Tuesday 19 February 2008


I’ve succumbed to temptation and bought an obscure 1928 crime novel by a writer previously unknown to me, called Walter S. Masterman. It’s called 2LO, and I didn't even know what the title meant until a short time ago. Much of the collectability of this particular volume stems from the fact that Masterman inscribed it to his fellow crime writer Dorothy L. Sayers.

I’ve done a bit of detective work and as far as I can make out, the story behind the inscription is this. In 1928, Victor Gollancz, eventually to become a crime publisher of enormous distinction, commissioned work from a number of respected mystery writers and brought out the first dozen detective stories under his new imprint. Apart from Sayers and Masterman, the authors included Milward Kennedy and J.J. Connington (whose work Sayers read avidly; Five Red Herrings pays special tribute to his The Two Tickets Puzzle.) This was an interesting new venture and apparently the authors met up together on a number of occasions and exchanged copies of their books with each other. Evidently this is how Masterman came to present his story to Sayers.

Needless to say, Masterman’s reputation has not survived anything like as well as Sayers’. But he wasn’t lacking in distinction – his first novel boasted a foreword by no less a celebrity than G.K.Chesterton, and he wrote about a dozen before the war came and his crime career ended. He died young, in 1946.

So what was 2LO? I gather that it was the original Marconi broadcasting system in the UK, which soon became the BBC. Golden Age expert L.J.Hurst tells me that there were regional broadcasting services, and people would say they were listening to 2LO to indicate they were listening to the BBC London, rather than, say, BBC Manchester.

1 comment:

Heart of the Wood said...

Hi there, nice to see Walter S Masterman's work discussed! I found your site while researching his life. Tiny point - he was just a couple of months short of hs 70th birthday when he died, so not so young! But thanks for an interesting article.