‘I foresaw all sorts of opposition from my parents if they should discover what I was about to do, so I decided to steal out of London as quickly and as quietly as possible...’
The year is 1927. Philip Allingham, aged 21, stares out of an office window near Piccadilly Circus, musing on life’s futility. He has tried his hand at pretty well every job his parents would consider respectable, and failed at every one of them. He is bored and broke. ‘Suddenly it dawned on me – and the relief at the discovery was extraordinary – that there was nothing at all to prevent me from earning my living reading the future in other people’s hands.’
So begins the career recounted by Allingham in this thrillingly vivid and richly comic memoir. Or, rather, the series of careers, as the subtitle reveals: ‘Being the True History of a Young Man’s Adventures as a Fortune-Teller, Grafter, Knocker-Worker, and Mounted Pitcher on the Market-Places and Fairgrounds of a Modern but still Romantic England.’ Billed by its original publishers as ‘an astonishing autobiography of an English gentleman turned county fair mountebank’, Cheapjack was an instant best-seller when it first appeared, in 1934, but has long been unobtainable. This reprint includes a new introduction by Francis Wheen and an afterword by Julia Jones, biographer of Philip’s sister, the great crime novelist Margery Allingham, whose involvement with Cheapjack was kept secret.
Express review: "a pungent first-hand account of fairground life in the thirties [...] After 80 years Cheapjack is also a priceless and nostalgic glimpse of an England that has quite vanished"
Times Literary Supplement review: "Memoirs rarely offer the reader an entree into a world as arcane as Cheapjack [...] The book's sharp, witty and amiable anecdotes are devoid of sentimentality or moralising."
Cheapjack costs £8.00 (including second class P&P, UK only.)
Your copy will be dispatched using recycled packaging and second class post. For first class post add £1 (UK only). It's also available from bookshops or you could ask your local library to order a copy ...
Postage rates on application for overseas orders
If you would like the book signed by Francis Wheen or Julia Jones please email with specific instructions.
People who prefer not to buy on line should send a cheque for £8.00 (for a single copy, second class) to