For National Crime Reading Month, we asked some of our authors to recommend some of their favourite crime fiction novels. First up is Neil Lancaster, author of the highly addictive DS Max Craigie Scottish crime series…
Aged about twelve years old, my dear old Mum threw me a copy of Running Blind, which she’d no doubt picked up from a charity shop. I read it and was utterly transfixed.
Bagley is not as well remembered as Alistair Maclean, Len Deighton or the other thriller writers of the 1970s. Yet, his series of everyman thriller novels are tremendous, and all sold in huge numbers, but mention his name at festivals, and people shrug their shoulders and say, ‘who?’
Well, Running Blind is to me the best of all of Bagley’s novels. Published in 1970, it features Alan Stewart, a lapsed MI6 agent who is forced into what is pitched as a simple delivery of a package to a mystery man in Iceland. On the face of it, it’s a simple task, aided by the fact that Stewart has an Icelandic girlfriend, and is fluent in the language. However, things quickly go very wrong, and what follows is a gripping tale of double agents, triple agents, and betrayal. Bagley tells the story in simple, punchy prose, and the pace is relentlessly brilliant.
When I became a writer, I was often asked about influences, but because I hadn’t read Bagley for decades, I clean forgot about him. Then one day, it popped back into my mind, so I found a copy and read it again, and WOW! Comparing it to my own writing, both in the Novak series, and even more, the Craigie series, it is plain as day how much influence I took from it. The pacing, the revelation technique, and the simple descriptive language are just pure Bagley.
It was a revelation, and demonstrates how early reading material can imprint itself in a writer’s brain, only to surface decades later.
An absolute masterpiece, and I advise you all to read it.
Discover Neil Lancaster’s DS Max Craigie novels here.