Thursday, February 04, 2021

Rummaging Round Bagley’s Past

At the beginning of every month, I look forward to reading Mike Ripley’s “Getting Away with Murder” column in Shots, hoping to find some morsel of news I missed elsewhere. His February installment, for instance, provides this intriguing tidbit:
Biographies of writers vary enormously from the revealing (and hopefully salacious) to the worthy but dull, to the downright awful. But then writers are an odd bunch, either reticent about life outside their fiction or prone to exaggeration. The best thing a biographer can do is probably rely on the writer’s own words as, after all, that is their business, and be an editor rather than a hagiographer.

Which is precisely the role Philip Eastwood has adopted in his painstaking reconstruction of the memoir
Writer: An Enquiry into a Novelist from raw material left by Desmond Bagley (1923-83), a master craftsman of the adventure-thriller and, in his heyday, one of the ‘Big Three’ of that genre along with Hammond Innes and Alistair MacLean.

Begun by Bagley as an exercise in formulating a coherent answer to all those ‘how do you..?’ questions thrown at writers and left abandoned for many years,
Writer has been rescued from the archives by Philip Eastwood and embellished with his own extensive research into the current Memoir, which will be made free for download via the website as of 1st March. It covers Bagley’s early life from wartime Britain to his overland trek to South Africa in 1947 and his career in journalism before his rather more stellar career as a thriller writer, despite the fact that Bagley himself wrote: This is not an autobiography. I have not led so interesting a life as to want to embark on such an enterprise, a statement many would disagree with.
Researcher Eastwood explains in The Bagley Brief that the coming memoir “is a not-for-profit publication to be made freely available from this website as an eBook. There will be links included for voluntary donations to charities the Bagleys supported, though this is not a pre-requisite for download. Publishing this way will give people the choice to make a donation directly to one of the charities, should they wish, and know that 100% of their donation will go to the charity concerned.” I look forward to seeing the finished product.

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