One of my must-read blogs is Petrona’s, and a typically interesting post a while back reminded me of a thriller writer who was a huge star in the 1970s, and who is not remembered often enough today. As a teenager, I was a fan for years of Alistair MacLean, until his later books began to seem very samey, and then I read a few by Desmond Bagley, before concentrating my attention on whodunits.
Bagley was, arguably, second only to MacLean among British thriller writers of the time. My late father was very keen on Bagley’s books, and encouraged me to read him. I agreed with his verdict that Running Blind was an excellent story, benefiting from a well-realised setting in Iceland. (Dad also tried to persuade me to take an interest in Wilbur Smith, but his books never appealed to me in the way that Bagley’s did.)
Bagley died at the age of 59, and a highly successful career came to a sad and premature end. Some time after that, I met his widow Joan at a CWA conference in Tunbridge Wells. Joan was a very pleasant woman, and she was a close friend of a friend of mine, Eileen Dewhurst. Eileen stayed with Joan several times at her home in Guernsey, and one of these trips inspired her to write an excellent Guernsey-based novel, Death in Candie Gardens.
I was rather baffled at one point in the conversation, when Joan started talking about someone called Simon. It turned out that this was Desmond Bagley’s real name. But I never asked why he adopted a pseudonym. Sadly, Joan died about a decade ago, but I have discovered that there is a very good website about her husband’s books which pays proper tribute to them both: http://www.desmondbagley.com/