambler after reading some of his correspondence here and this little nugget in particular: 'For me, still, a book to read makes almost any adversity tolerable'.
I had the joy of speaking to a couple of members of the Margery Allingham Society and it was the chairman of the society, Barry Pike, who introduced us to her work. Suitably attired in his Albert Campion tie, Pike talked us through Campion's evolution as a character. He began as a very Bertie Wooster-ish character in The Crime at Black Dudley, probably because Allingham though he'd be a one-off character, but through the series you can see him develop and mature into the sleuth we all know and love. I'm intrigued to read more of the Campion mysteries in order to experience his development as I find that detective characters don't always have character progression, but rather have new skills added to their CV as if by magic.
I came away with a number of recommendations for Allingham's work and it's Traitor's Purse and Death of a Ghost which I'm most looking forward to.
If you're interested in finding out more about Ambler or Allingham visit ericamblerbooks.com and margeryallinghamcrime.com. There are free ebooks available on both sites too - happy reading!
I'd like to thank the team at PFD for inviting us to this event and providing review copies.
Have you read any Ambler or Allingham?