The Origins of the A To Z
London's famous A To Z street guide was first serialised in Blackwoods magazine in the 1930s. Its evocative renderings of the London of the time were an instant hit, but many found the plot lacking and characterisation almost non-existent.
In the story, the heroic Kensal Rise travels from left to right in straight lines across London attempting to visit every street, an epic quest that takes him from Neasden to Grove Park. It was often compared to James Joyce's Ulysses, mostly in the sense of "nothing at all like Ulysses".
It was adapted for radio in 1936 but did not travel well, and was taken off the air after Page 62 (Earl's Court, Fulham and Parson's Green).
In 1946 it was discovered that German strategist had been using the map that accompanied the full text as a street guide to London while planning the invasion of Britain. The publishers thought they might be onto a winner and, taking a risk, released the map separately. It was an instant hit and still sells strongly today.
For the author of this site, however, nothing quite beats the original eight volumes of leatherbound fiction. Although they can be a little unwieldy on the Tube, they do provide something to read during delays and also, crucially, do not include the Elephant and Castle shopping centre (TiL passim).