Desmond Bagley

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Desmond Bagley (born October 29, 1923 in Kendal , Cumbria , England, † April 12, 1983 in Southampton ) was an English thriller writer.


Bagley was born in Cumbria , which was then Westmorland , to John and Hannah Bagley. He attended several schools in Bolton and Blackpool. When Bagley was twelve, his family moved to the popular resort town of Blackpool in the summer of 1935 . After he left school shortly afterwards, he first worked as an errand boy in a printing company, then as a worker in an electrical company. Between 1940 and 1946 he worked for an aircraft yard. After the end of the war, he began his migration to South Africa in 1947 . It was not until 1951 that he settled in Natal . In the meantime he crossed the Sahara, found work at times in Kampala , Uganda and worked in mines. During this time he also got malaria . There he became a freelance writer for newspapers and magazines . Among other things, he worked for a radio station in Durban (1951–1952) and wrote film reviews for the Rand Daily Mail in Johannesburg (1958–1962). From 1960 to 1961 he also worked as a writer for Filmlets Ltd.

His first published short story appeared in the English magazine Argosy in 1957 . Before his first novel The Golden Keel was published in 1962 , he met Joan Margaret Brown, the owner of a bookstore, in 1959, whom he married in 1960. The equally surprising and great success of this novel allowed him to concentrate fully on writing books in the mid-1960s.

Bagley and his wife left South Africa and first traveled to Italy before returning to England in 1965. They lived for some time in Totnes , Devon and later (1976) moved to the Channel Island of Guernsey .

After suffering a stroke on April 4, 1983, Bagley was taken to Southampton for treatment, where he died just eight days later.

The last two works that appeared under the author's name, Night of Error (1983) and Juggernaut (1984) were completed by his wife, Joan Margaret, and published posthumously.


Bagley published 16 thrillers , almost all of which were bestsellers . He rarely used characters whose adventures spanned multiple books. This was typical of British writers of the time. An exception is Max Stafford , the safety advisor, who can be found in both Flyaway and Windfall . Bagley preferred first-person narration in many of his books, which involves the reader and can be identified more closely with what is happening. Also typical is the fact that his work received little attention from the film industry and therefore only three adaptations of his novels exist.

The Golden Keel was supposedly based on a true story, by the way. Bagley is said to have heard the breathtaking story of the disappeared gold of the Italian dictator Mussolini from a war veteran by the name of Walker in a bar in Johannesburg and converted it into a book.

Like Hammond Innes , Alistair MacLean and Geoffrey Jenkins , Bagley wrote fast-paced stories with a rich local reference / flavor. The locations of the action were always international and Bagley offered his readers detailed information about the countries described.

In The Tightrope Men (1973) he introduces the reader to the Finnish landscape and tells a lot about the Finnish way of life, while in Running Blind (1970) he does the same with Iceland . In his work Flyaway (1978) he gives the reader more information about the country, people, customs, traditions and the landscape of the Sahara than some travel guides do.

The scientific background of the plot is also detailed. He explains, for example in his work (1977) The Enemy , the genetic manipulation while in Wyatt's Hurricane (1966) about the meteorological processes in a hurricane experiences. In Landslide (1967) he deals with landslides .

Desmond Bagley also published short stories. When he wasn't out researching the locations and backgrounds for his novels, he often spent his time on his sailing yacht or motorboat. He also loved to deal with classical music, military history and the model re-enactment of historical battles.

Bagley wrote his works almost exclusively with two fingers on an old typewriter, only the last works were created on a Xerox computer system with word processing program .


Bagley's work was particularly well received in the Scandinavian countries, especially in Sweden , Finland and Norway , also because the readers shared the author's love for the landscape.

His works have been translated into over 20 languages ​​and sold in the millions.

His espionage thriller Life on a Return Ticket ( The Freedom Trap , 1971) was filmed in 1973 with Paul Newman , James Mason and Dominique Sanda under the title The Mackintosh Man . 1998 H. Gordon Boos filmed the novel The Vivero Letter with Robert Patrick and Fred Ward in the leading roles under the title Vivero Letter .


The dates refer to the publication of the hardcover edition in the original language.

  • The Golden Kiel ( The Golden Keel , 1962)
  • The Merciless ( High Citadel , 1965)
  • Pull of horror ( Wyatt's Hurricane , 1966/68)
  • Landslide ( Landslide , 1967)
  • The Doomed Message ( The Vivero Letter , 1968)
  • Torpedo ( The Spoilers , 1969)
  • Blindlings ( Running Blind , 1970)
  • Life sentence with return ticket ( The Freedom Trap , 1972)
  • Kidder ( The Tightrope Men , 1973)
  • Snow Tiger ( The Snow Tiger , 1975)
  • The enemy ( The Enemy , 1977)
  • Breathless ( Flyaway , 1978)
  • Bahama crisis ( Bahama Crisis , 1980)
  • The Inheritance ( Windfall , 1982)
  • The Deception ( Night of Error , 1984)
  • The Transport ( Juggernaut , 1985)


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