Joan Magaret Brown


Joan Bagley c.1995 – Photo courtesy of, and ©, Lecia Foston

Desmond Bagley was married only once. He met Joan Magaret Brown in Johannesburg, South Africa in 1959 while on good form at a party. She was eleven years his junior.

Although Joan came from a mixed English-Polish/Jewish background and Bagley had a strictly Catholic upbringing, this didn’t impede their romance, or subsequent marriage in 1960.

Despite her preparing for University Joan’s family couldn’t actually afford to send her when the time came and instead she had to find work. As luck would have it this was in the Johannesburg Public Library and for a person keen on books this was at least some consolation. Eventually the young Miss Brown became restless and decided she would like to get into book selling rather than lending. To this end she found work in a small South African bookshop, working there for eleven years, during which time it grew to become a leading outlet and she became a director. It was here that Joan learned about the ins and outs of the book trade, a reservoir of useful information that was to stand her in good stead during years to come.

Joan Bagley became her husband’s manager, research assistant, secretary, filing-clerk, public relations officer and no.1 critic (not forgetting running an efficient household!). It was customary for the author to spend the day writing, and for the finished work to be scrutinised closely by his wife. They became a formidable husband-and-wife team, well equipped with their combined experience in the book trade and journalism. Over the years they travelled the world together to research the facts, figures and storylines and it was only a trip to the Antarctic when the author went alone.

Joan’s personal interests were almost as diverse as her husband’s, including fencing and ornithology, classical music and The Times crosswords. Her fund-raising activities for charity have included support for nature-conservancy and animal welfare organisations. A fine example recently was a bequest she made to build a new Information Centre for the La Société Guernesiaise.


Both partners were fans of science fiction, in particular Star Trek.

Ever interested in new technology Joan used an Apple Macintosh computer for writing and for surfing the internet. I wonder what her husband would have made of the advances in word-processing since his experimental steps into the IT world using a Hewlett Packard machine back in the late 70′s!

Joan Bagley died in Guernsey on the 30th of June 1999.