Entries in Philip Allingham (2)


Books Monthly & The Mind Readers

Excellent and unexpected review of the Mind Readers at Looks rather a good site. MA would have LOVED this review as it actually takes her seriously!  Always worth remembering that Phil Allingham thought the MR was her best book ever.


The N word

A Family Sunday in the Park by Sara Paretsky is a short story published in a collection celebrating 20 years of Sisters in Crime. It's an account of V.I.Warshawsjki's first case and gets its impetus from a fictional family split within the Warshawski family at the time of the Chicago Race Riots. One household says 'nigger'; the other bans the word. No prizes for guessing where V.I. stands. The Chicago riots were part of the civil liberties movement of the 1960s. Language was political and highly charged and use of the N word is a simple shorthand for Paretsky to draw the lines of acceptability. It's a little more complex back in the 1930s. When thinking about Cheapjack as a 2010 re-publication I wondered whether we might need to do a Christie and knock out the word. But if we were worried about offending folk in Cheapjack almost all the book would have to go (especially the passages describing Welsh farmers). Napoleon Jackson, the 'tall African nigger' who Phil Allingham meets on a fairground in Mold is an impressive character making the most of his colour: "How is that I was born black and you were born white?" he asks rhetorically. But his rhetoric has nothing political about it - it's merely part of the warm up for a game of Chance - a game that he has rigged in a manner worthy of Derren Brown. (Read the book to discover this simple technique.)  His talkof colour, and social injustice and even religion is all part of his 'flash', his 'bit of moody'. Jackson takes to Allingham and proposes they team up for their mutual commerical benefit.  "You could say a lot of things about a darkie that I dare not say myself. We'd knock 'em all cold." Cheapjack makes its way though the world of Jews, gypsies, darkies, London Mobsters and fake orientalists - united by their common occupation as grafters. The outsiders in this story are the rest of us - the 'chumps'.