Alfred Walter Stewart (5 September 1880 – 1 July 1947) was a British chemist and part-time novelist who wrote seventeen detective novels and a pioneering science fiction work between 1923 and 1947 under the pseudonym of JJ Connington. He created several fictional detectives, including Superintendent Ross and Chief Constable Sir Clinton Driffield.
Born in Glasgow in 1880, Stewart was the youngest of three sons of the Reverend Dr Stewart, Clerk to the University Senate and Professor of Divinity. After attending Glasgow High School he entered Glasgow University, graduating 1902, taking chemistry as his major. His outstanding performance earned him the Mackay-Smith scholarship. After spending a year in Marburg engaging in research under Theodor Zincke, he was elected to an 1851 Exhibition Scholarship and then in 1903 entered University College, London. Here he began independent research. His work, which formed part of his thesis, gained him a DSc degree from Glasgow University in 1907 and he was soon elected to a Carnegie Research Fellowship (1905–1908). He decided to pursue an academic career and in 1908 wrote Recent Advances in Organic Chemistry which proved to be a popular textbook whose success encouraged him to write a companion volume on Inorganic and Physical Chemistry in 1909. In 1909 Stewart was appointed to a lectureship in organic chemistry at Queen’s University, Belfast and in 1914 was appointed Lecturer in Physical Chemistry and Radioactivity at the University of Glasgow. During World War I he worked for the Admiralty. In 1918 he drew attention to the result of a beta particle change in a radioactive element and suggested the term isobar as complementary to isotope. He retired from his academic work in 1944 following recurrent heart problems.
Stewart is now chiefly remembered for his first novel, Nordenholt’s Million (1923), an early ecocatastrophe disaster novel in which denitrifying bacteria inimical to plant growth run amok and destroy world agriculture. The eponymous plutocrat Nordenholt constructs a refuge for the chosen few in Scotland, fortifying the Clyde valley. The novel is similar in spirit to such disaster stories as Philip Wylie and Edwin Balmer’s When Worlds Collide (1933) and anticipates the theme of John Christopher’s The Death of Grass (1956). Dorothy L. Sayers paid tribute to Stewart’s The Two Tickets Puzzle in her The Five Red Herrings. She gave him full credit and built on one of his ideas for part of the solution of her mystery. John Dickson Carr was also an admirer of Stewart’s and Carr’s first novel in 1930 mentioned two of Stewart’s earlier novels with admiration. (Source: Wikipedia)
Bibliography: The complete list of Sir Clinton Driffield Mystery series is: Murder in the Maze (1927); Tragedy At Ravensthorpe (1927); The Case With The Nine Solutions (1928); Mystery At Lynden Sands (1928); Grim Vengeance (1929) aka Nemesis At Raynham Parva; The Boat-house Riddle (1931); The Sweepstake Murders (1931); The Castleford Conundrum, (1932); The Brandon Case (1934) aka The Ha-ha Case; In Whose Dim Shadow (1935) aka The Tau Cross Mystery; A Minor Operation (1937); For Murder Will Speak (1938) aka Murder Will Speak; Truth Comes Limping (1938); The Twenty-one Clues (1941); No Past Is Dead (1942); Jack-in-the-box (1944) and Common Sense Is All You Need (1947). The most recommended ones are shown in bold.
The Detective Fiction of JJ Connington: “Mr. Connington has established his name in the front rank of detective story writers. His particular strength lies in his respect for his readers’ intelligence, and his stories are essentially puzzles with honestly worked out solutions. He does not make it as difficult as he can for the reader to detect the murderer very early on, and does not load his stage with dummies, for he has realised that a story is just as good reading when the reader feels he is no befogged Watson but worthy to join in the hunt, and that establishing the evidence against a criminal may be as exciting as finding out who he is.” – Times Literary Supplement, 8th November 1928. (Source: Gadetection)
(Facsimile Dust Jacket, Ernest Benn Limited (UK), 1927)
In Clinton Driffield’s second case he must tangle with a plethora of crimes including robbery, murder and a disappearance – not to mention a Family Curse, and a less than sympathetic victim …