Thursday, July 22, 2010

Vintage Novels {Mystery Mile}

Now then children, shall I tell you about Albert Campion? Are you sitting comfortably?
Albert Campion is not a detective, although he does usually solve the crime. Campion is an Universal Aunt and amateur adventurer. He will undertake your case, so long as it is deserving. He is recommended by Important Persons, the police and criminals. Albert Campion is one of his many aliases, but the one he uses most often. He is actually the second son of a viscount and is regarded as the black sheep of the family. He is tall, blond, wears glasses that make him look like an owl, speaks in nonsense most of the time and wears a blank and idiotic expression to hide his intelligence. He is assisted on his adventures by his housekeeper and ex-burglar Lugg.
Margery Allingham wrote 18 novels featuring Campion, but I prefer the more light-hearted pre-War ones. Allingham did not write just your ordinary whodunits and they aren't exactly detective stories either, since the crime is not meant to be solved by the reader. Instead, she wrote mystery-adventure novels, with touches of romance, folklore and truly sinister crimes.

Mystery Mile is about an American judge named Lobbett who is very close to knowing the identity of the mysterious and evil gangster Simister. Simister's men have already tried to kill him four times, but instead killed four of his servants. Marlowe and Isopel are taking their father away from New York, thinking that they could escape. The Lobbetts meet Campion on the boat going over to London and he saves the Judge's life. Once in England, Campion arranges to take the Lobbetts to stay with some friends of his. Giles and Biddy are twins and the owners of the small village of Mystery Mile (isn't that a great name?) which is also an island connected to the mainland by a narrow road. Sounds safe, doesn't it, you could easily spot a stranger approaching. But then the vicar kills himself, the officious shop keeper kidnaps Biddy, a harrowing rescue over the rooftops, a spot of arson and the Judge mysteriously disappears from a maze and his blood-stained clothes turn up later. And what does a red chess piece, a children's book and a valuable painting have to do with the solution? Everything leads up to a final deadly confrontation between Simister (who's identity is easy to figure out once the clue is revealed) and Campion. In a shaky hut. Over a pit of quick sand. At night. And there's some acid involved. It's dashed exciting, I can tell you.

Eight of the Campion novels were adapted into two 50 minute episodes each in 1989-1990. Brian Glover plays Lugg and Peter Davison (the Fifth Doctor and Tristan Farnon on All Creatures) played Albert Campion, who he looks like. They are simply wonderful adaptations filled with beautiful and sometimes eccentric 30's costumes. Campion is available on Regions 1, 2 and 4 and at your local library but not your local video rental store. The Region 1 DVDs are quite expensive (HMV wants $100 for each series) but definitely worth it. Mystery Mile was adapted as the last episode of series 2.

This is the intro to series 1 and that's Peter Davison singing.

Here is a clip from Mystery Mile.

Here is the only other clip I could find, but I forget which episode it's from.

1 comment:

Andi B. Goode said...

I'm going to have to keep an eye out for more of her books in secondhand shops! And for the show, which I know I can buy here...
-Andi x