A NEW novel by Kendal-born Desmond Bagley is set to be released 36 years after the authors' death.

'Domino Island' follows the events precipitated by the death of a property magnate on the fictional Caribbean island of Campanilla. It was crafted from an original manuscript which remained hidden for almost half a century.

David Brawn, publisher of Estates at HarperCollins, said: "As soon as I read it I thought it was brilliant. You could tell straight-away that this was a man who could write...

"There are some lovely touches which are now period touches because it was written 47 years ago."

Author and screenwriter Michael Davies, the man tasked with bringing the lost manuscript to life, added that "the story of how it came to be published is a book in itself."

The Westmorland Gazette: The front cover of Domino IslandThe front cover of Domino Island

According to Mr Brawn, HarperCollins agreed to publish the book when it was first written in 1972. Bagley had produced it following a spell of writer's block the previous year.

Indeed, in January 1972 he wrote to his editor, Bob Knittel: "Tomorrow I start a new book. Cross your fingers and hope. 1971 was a particularly bad year for me; I started four books and four books collapsed somewhere between chapters four and six."

He ended up calling this new book (later to be Domino Island) 'Because Salton Died' but, just two weeks after HarperCollins agreed to publish it, Bagley wrote to them asking for its withdrawal.

According to Mr Brawn, this was because American publisher Doubleday, having been sent the book, wanted something more similar to the authors' previous work 'The Freedom Trap' - set in the UK and at that time being made into a film ('The Mackintosh Man') starring Paul Newman.

The text was permanently put to one side and Bagley subsequently got on with writing other books; the 'The Tightrope Men' was released the following year. He died in 1983 and, in 1997, his papers were sent to Boston University in America by widow Joan.

The manuscript remained there for the next 20 years until it was uncovered by literary researcher Philip Eastwood, who runs 'The Bagley Brief' - a website dedicated to preserving the author's legacy.


Mr Eastwood told David Brawn about the long-lost book, who in turn brought Michael Davies on board. The finished story - which Mr Davies often edited according to Bagley's own handwritten notes - was named 'Domino Island'. It was formerly 'Because Salton Died', but Bagley himself had suggested at the time that his editor might think up a better name.

Mr Davies, 55, said: "[It was] My dream job. A guy whose novels I'd loved as a teenager and read all of - a kind of literary hero of mine."

"The thread of Bagley has run through the whole of my life," he added.

Bagley himself was born in Kendal. According to the Bagley Brief, he lived in Stramongate - and began his education at Castle Street Primary School (now a community centre), before his mother and father - both Lancastrians - moved the family back to Lancashire in 1929.

For more information visit www.thebagleybrief.com. 'Domino Island' came out in hardback on Thursday.