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Literature / Albert Campion

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Mr. Albert Campion
Coups neatly executed.
Nothing sordid, vulgar, or plebeian.
Deserving cases preferred.
Police no object.

Albert Campion is the protagonist of a series of novels by Margery Allingham; outwardly an Upper-Class Twit but in reality a Gentleman Adventurer who is willing to sell his skills to anyone in trouble. Aside from his enquiring mind and deductive abilities, his main attributes are his incredible range and depth of contacts, ranging from low class criminals up to the Chief Constables of a number of police forces and his ability to insinuate himself anywhere and get along with pretty much anybody.He was assisted on most of his adventurers by Magersfontein Lugg a burglar turned valet.

A television adaptation, Campion, debuted in 1989. It featured Peter Davison as Campion.

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    Novels in this series 
  • "The Crime at Black Dudley" (1929), also known as "The Black Dudley Murder".
  • "Mystery Mile" (1930).
  • "Look to the Lady" (1931), also known as "The Gyrth Chalice Mystery".
  • "Police at the Funeral" (1931).
  • "Sweet Danger" (1933), also known as "Kingdom of Death" and "The Fear Sign".
  • "Death of a Ghost" (1934).
  • "Flowers for the Judge" (1936), also known as "Legacy in Blood".
  • "The Case of the Late Pig" (1937).
  • "Dancers in Mourning" (1937), also known as "Who Killed Chloe?".
  • "The Fashion in Shrouds" (1938).
  • "Traitor's Purse" (1941), also known as "The Sabotage Murder Mystery".
  • "Coroner's Pidgin" (1945), also known as "Pearls Before Swine".
  • "More Work for the Undertaker" (1948).
  • "The Tiger in the Smoke" (1952).
  • "The Beckoning Lady" (1955), also known as "The Estate of the Beckoning Lady".
  • "Hide My Eyes" (1958), also known as "Tether's End" and "Ten Were Missing".
  • "The China Governess" (1962).
  • "The Mind Readers" (1965).
  • "Cargo of Eagles" (1968). Novel left incomplete due to the death of Allingham in 1966. Completed by her husband Philip Youngman Carter.
  • "Mr. Campion's Farthing" (1969) by Philip Youngman Carter.
  • "Mr. Campion's Falcon" (1970) by Philip Youngman Carter. Published posthumously as Carter died in 1969.

These books provide examples of:

  • Affably Evil: Several of the villains.
  • All Love Is Unrequited: In the early novels, poor Campion tends to be a bit unlucky in love. If it's ever suggested that he has a crush on a primary female character, expect her to happily and obliviously announce her engagement to someone else at the end and break his heart.
  • Alone with the Psycho: Canon Avril is alone with a serial killer, on purpose! Badass Pacifist, indeed.
  • Amnesiac Hero: Campion in "Traitors Purse". Possibly first amnesiac secret agent who must find out who he is, and what he forgot that is so important so he can stop an evil plan during World War II.
  • Asshole Victim: Most of them.
  • Author Avatar: The short story "A Border-Line Case" is essentially a conversation between Campion, a police detective, and the Narrator, whom the others call Margery.
  • Battle Butler: Lugg and Scatty Williams.
  • Bavarian Fire Drill: Campion sometimes engineers these.
  • Big Damn Heroes: In "The Crime at Black Dudley" Guffy Randall and The Hunt, of all things
  • The Big Damn Kiss: Campion and Amanda after thwarting a plot by Nazis that could have brought the U.K. to its knees.
  • Big, Screwed-Up Family: The Faradays.
    • Campion's family is implied to be this.
  • Bluffing the Murderer: Done by Campion quite a bit (he uses Type 3 a lot because a lot of times that's the only way he feels that others will be safe).
  • Body Double: At the end of "Mystery Mile" Campion is asked to do this apparently again for a foreign prince, and he uses one for himself in "Sweet Danger".
  • Bookcase Passage
  • Breakout Character: Campion was originally a supporting character in a relatively interesting spin on a manor murder mystery which, frankly, wasn't that great. The main character ended up as The Watson in the same book, simply because Campion was such fun to write.
  • Child Prodigy
  • Chivalric Romance: The whole book "Look to the Lady" is filled with many a Shout-Out to chivalric romances, especially King Arthur and Orlando Furioso, and considering the subject matter it is somewhat justified but there is much more in there than necessary or that the casual modern-day reader would notice.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Richie Barnabas. Canon Avril is a mild one. Gilbert Whippet appears to be one, but is actually more a case of Brilliant, but Lazy and Smarter Than You Look.
  • Cool Car: Campion's red Lagonda he gets (finally replacing his broken-down, falling apart old Bentley) in "Flowers for the Judge".
  • Creepy Mortician: Jas. Bowels in "More Work for the Undertaker."
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: To the BigBads in both 'Mystery Mile' and 'Sweet Danger'.
  • Death by Childbirth: Charlie Luke's wife.
  • Decoy Protagonist:
    • While still part of the Campion series, in The Tiger in the Smoke Campion and his friends are more like supporting characters, with most of the action actually revolving around the vicious murderer Jack Havoc and the effects his obsessive pursuit have on everyone.
    • Likewise, Hide My Eyes is mainly focused on serial killer Jeremy Hawker, with Campion very much a peripheral figure.
  • Disguised in Drag: Campion in "Sweet Danger" so as to avoid being instantly recognisable by his enemies and friends from a distance; leads, of course, to one of his many hilarious entrances.
  • Double Speak: Whenever Campion calls up his contact in L.C. Corkran's Government Agency of Fiction.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: Campion isn't the main character in the first book he appears in.
  • El Cid Ploy: Campion plays this in the beginning of "Sweet Danger" in order to try to draw the villains into the open.
  • Elderly Blue-Haired Lady: Dixie Wishart, the landlady of the Demon inn in Cargo of Eagles, has a blue rinse that gives her hair "alarming heliotrope highlights".
  • Eldritch Abomination: The guardian of the Gyrth Chalice, according to legend, though perhaps the only one that really knows for sure is now dead (and if the legend is true, because of the guardian).
    • Subverted in that same story with the creature of Pharisee's Clearing, which proves to be a "Scooby-Doo" Hoax.
  • Everybody Smokes
  • Friend in the Black Market: Campion and Lugg have more than a couple of these.
  • Friend on the Force: Stanislaus Oates and Charlie Luke are the most notable, however there are a few others.
  • Fun with Acronyms / Punny Name: Roland Isidore Peters the victim in "Case of the Late Pig" who faked his death once and then made trouble in a small town, then was murdered and his body stolen. Now go back and read his initials again.
  • Genteel Interbellum Setting: About half of the books are set during this time and like this.
  • Ghost Town: In the backstory of "Cargo of Eagles", a fraudulent Victorian property developer sold plots of land in the area known as the Trough, claiming that Eastonville, a new seaside resort, would be built on the site. Only a handful of houses were ever completed, and by the time of the story they're mostly deserted or ruinous.
  • Government Agency of Fiction: What Campion works for during and after World War II.
  • Hairpin Lockpick: Campion employs this several times (usually borrowing one from a female companion), though he prefers his real lockpicking tools.
  • Historical Character's Fictional Relative: Campion is implied but never stated to be the illegitimate son of King George V. Campion is an Idle Rich man with an undisclosed source of wealth and is indicated to have some connection with the royal family. George V, like other members of the House of House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha/Windsor had Albert among his names, and Campion's real name, Rupert, also fits in with the German origin of the family.
  • Holding the Floor: Campion is very, very good at this and it's saved his and many others' lives, either while he maneuvers into a favourable position or is waiting for backup. One character mentally comments that this is probably one of Campion's "chief stock in trade."
  • Honorary Uncle:
    • Lugg to Rupert.
    • William Faraday to Campion.
    • Campion terms himself 'universal uncle', making himself honorary uncle to everyone.
  • Iron Lady: Mrs. Faraday.
  • It's for a Book: Campion says that Eager-Wright (to Eager-Wright's chagrin) is doing this so he and Eager-Wright (and Guffy Randall) can ask questions without being too suspicious in a small town.
  • I "Uh" You, Too: Campion's proposal to Amanda (after having been "engaged" to divert suspicion from those who might get suspicious of their spending a lot of time together) effectively amounts to: "I wouldn't mind, if you wouldn't mind, if you wanted to keep the engagement ring on in its official capacity."
  • Join or Die: A choice given to Campion a couple of times.
  • Kids Are Cruel: When asked how Campion knew Roland Peters, Campion gives a short bit of backstory about how he and Peters attended the same school as young children and that Peters once sliced off three square inches of skin off his (Campion's) chest and held him over an unlit gas lamp until he passed out.
  • The Killer Becomes the Killed: In "Crime at Black Dudley" and in "Flowers for the Judge" (by a Sympathetic Murderer).
  • Kill It with Fire: How the Big Bad in "The Crime at Black Dudley" intends to kill his hostages, and how Campion deals with the menace in "Traitor's Purse"
  • King Incognito: Subverted in so many ways in "Sweet Danger." Campion pretends to be royalty (which, as one character noted Campion may actually be ) obviously undercover.
  • Let Off by the Detective: Campion does this to Richie Barnabas and Abbershaw does this to Wade Petrie.
  • Let's Get Dangerous!: Campion, of course, especially in "The Crime at Black Dudley" where everyone has taken him for a idiot and a coward (for his whimsical Deadpan Snarking of all their plans for escape), then single-handedly rescues Abbershaw and Meggie; in an attempt to fight back against their captors efficiently takes down one of the toughest mooks all on his own while it takes three of the other men to take out the other; then takes out Dawlish's Dragon, all after having been tortured for information.
  • Lights Off, Somebody Dies: In 'The Crime at Black Dudley' and 'Death of a Ghost'.
  • Locked Room Mystery: In "Flowers for the Judge."
  • Love Triangle:
    • Crops up a few times and is generally written in a contemptuous fashion so the reader doesn't sympathize with those involved. Most notably the one between Campion, his client, and his client's wife in "Dancers in Mourning", and the one between Campion's sister, Amanda's boss, and an actress in "The Fashion in Shrouds" (which tends towards the Psychotic Love Triangle end of things) against which the non-possessive and rather sweet romance of Campion and Amanda is juxtaposed.
    • A sort-of version appears in "Traitor's Purse", in which Campion becomes jealous of Amanda's interest in Lee Aubrey. It is mainly down to amnesia, however; Campion has received a head-injury and assumed that he and Amanda were married due to their familiarity, only to be shocked on learning that they are not. Also, Amanda's interest in Lee is, while not entirely fake, largely due to an undercover role. And Lee turns out to be the bad guy anyway, decidedly putting the kibosh on the whole matter.
  • Loving a Shadow: Campion is afraid Amanda is in love with the idea of him being the perfect hero rather than with his true self (failings and all) and though (when they first met) she might have started out her crush that way she's much too practical to stay that way for long and soon assures him that she's in love with him and not such a shadow.
  • MacGuffin: The Gyrth Chalice in "Look to the Lady". The Crown, the Charter, and Metternich's Receipt in "Sweet Danger". The telepathic devices in "The Mind Readers." The golden Eagles in "Cargo of Eagles."
  • The Matchmaker: In Hide My Eyes, Polly Tassie is trying to find a nice young lady to marry her protege Gerry Hawker, and invites her niece to stay with that end in mind. She quickly thinks better of the idea for various reasons, not least when she's forced to accept that Gerry is not a Lovable Rogue but a serial killer.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Precisely what it is that guards the Gyrth Chalice in "Look to the Lady". In cold light of day, it seems to be just a suit of armor rigged up to a window (albeit with a corpse apparently inside, which is not exactly pleasant). But Campion witnesses a cold-blooded, hard-as-nails criminal practically frightened to death just by looking at it and, seriously doubting that what he has seen could do such a thing by itself, starts to wonder whether something else might also be at work...
  • The Mentally Disturbed: Campion is occasionally taken for this.
  • Morally Bankrupt Banker: In "More Work for the Undertaker"
  • New Old Flame: Janet Pursuivant
  • Noodle Incident: Campion and Thos. T. Knapp's previous times working together
    • The 'other' time Campion body doubled for a prince in order to draw out and catch people who were trying to kill his highness. Also qualifies as a Offscreen Moment of Awesome twice, because he does it again, again offscreen.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Particularly in the early novels, Campion frequently played the empty-headed, overly-mild fop to lull those around him into a false sense of security or unease. In later novels, as he matures, it tends to crop up less, however.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: Most of World War II, where it is implied Campion was something of a badass spy/secret agent and possibly something of an Ambadassador, but we only get to see a little of his wartime activities in "Traitor's Purse."
  • Old, Dark House: Black Dudley
  • Old Flame Fizzle: Campion rather apprehensively meets up with Janet Pursuivant now Janet Whippet at a party some years after having married Amanda, wondering if he'll still be attracted to her, only to realise what we did all along: that she's not bright and would have been an incredibly bad match for him.
  • Older Hero vs. Younger Villain: Campion (in his sixties) having to fight a murderer who is not only nearly half his age, but a master of martial arts.
  • One of the Kids: Campion and Amanda seem to take turns with who is to be the responsible adult after they have Rupert (Campion and Rupert plan involved gags on Amanda and Lugg, and Amanda can oft be found playing a cheerful and rather destructive game of tag with Rupert). Lugg is this whenever he's around children.
  • Pirate Booty: The McGuffin in "Cargo of Eagles" — Teague robbed and ransacked a private yacht, and although some of his ill-gotten gains were found, the bulk of them have never come to light.
  • Punny Name: Max Fustian
  • Quirky Household: What happens when Campion and Amanda get married, and even more so when they occasionally stay at Campion's uncle's (Canon Avril) house.
  • Recruiting the Criminal: Thos. T. Knapp
  • Relationship Upgrade: Campion and Amanda at the end of "The Fashion in Shrouds."
  • Replaced with Replica: One of Campion's plans to protect the Gyrth Chalice in "Look to the Lady" is to create a replica to draw the bad guys' efforts away from the real Chalice. When he takes the Chalice to a specialist to make the replica, the specialist explains that what Campion has is already a replica — one made for the same purpose by an ancestor of his.
  • Rightful King Returns: Suberted and played straight in the same book, "Sweet Danger". Campion pretends to be the earl of Pontisbright and king of Averna to draw the villains into the open, then by the end of the book he's found (and crowned) the rightful heir.
  • Ruthless Modern Pirates: Teague in "Cargo of Eagles" was arrested and tried for piracy and murder in the 1940s. At the time of the book, he's just been released from prison and disappeared.
  • Shout-Out:
    • In "Police At the Funeral" Campion can't resist wearing a deerstalker cap to impress a client and jokes around with Stanislaus Oates by pretending to deduce all about someone from the sound of their footsteps.
    • In "The Case of the Late Pig" Campion is asked if his unusual butler saved his life in the war.
  • Slipping a Mickey:
    • In The Case of the Late Pig, the murderer tries this on Campion. Fortunately, perhaps as a result of his early experiences of being Unsuspectingly Soused, Campion spots what he's trying to do and just pretends.
    • In Hide My Eyes, Hawker does this to one of his victims, with the aim of leaving them in a fatal situation that looks like an accidental death.
  • The Vicar: Swithin Cush
  • Smoke Out: Campion uses his homemade smoke bombs to smoke the criminals out of a house which his friends had charged into against orders on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge.
  • The Spymaster: L C "Elsie" Corkran is a senior Intelligence figure in several of the novels.
  • Spy Speak
  • Suicide, Not Murder: In "Police at the Funeral," but not only does Andrew set up his own suicide to look like murder, he leaves behind lethal booby-traps to kill off his relatives and they succeed in killing two of them.
  • Sympathetic Murderer: Wade Petrie and Richie Barnabas
  • Tainted Tobacco: In Police at the Funeral, one victim is killed by cyanide being placed in the stem of a pipe, so that he will be poisoned when he sucks on it to check for obstructions.
  • A Taste of the Lash: Happens 'off-screen' in "The Crime at Black Dudley" after Campion makes a fool out of the Big Bad that has him held hostage.
  • Telepathy: "The Mind Readers"
  • 10-Minute Retirement: Campion briefly attempts to retire to accept a well-paying, stuffy, boring job so as to provide a steady income for his family, but he soon gives this idea up (much to Amanda and Lugg's relief) when several people (all unrelated to each other) ask for his help in solving a mystery.
  • Undercover as Lovers: Campion and Amanda in "The Fashion in Shrouds", though by the end of the book the engagement is for real.
  • The Unreveal: Campion's identity; subverted when in "The Crime at Black Dudley" Abbershaw thinks he's finally figured out who Campion is, then uses the name to try to shock Campion, but it's just another of Campion's aliases.
  • Unsuspectingly Soused:
    • Campion has this done to him when Bluffing the Murderer (Type 3) he accepts a dinner invitation and is manipulated by the Magnificent Bastard into having a cocktail. The cocktail however reacts with the rare wine the murderer had specially ordered at the restaurant, and causes Campion to become soused. Fortunately Campion had asked Inspector Oates for a few plain clothes policemen to watch over him, otherwise the murderer would have gotten away with pushing the inebriated Campion beneath a train.
  • Villainous Widow's Peak
  • Weird Aside: Campion, Amanda, Whippet, and the occasional old woman tend to do these.
  • What, Exactly, Is His Job?: A lot of people wonder that about Campion.
  • Winds of Destiny, Change!: Capt. Jack Havoc and Canon Avril are both what Havoc calls 'Watchers' — he believes that they have the ability to see, or even manipulate, the flow of chance in their favour.