Cheapjack
by
Philip Allingham with an introduction by Francis Wheen
RRP: 12.99
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ISBN Number: 978-1899262021
Format: Paperback
Number of Pages:
352
Publication Date: March 2010
Publisher:
Golden Duck (UK) Ltd

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.

Review

I adore this book. I read over and over when I bought it for 10p in the '70s. I tried to buy the film rights for it in 1990 but sadly it got messy. However, the romance of a modern but old fashioned part of England that we all yearn for leaps out from the pages. An age when Thomas the Tank ruled supreme. You won’t just read this book; I promise you will bathe in it. Enjoy.
Roger Edwards

 

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