Monday, 6 May 2019

Domino Island by Desmond Bagley

Domino Island is the new Desmond Bagley novel, with official publication this week. But wait! I hear you exclaim. Didn't Desmond die way back in 1983? Well, yes, he did. But this book has never been published before. It was found in his archived papers not long ago, and Harper Collins have hastened to bring it into the public domain.

I have to say that I love the idea of discovering unpublished novels by authors of repute. I've read one or two, and I've found them absolutely fascinating. So generally speaking, I'm all in favour of their being published. But of course, just as sometimes there is a good reason why forgotten books have been forgotten, so there is sometimes a very good reason why an unpublished book has never seen the light of day. The quality may well be inferior, though sometimes there are major compensations in the way that the story casts light on the author's work or life.

In this case, Bagley fans shouldn't be worried. Domino Island is an interesting and lively story, well worth reading. A note in the book explains the background to its non-appearance - Bagley became involved with writing another novel, and this one seems to have fallen by the wayside. A bit mysterious, but there you are. The story dates from 1972, but has been "curated" by a Bagley fan and writer, Michael Davies, who has smoothed out the various rough edges you might find in a first draft. He deserves congratulation, as he seems to have done a very good job.

The story is set on a fictitious Caribbean island, and the key question for Bill Kemp, a consultant contracted to a big insurance company, is how wealthy David Salton came to die. Is there something suspicious about it? Bagley set about constructing a whodunit in the classic tradition. but as he admitted to his publisher, his instinct for action and adventure kept breaking in. He called it Because Salton Died: I think Domino Island is a much better title. The hybrid of mystery and thriller works pretty well, in my opinion. I found the revelation of the culprit a genuine surprise (though I'm not sure there were many clues) although the final section, devoted to thrills rather than a mystery, seems to me to be over-long.

Overall, I enjoyed this story as a fast-paced entertainment. I inherited my enthusiasm for Bagley's writing from my father, who was a big fan, and although I never met Bagley, I did meet his widow Joan, a very likeable woman. I am sure that both my Dad and Joan would be delighted to see this book surface at long last, and I hope it will please not only Bagley's existing fans, but perhaps also younger readers who may not be familiar with his work.

1 comment:

Nigel said...

Thank you Martin. Yes, it does seem hard to comprehend how a full novel can be so "easily" forgotten.