THE UNPUBLISHED memoirs of DESMOND BAGLEY
EDITED BY PHILIP EASTWOOD WITH A FOREWORD BY MIKE RIPLEY
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In May 2017, whilst researching papers in the Desmond Bagley archive, (held at the Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center in Boston, USA) I happened across, among other fascinating typescripts, pages from Bagley’s unfinished autobiographical work.
Started in June 1980 Writer – An Enquiry into a Novelist, was not originally envisaged as an autobiography, with Bagley describing it as ‘a jeu d’esprit which fits into the interstices of my life which are not occupied by the writing of novels’, and was an attempt by the author to portray his professional life as a writer.
In January 1981 Bagley sent 173 pages of Writer, comprising of Part One – Proto-Writer and Part Two – Journalist. Unfortunately, like some earlier projects, the work was put aside and appears never to have been finished. Or indeed if it ever was finished, the completed draft is now lost.
Originally planned as a five-part work, all that remains of Writer in the author’s papers are 99 pages, comprising of a mixture of pages from two drafts of parts one and two. These pages tell the story of Bagley’s early life until the point of writing his first best-selling novel The Golden Keel.
In editing the surviving pages of Writer I have been able to augment Bagley’s work with my own research, together with extracts of unpublished material found in his archive of personal papers. This story gives us a fascinating insight into the childhood of Desmond Bagley, his wartime employment, his journey to South Africa and his career as a journalist, and is told, almost exclusively, in his own words.
I am indebted to all, past and present, at Moore Stephens Fiduciaries in Guernsey, who act as trustees for the J. M. Bagley Settlement, for their long-term support and for giving me permission to publish this work. Thanks too, go to Mike Ripley for kindly writing the foreword for the publication, and to HarperCollins Publishers for their support. A special thank you goes to all the staff at the Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center, Boston University U.S.A., in particular J.C. Johnson, Manager of Digital Archival Resources.
Praise for Writer
This memoir, painstakingly and lovingly reconstructed, gives a rare glimpse into the early life and formative influences of a very successful author and a man about whom few had a bad word to say. As a writer and as a reader of his novels from the age of 13, I was both fascinated by it and grateful for it.MIKE RIPLEY author of Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang.
Desmond Bagley was one of the great British thriller-writers, and Writer is a wonderful addition to his work. Publicity-shy because of his stammer, Bagley lets it all out on the page, taking us on a highly engaging and informative journey through his childhood, his war, and his search for the sun in southern Africa after it. The ups and downs of life as a struggling freelance journalist, advertising scriptwriter and sub-editor are described with sharp wit and perception, and are peppered by footnotes filling in the gaps by Bagley expert and researcher extraordinaire Philip Eastwood. There are also early examples of Bagley’s writing. This is a must-read for anyone who has ever enjoyed Bagley’s work – and a primer on life as a writer – Get it.JEREMY DUNS author of the acclaimed Paul Dark spy novels.
Desmond Bagley was one of the authors whose work inspired me to become a thriller writer. The start of his novel Running Blind was one of the best opening paragraphs I’ve ever read. It’s very exciting to learn, after all these years when I thought I had exhausted everything he had written that there is brand new material. What a treat!PETER JAMES author of the much-loved Detective Superintendent Roy Grace novels.
His personality shines through as if he’s with us, telling it, and of course that great sense of humour is there on almost every page.PETER LOVESEY author of the much-loved Detective Sergeant Daniel Cribb novels.
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Writer is a non-profit publication, giving readers the opportunity to help support the charities favoured by Desmond and Joan Bagley by making a voluntary contribution. Donation links will take you to the charities own websites, so 100% of your donation will go directly to the charity concerned.
‘The RNLI was actually founded as the Royal National Institution for the Preservation of Lives and Property from Shipwreck in 1824. Thirty years later in 1854, we changed our name to the Royal National Lifeboat Institution – the RNLI – as we are known today. With our wealth of experience and expertise, we are proud to be a world-leading modern emergency service, separate from the coastguard and independent from government. Every day of every year, people of all backgrounds get into danger in the water. It’s a problem that we’re here to tackle.’
GSPCA Animal Shelter Guernsey
‘With 148 years of caring for animals in Guernsey, the Guernsey Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is growing to meet the demands of the modern world with enthusiasm, optimism and energy. The role now, as in those early days, of preventing cruelty and promoting kindness to animals, through education, is as strong as ever. So much is achieved – through qualified and dedicated staff, our own welfare officer, friends and supporters throughout the island and through our association with the other animal welfare organisations around the world.’
La Société Guernesiaise
‘La Société Guernesiaise was founded in 1882 to encourage the study of the history, natural history, geography and geology of the Bailiwick of Guernsey, the conservation of the Bailiwick’s natural environment and the preservation of its historic buildings and monuments. In many respects, La Société Guernesiaise is similar to the UK Wildlife Trusts. However, its activities extend into many other areas, including history, archaeology and astronomy.’
Images: © A.H. Edwards 1955, from the Desmond Bagley Collection Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center, Boston University; © RNLI; © GSPCA; © La Société Guernesiaise.