So I was faffing around on Twitter today while editing my current novel, and I saw an intriguing tweet. Rob Mallows, who runs a website devoted to Len Deighton, posted a link to a new website devoted in its entirely to Desmond Bagley’s 1970 Iceland-set thriller Running Blind and the TV series adapted from it.
Well, that is pretty niche! But though I’ve only seen a few clips of the TV series on Youtube, I think Running Blind is a superb novel and Bagley is one of the finest (and most consistent) thriller-writers of the Cold War. So I had a look at the site. It is very well put together and well-researched. It also had a line in it that made me stop short, about an unpublished novel by Bagley set in Antarctica. I followed the link to the Howard Gotlieb Archival Center in Boston and to my amazement saw they have in their possession a dozen unpublished novels by Bagley.
Let me just say that again: they have a dozen unpublished novels by Desmond Bagley.
One is titled The Man From Hell’s Gate. Brilliant title.
More rooting around (and help from people on Twitter) reveals they also have in their possession:
- An unfinished novel by Eric Ambler, Gentleman From Abroad, which according to one biographer he abandoned ‘in an advanced state’;
- Three unmade screenplays by John Cassavetes, including a sequel to Gloria and a film he was going to do with Don Siegel;
- Drafts of James Bond scripts by Donald Westlake (I suspect, based on mentions elsewhere, for Tomorrow Never Dies);
- Unpublished material by Derek Raymond, including two completed novels.
And much more besides. Any of these are very exciting in their own right, and only seem to have been barely mentioned if at all in the literature about these writers. How extraordinary to think so much material sits like this unnoticed, until one day it’s placed in a catalogue online and finally there’s a way to sift through the haystack to find the needles. Unseen material by Eric Ambler. Bond scripts by the creator of Parker. Twelve whole Desmond Bagley novels. Some of this is likely to be unpublished because it wasn’t much good - but considering the writers in question, at least some of it might be brilliant (indeed, Cassavetes and Siegel were both very happy with the script they wanted to make). And all of it, I suspect, will be fascinating.
I am knee-deep in edits, but needless to say, I’m in touch with the Center and will investigate fully as soon as I can.