Short Stories and Articles

A Little Peace of Britain

In Britain magazine explored the delights of the country and was produced by the British Tourist Authority, aimed at visitors and tourists but equally good as a resource for anyone keen to learn more about their surroundings. It is now known simply as Britain magazine and a part of the larger Visit Britain web-site resource.

An article by Bagley called “A Little Peace of Britain” was published in the 24th February 1980 edition but unfortunately back-issues are no-longer available. However the advent of the Internet has made finding one a lot easier.

The subject was a quick tour of the island of Guernsey where the author had made his home in 1976. He clearly loved the place with its quaint social idiosyncrasies, and enjoyed the relative peace and quiet, the climate and easy access to the sea. The fee he received was donated to the Royal National Lifeboat Institution.

Update: This article was briefly re-published as a part of Philip Eastwood’s The Bagley Legacy project on the Visit Guernsey tourist information site. However it now seems to have been removed again.

For more background to the original, the magazine can be found indexed rather wonderfully, but unofficially (clearly a labour of love by Risto Hurmalainen) at:

My old man’s Trumpet

This was a short story published in the Argosy short story magazine, in January 1957. In reality this publication was a paperback book, about the size of a conventional novel but slightly thinner. The story was the first in the book, along with other such notable writers as H.E Bates, Paul Gallico and Victor Canning.

It is set in New Orleans, mostly in a music shop where the proprietor ekes out a living refurbishing jazz instruments for local players. Occasionally he gets to clean instruments belonging to the stars, like Louis Armstrong.

One day a stranger appears in his shop and shows a fascination for a trumpet that belonged to the owner’s father. From here the story builds around the mystery of who the character called Jake really is and why he is so persistent.

This is not a story in the expected Bagley mold, perhaps because this is an early publication. In fact I would characterise this more as a fantasy or science-fiction tale. Certainly the end will take the reader by surprise.

The House of the Lions

A story written to entertain Bagley’s Christmas guests in 1966 while he was living in Totnes, Devon. Although fictional it is based in and around his home, which had a long and interesting history …

Not published until Harper Collins reprinted all the titles in 2009 and used this as an extra in the The Spoilers / Juggernaut double-book edition.

A Matter of Months

This story was written especially for the “Winter’s Crimes vol 8” anthology, originally published in 1976 (and again in 1977 by the Book Club Associates).

It is a splendidly well thought out piece of detective work, although not for the down-at-heel policeman who so frustratingly fails to get his man. The reader can sit and revel in the ingenious twists and turns as the author proves he could easily write a whodunnit if he wanted to.

Just when you think you have figured out the crime, just when all the evidence points in one direction, it switches and points the other way. Re-reading the story to pick up on all the nuances you missed the first time round shows that they were indeed there all along.

The title of the story explains a lot, though whether you believe one suspect or another was the culprit hardly matters. This is a word-game, written by an author who didn’t usually venture into this area.

(Incidentally a lot of web-sites mis-quote the title of this story as “Mouths”. They are incorrect.)

The Circumstances Surrounding the crime

This is an insightful piece written many years after the event and sheds light on a period in Bagley’s life when he was a roving, freelance reporter in Johannesburg, South Africa. It also casts light on the unique relationship he was to forge with his then girlfriend and later wife, Joan Brown. 

In 1960, just before South Africa was to leave the British Commonwealth, the attempted assassination of Prime Minister Hendrick Verwoerd found Bagley the only available reporter on the spot. This is the inside story of a “scoop” and one the Bagley’s were both instrumental in obtaining. 

The article was reprinted in the Harper CollinsFlyaway / Windfall double-book print of 2009.