Wife Margery Allingham

thumbnail_mlas020_margepipdog_smallPhilip Youngman Carter (September 26, 1904 – November 30, 1969)’s contribution to crime fiction was fourfold. He was associated with his wife, Margery Allingham, in the planning of many of her books, particularly those she wrote between the wars; he designed the wrappers for most of his wife’s books and for works by other eminent crime writers, such as Carter Dickson, Georges Simenon, Gladys Mitchell, Leo Bruce and Henry Wade; he wrote more than thirty short crime stories remarkable both for meticulous logic and freewheeling fancy; and, after his wife’s death, he completed her last novel and produced two poised and idiomatic sequels.

Philip Youngman Carter was born in Watford, to the north-west of London, on 26 September 1904, the only son and elder child of Robert and Lillian Carter. His father, the local headmaster, died suddenly in April 1914, when his son was only nine. Two years later, the boy won a scholarship to the famous Bluecoat School, Christ’s Hospital, near Horsham.

In 1921 he moved on to study art at the Regent Street Polytechnic in London. While still a student he began to make his way as an artist, producing drawings for The Daily Herald, through the good offices of his former English master, R.C.Woodthorpe. He also designed the first of over 2000 book wrappers and even, as his autobiography makes clear, the occasional vulgar postcard.

He was seventeen when he met Margery Allingham, his future wife, having got in touch with her family in the belief that they were cousins of his own (though , in fact, they were not related). They worked together on the production of her play about Dido and Aeneas, for which he designed the settings, and, at her insistence, he provided the wrapper for her first novel, Blackkerchief Dick, published in 1923.

They were married in 1927, living at first in London, but moving to the Essex countryside within a few years, when circumstances allowed. From 1935 to their deaths their home was D’Arcy House, the handsome Georgian house at the heart of the Essex village of Tolleshunt d’Arcy. While his wife was establishing herself as a novelist, Youngman Carter became a prolific graphic artist, distinguished particularly in the undervalued field of dustwrapper design for books. His designs enhanced the work of many of the most celebrated writers of the day: H.G.Wells, G.K.Chesterton, Eden Phillpotts, Margaret Kennedy, Daphne du Maurier, Rebecca West, John Steinbeck, J.B. Priestley, Georgette Heyer and Graham Greene.

By 1940, after some delays because of his age, he had secured a commission with the R.A.S.C., and he subsequently saw service in the Western Desert and the Middle East. His account of the fall of Tobruk is one of the most vivid passages in his autobiography. Later he became Editor-in chief of army publications in Persia and Iraq, co-founding and editing the official army magazine ‘Soldier’. In Baghdad in 1943 he drew a portrait of the boy King Feisal of Iraq.

He was demobilised in 1946 with the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel, and continued to work as a journalist in civilian life. After a brief spell as Features Editor for ‘The Daily Express’, he joined ‘The Tatler’ in 1947 as Assistant Editor. He contributed portraits and theatre reviews and wrote lighter pieces under the pseudonym ‘George Gulley’. Later he took over as Editor, making the glossy society magazine, in Jack Morpurgo’s words, ‘too good for its conventional readership’. From its inception in the early fifties he was also associated with ‘The Compleat Imbiber’, the house magazine of Gilbey’s, the wine and spirit merchants. Here again, both in his editorial role and his occasional contributions, he used the ‘Gulley’ by-line. During the post-war years he maintained a London flat in the former home of George du Maurier, near the British Museum.

In 1957 he left Fleet Street to resume his career as an artist and to expand his activities as a writer. He wrote and illustrated a travel book, On to Andorra, and a series of books on wines and spirits, published as a sequence called ‘Drinking for Pleasure’. He continued to design dustwrappers, including a long series for Simenon, and in the early sixties produced paperback covers for several of Dorothy L. Sayers’ Wimsey novels. He wrote over forty short stories, the majority criminous, with a smaller group on military themes. ‘Argosy’ and ‘EQMM’ were principal outlets for his shorter fiction. He also illustrated the reissue of The Oaken Heart, his wife’s war-time autobiography.

On the premature death of his wife in 1966, he completed her last novel, Cargo of Eagles, so effectively that the join is probably not apparent to most readers (though Edmund Crispin claimed to be able to see it). His intention to keep Albert Campion alive through a series of novels was cut short by his death after two only had been achieved: Mr Campion’s Farthing and Mr Campion’s Falcon (Mr Campion’s Quarry in the U.S.). He died on 30 November 1969, after an operation for lung cancer.

The main source for a view of Youngman Carter’s personality is his autobiography, All I Did Was This, published posthumously in 1982 in a limited edition.

He was a keen cricketer, prominent in local games and active as a Lord’s Taverner on more ambitious occasions. For some years he umpired the annual match between authors and publishers. He loved the theatre and describes his youthful experience of London’s theatrical world with vivid affection in his autobiography. He wrote dramatic criticism for ‘The Tatler’ and was elected to the Garrick Club, where, in distinguished company, his portrait of Martita Hunt now hangs.

He had an affair with Nancy Spain, and their son, Thomas, was raised by Spain's lover, Joan Werner Laurie, as her own.

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  1. https://margeryallingham.org.uk/philip-youngman-carter/