Bagley was born at Kendal, Cumbria (then Westmorland), England, the son of John and Hannah Bagley. His family moved to the resort town of Blackpoolin the summer of 1935, when Bagley was twelve. Leaving school not long after the relocation, Bagley worked as a printer's assistant and factory worker, and during World War II he worked in theaircraft industry. Bagley suffered from a speech impediment (stuttering) all of his life, which initially exempted him from military conscription.
He left England in 1947 for Africa and worked his wayoverland, crossing the Sahara Desert and briefly settling in Kampala, Uganda, where he contracted malaria. By 1951, he had settled in South Africa, working in the gold mining industry and asbestosindustry in Durban, Natal, before becoming a freelance writer for local newspapers and magazines.
His first published short story appeared in the English magazine Argosy in 1957, and his first novel, TheGolden Keel in 1962. In the interval, he was a film critic for Rand Daily Mail in Johannesburg from 1958–1962. Also during this period, he met local bookstore director Joan Magaret Brown and theywere married in 1960.
The success of The Golden Keel led Bagley to turn full time to novel writing by the mid-1960s. He published a total of sixteen thrillers, all craftsmanlike and nearly allbest-sellers. Typical of British thriller writers of the era, he rarely used recurring characters whose adventures unfolded over multiple books. Max Stafford, the security consultant featured in Flyaway...