Forgotten crime: Desmond Bagley – Running Blind

Running Blind2I read a lot more books than I manage to review here and I think it’s time that I did a series of posts on the more obscure or ‘forgotten’ books that I read. Of course, I run the risk of readers pointing out that a particular author most certainly hasn’t been forgotten by them. I take this completely on board as I know after nearly five years of blogging that readers of Crimepieces are an eclectic bunch.

This week’s writer, Desmond Bagley, is a name I remember from my childhood along with Alistair McLean and Len Deighton. Unlike the latter two authors, I’ve neglected to read any of Bagley’s books but a friendly Tweeter (@dbrunningblind) pointed out that Running Blind, published in 1970, is set in Iceland, a country I know well. I tracked down a copy in one of my favourite second hand bookshops, Tim Smith Books in Horncastle, Lincolnshire.

In many respects it a run-of-the-mill spy novel. Alan Stewart has been delivered of a package that assailants are trying to steal from him. He’s not sure if it’s Russian spies, the CIA or his own British secret service who are his enemies. What elevates the book is that the majority of it is set in Iceland before the ring road which encircles the country was built. Keflavik and Reykjavik are easily accessible but to escape his attackers Stewart, partly helped by his able Iceland girlfriend, Elin, traverses the country by jeep and boat.

I found myself reading in-between the fast-paced plot for the incredible descriptions of Iceland before the tourist invasion. The river crossings and deserted lagoons portray a country where a body can be disposed of easily. It’s not a great book but I do appreciate its significance and it was worth a read. Whether I read any more of this writer is debatable unless anyone can suggest one of his better books. Still, Running Blind is a book for Icelandophiles and those with nostalgia for fiction that can be read in a couple of hours.

20 thoughts on “Forgotten crime: Desmond Bagley – Running Blind

  1. I read several of DB’s books, back in the day, but not I think this one. I thought at the time that he was the best of the bunch that included Alistair MacLean and Hammond Innes. The book of his that I recall enjoying the most was High Citadel, if that’s of any help to you!


  2. In my younger days I read most of Desmond Bagley’s books. Rather like Alistair MacLean his output could be patchy, but at his best they were seriously good. I would recommend the Cold-war thriller The Enemy, or The Snow Tiger, a brilliant story about an avalanche and it’s consequences, set in the mountains of New Zealand.


  3. tracybham

    I have a reprint edition that combines Running Blind and The Freedom Trap. Haven’t read either one of them yet, so appreciate your post here. I had forgotten that Running Blind was set in Iceland. Maybe that will push me to get to it sooner, especially since it was written nearly 50 years ago. I just read my first Alistair MacLean (assuming I did not read them so long ago I forgot): Guns of Navarone.


  4. I always think of these authors – Bagley, MacLean, Victor Canning, Hammond Innes, Wilbur Smith, Gavin Lyall – as the writers whose books were on everyone’s Dad’s bookshelves when I was young, always garishly-coloured, rather battered paperbacks in rows. It’s interesting to see which ones still make good reading – I had a very good report to make on Canning’s Rainbird Pattern recently.


    1. I’d forgotten Canning and Lyall, but, oh yes, those two definitely (I was everyone’s Dad at the time, young whippersnapper . . . which is odd, because I must have been about 14-18). Lyall’s books had less of an involvement heft than some of the others but he did some great stuff nonetheless; I recall Shooting Script with affection as a real fast-moving adventure.

      I could never really come to terms with Smith (or with Robert Ruark). You could add Nicholas Montserrat to the list. And Helen MacInnes, too, although lots of Dads never thought to make the gender leap.


      1. I read quite a lot of Helen McInnes when I lived in Greece as a few of her books are set there. They’re quite dated but enjoyable. They were reissued a couple of years ago here in the UK.


  5. Blimey, that takes me back a bit. He was always easy reading in the thriller/mystery genre. I much preferred Eric Ambler [1930s & 40s] and Graham Greene. BOth worth rediscovering.


  6. Cynthia

    MY bookshelf was crammed with Bagley’s books along with Maclean, Archer, McInnis and Forsythe , Flemming & others. I love Running Blind and have read it dozens of times. If you’re looking for high literature, read Shakespeare. If you want a thrill ride and an enjoyable read, read Bagley again without your preconceived ideas about the setting of the book and his value as an author.


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