‘Út í óvisunna [Running Blind] and Desmond Bagley’.
Desmond Bagley and his wife Joan. Many of those who have read Bagley’s books, have probably imagined him as a big, strong and adventurous person, a true “Super Man”. But they have been misled in error and confusion; the man is rather frail in appearance and far from being pretty adventurous.
Desmond Bagley, the British novelist, has become well-known to Icelanders in recent years, or rather his pulp fiction books have. These include the books Gildran [The Freedom Trap], Eitursmyglarar [The Spoilers], Fellibylurinn [Wyatt’s Hurricane], Skriðan [Landslide] and last but not least Út í óvisunna or Running Blind as it is called in the original language. People may remember that this latter book was set in our beloved homeland.
Running Blind was, in fact, very far-fetched. Bagley had hard-hitting spies from three (or more) nations wandering across the country, shooting at each other and generally using the most outrageous antics. That this would happen in our country. I’m sure, there’s nothing behind this. I don’t think the spies are wandering among us. After reading the book most people all over the country thought similar. Enough of that.
It is surprisingly common for Icelanders to direct the question to foreigners who come here, how they view Icelandic women. People have come to believe that this Icelandic variety is one of the most beautiful, if not the most beautiful, known on our planet. And it has not gone unnoticed that Bagley brought a wonderful beauty to the fore in Running Blind. The heroines of his books are usually attractive.
It was interesting how clear and geographically correct Bagley’s picture of Iceland was in the book, even though he had only spent a few weeks here getting to know the country. The adventurer must have worked hard during this time and no doubt taken his Bronco Jeep far and wide across the country. In relation to this, it may be mentioned that the undersigned is aware that in one of these “reconnaissance missions” he was well on the way to landing in hell (according to international interpretation), or rather his Jeep was, which he lost in one of the hot springs in Námaskarð, Mývatn. The Jeep had to be lifted out by crane, and the adventurer continued.
It has been mentioned that Desmond Bagley intends to make a film about his book Running Blind or rather has made a deal with a film company about it. Will it be filmed in this country? It is rumoured that he will be coming here this summer, along with experts to explore the possibility and begin preparations for filming.
He originally received an offer from a Hollywood film company to make the film. He was asked to go to the “city of dreams” to write the screenplay and talk to the producers. And there he went. However the “city of dreams” turned out to be the worst kind of hell for him. After staying there for some time he packed up and headed back home to “good old England.” And now it is understood that he has signed a contract with the British film company Rank.
No, this was not a Hollywood success story, and this is clearly stated in an interview in a Norwegian newspaper some time ago, whilst he was traveling in Norway with his wife Joan. Finally, here is a short extract from that interview.
This was a terrible experience that I would not wish to experience again. Everything you have read about Hollywood is true. I felt it was a great honour, when I was informed that a movie would be made from the book and that I should travel to Hollywood to write the script. But my experience of the capital of cinema was a poor experience. I was there three months, and during the whole time we could not agree on a script. I sat there with a good idea in mind whilst around me sat a group of senior men who could not agree.
Endless meetings. I never managed to express my own views, but the top men slapped me on the shoulder and said that things were going quite well. They tore Running Blind apart and put the story together again in order to tear it apart again. I repeatedly came up with the modest suggestion that we should now start to work on the script itself. And they just smiled at me and said it was going great. When they had finally cut and cut the story, until it was unrecognisable, they asked me to start writing the script. But I’ve never been able to write with a group of people around me, with perpetual questions and comments. By this time I’d had enough of Hollywood and wished that I had never written Running Blind. The stupidity, indifference and pettiness reached its peak one day as we all sat around the table and talked for days on end, whether the girl in the movie should say, “Hello darling, it’s great to see you” or “Darling, how marvellous to see you, come right in.” They did not reach an agreement and the scene was deleted. And I, myself left Hollywood and have not thought about going back.
- ‘Út í óvissuna og Desmond Bagley’; Tíminn 15 April 1973, pp. 13 & 39.