Out of the shadow of his ‘Queen of Crime’ wife, Margery Allingham
Philip “Pip” Youngman Carter sounds the kind of bloke you’d have wanted by your side on the battlefield or at the bar
This adopted son of Essex was married to one of our Queens of Crime – Margery Allingham, who created “gentleman sleuth” Albert Campion. But Pip himself was a man of depth. He was an artist, a designer of book jackets (more than 2,000 to his credit), a soldier, a journalist, a magazine editor, a travel writer and a wine writer.
He was also the author of about 50 short stories, most of which were published in magazines and newspapers in the late 1950s. Now, they’re getting a new lease of life.
Youngman Carter had a way with words. Married to Margery Allingham for almost 40 years, he collaborated on his wife’s early crime novels, completed Cargo of Eagles – the book she left unfinished on her death in Colchester in the 1960s – and then produced two further novels featuring her famous detective.
Shortly before losing his wife in 1966, Pip began work compiling an anthology of his stories, including some written while on active service in the Western Desert during the Second World War, but the collection did not appear in his lifetime. Now, thanks to extensive work by the Margery Allingham Society and editor Mike Ripley, Youngman Carter’s Tales on the Off-Beat finally appeared in print last year, 46 years after the death of the writer.
It contains 25 of the author’s stories of crimes, con-men, assassins, treasure-hunters and the supernatural.
The anthology, with an introduction by Barry Pike (chairman of the Margery Allingham Society), contains Youngman Carter’s uneasy tales The Evil Eye of Brother Polidor, Kane’s Doll and Grand Seigneur, which all appeared in the cult magazine Argosy (UK), and several chosen from the American publication Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine.
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Most of the stories have not been seen for almost 60 years but reveal a writer with a knowing and assured journalistic eye for outrageous characters, a sly sense of humour and a genuine gift for creating atmospheric settings – particularly in Peter the Blind, set mostly in wartime London, says editor Mike Ripley.
Reminiscent of Roald Dahl’s Tales of the Unexpected, Pip’s stories were “on the off-beat” – a description and a title he himself suggested.
Mike, who lives outside Colchester, says: “Youngman Carter’s stories, sometimes sardonic and always willing to deflate the pompous, still have the power to amuse and surprise.
“They fall roughly into three categories: crime stories, war stories and tales with a supernatural twist, and feature a motley collection of crooks, con-men, soldiers, spies, journalists, artists and dodgy art-dealers. He was particularly good on dodgy art-dealers!
“In his introduction, Barry Pike describes them as ‘intelligent, erudite, fanciful and exuberant’ and I have no doubt they would have appealed to Margery Allingham’s most famous creation, Albert Campion.”
Mike, a crimewriter in his own right, has a long association with the late Pip.
Youngman Carter wrote Mr Campion’s Farthing and Mr Campion’s Falcon. He died in 1969, of lung cancer, leaving behind the first four chapters of his intended next instalment.
Mike completed the story featuring a made-up Suffolk wool town called Lindsay Carfax, which bore more than a passing resemblance to Lavenham. It was published in 2014 as Mr Campion’s Farewell.
Also last year, Mike brought out Mr Campion’s Fox – this time all his own work, but featuring Margery Allingham’s famous cast of characters.
The tale was set in 1969 in the fictional Suffolk coastal town of Gapton (think Orford), during the cold war.
Tales on the Off-Beat is published in hardback, paperback and as an eBook by Ostara (www.ostarapublishing.co.uk)