Friday’s Forgotten Books: Two Books by Val Gielgud and Holt Marvell

I have been facing a major blogging block but now the review pile has grown so big that I must really start writing or else…

Val Gielgud and Holt Marvell are new authors for me. Little information is available on the duo except that both worked at the BBC, Marvell’s real name was Eric Mashwitz, and the two men wrote five novels together.

The two men use their BBC experience in Death at Broadcasting House in which a murder scene during the broadcasting of a play turns real when the actor playing the victim is really strangled to death. Inspector Spears of the Scotland Yard investigates the case. While I enjoyed the setting of the play and found the mystery pretty decent (could not guess the murderer) I somehow did not enjoy the book much perhaps because none of the characters appealed to me.

However, there were certain glimpses of Britain’s history that I enjoyed as the fact that after the war, top positions in Scotland Yard went to military men which quite irked the police force because they felt that army men with their emphasis on discipline rather than results were not really ideal for such positions.

The book is dedicated “impenitently by the authors to those critics who persistently deny that the radio play exists, has existed, or ever can exist”. This dedication brought to mind a number of plays that I have listened to and enjoyed over the years and reminded me of a colleague who praised a dramatisation of The Great Gatsby which he had heard either on the BBC/ Voice of America when these radio stations were available on short wave in India. Does anyone listen to radio plays still or does SW still exist?


First Line: Broadcasting House has been called a good many names, and described as a good many things.

Publishing Details: London: Rich & Cowan Ltd., 1935.

First Published: 1934

Pages: 223

Source: SPL 823 G454D

Other Opinions: Crossexamining Crime


The other book by the same authors Death as an Extra begins with a bang. An unpleasant bully of a director, an import from Hollywood, and like most American characters in English fiction pre-1945 decribed not in the most flattering terms, is shot fataly while he is filming a scene involving a battle b/w police and thugs. Inspector Spears arriving on the set finds not one but three guns. Then the reel and the shooting script disappear. Who could be behind all the happenings but just as Inspector Spears starts his investigation, the authors decide that rather than a mystery they would rather have a ‘thriller’. So we have kidnappings, chases, murders, gang-war…. I beacme so bored that when police reach the hide-out of the criminals about which they had no clue I didn’t bother to re-read the preceeding passages to see whether I had missed something; a character says he has important information to impart and is kidnapped enroute to the Scotland Yard: that information remains unknown till the end or again if it was made known I didn’t read it; and how did a man know that an extra on the set was working for an American gang or where the leader of that gang lived. So all in all, this was a major disappointment and the ‘thriller’ did not thrill at all.

Incidentaly, in the ‘Forthcoming realeses’ list that follows the main text of the novel, there is a mention of another novel by the authors : ‘Death in the Studio’ whose description matches that of this book, so apparently the publishers were undecided about the title. Also the movie that is being directed in titled ‘Under London’ which apparently was the first novel that the duo wrote and so it makes me wonder whether this book is just a reworking of the first book. Does anyone have any idea?


First Line: “Save your lights,” said the camera-man in a still, small voice.

Publishing Details: London: Rich & Cowan Ltd., 1935.

First Published: 1935.

Pages: 286


I hope with this I get back into the blogging groove once again, meanwhile do tell me how you have been.

9 thoughts on “Friday’s Forgotten Books: Two Books by Val Gielgud and Holt Marvell

  1. So happy to see you blogging again, Neeru! I do like the sound of Death at Broadcasting House. I know what you mean about not really warming to the characters; I’ve had that experience, too. Still, the story sounds interesting, and I love the idea of those radio plays, which used to be so eagerly followed.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your kind words, Margot. It’s wonderful that you are still interested in my posts:). When I look back I think I was a little harsh on Broadcasting House but yes I too need to get on with a few characters in order to enjoy a book. A Happy Easter to you.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Good to see you back in action – I was wondering where you’d gone and hoping all was well! Death at Broadcasting House is one of the books I’ve been looking for for my challenge to read Martin Edwards’s 100 Books. Did you find an online copy? Not that either of these sound particularly appealing! I believe the BBC still produces radio plays on Radio 4, but I have no idea who listens to them these days. I used to listen to them occasionally many decades ago, but I never thought they worked as well as televised plays.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks FF, just too many things going on at the same time. I borrowed the books from a library. Now looking back, I think, I was a little harsh on the BBC one. Perhaps at that time I was just not in the mood. I have enjoyed radio plays over the years but yes televised ones were better. Were because Indian TV serials are now a disgrace and I gave up watching them a long time back.

      Liked by 1 person

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