John Innes Mackintosh Stewart (30 September 1906 – 12 November 1994) was a Scottish novelist and academic. He is equally well known for the works of literary criticism and contemporary novels published under his real name and for the crime fiction published under the pseudonym of Michael Innes. Many devotees of the Innes books were unaware of his other “identity”, and vice versa.
Stewart was born in Edinburgh, the son of Elizabeth Jane (née Clark) and John Stewart of Nairn. His father was a lawyer and Director of Education in the city of Edinburgh. Stewart attended Edinburgh Academy, where Robert Louis Stevenson had been a pupil for a short time, and later studied English literature at Oriel College, Oxford. In 1929 he went to Vienna to study psychoanalysis. He was lecturer in English at the University of Leeds from 1930 to 1935, and then became Jury Professor of English in the University of Adelaide, South Australia. He returned to the United Kingdom to become Lecturer in English at the Queen’s University of Belfast from 1946 to 1948. In 1949 he became a Student (equivalent of Fellow in other Oxford colleges) of Christ Church, Oxford. By the time of his retirement in 1973, he was a professor of the university. He died at Coulsdon.
Stewart wrote several critical studies, including full-length studies of James Joyce, Joseph Conrad, Thomas Love Peacock and Thomas Hardy, as well as many novels and short stories. His last publication was his autobiography Myself and Michael Innes (1987).
Between 1936 and 1986, Stewart, writing under the pseudonym of Michael Innes, published nearly fifty crime novels and short story collections, which he later described as “entertainments”. These abound in literary allusions and in what critics have variously described as “mischievous wit”, “exuberant fancy” and a “tongue-in-cheek propensity” for intriguing turns of phrase. Julian Symons identified Innes as one of the “farceurs”—crime writers for whom the detective story was “an over-civilized joke with a frivolity which makes it a literary conversation piece with detection taking place on the side”—and described Innes’s writing as being “rather in the manner of Peacock strained through or distorted by Aldous Huxley”. His mysteries have also been described as combining “the elliptical introspection … [of] a Jamesian character’s speech, the intellectual precision of a Conradian description, and the amazing coincidences that mark any one of Hardy’s plots”.
The best-known of Innes’s detective creations is Sir John Appleby, who is introduced in Death at the President’s Lodging, in which he is a Detective Inspector at Scotland Yard. Appleby features in many of the later novels and short stories, in the course of which he rises to become Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police. Other novels feature portrait painter and Royal Academician, Charles Honeybath, an amateur but nonetheless effective sleuth. The two detectives meet in Appleby and Honeybath. Some of the later stories feature Appleby’s son Bobby as sleuth. (Source: Wikipedia)
Inspector Appleby Books: Death at the President’s Lodging aka Seven Suspects (1936); Hamlet, Revenge! (1937); Lament for a Maker (1938); Stop Press aka The Spider Strikes (1939); There Came Both Mist and Snow aka A Comedy of Terrors (1940); Appleby on Ararat (1941); The Daffodil Affair (1942); The Weight of the Evidence (1944); Appleby’s End (1945); A Night of Errors (1948); Operation Pax aka The Paper Thunderbolt (1951); A Private View aka One-Man Show aka Murder is an Art (1952); Appleby Plays Chicken aka Death on a Quiet Day (1956); The Long Farewell (1958); Hare Sitting Up (1959); Silence Observed (1961); A Connoisseur’s Case aka The Crabtree Affair (1962); The Bloody Wood (1966); Appleby at Allington aka Death by Water (1968); A Family Affair aka Picture of Guilt (1969); Death at the Chase (1970); An Awkward Lie (1971); The Open House (1972); Appleby’s Answer (1973); Appleby’s Other Story (1974); The Gay Phoenix (1976); The Ampersand Papers (1978); Sheiks and Adders (1982); Appleby and Honeybath (1983); Carson’s Conspiracy (1984); and Appleby and the Ospreys (1986).
Inspector Appleby Collections: Appleby Talking aka Dead Man’s Shoes (1954); Appleby Talks Again (1956); The Appleby File (1975); and Appleby Talks About Crime (2010)
Other novels as Michael Innes: What Happened at Hazelwood (1946); From London Far aka The Unsuspected Chasm (1946); The Journeying Boy (1949); Christmas at Candleshoe aka Candleshoe (1953); The Man from the Sea aka Death by Moonlight (1955); Old Hall, New Hall aka A Question of Queens (1956); The New Sonia Wayward aka The Case of Sonia Wayward (1960);
Money from Holme (1964); A Change of Heir (1966); The Mysterious Commission (1974); Honeybath’s Haven (1977); Going It Alone (1980); and Lord Mullion’s Secret (1981).
Christmas at Candleshoe was the basis for the 1977 film Candleshoe starring Jodie Foster, Helen Hayes and David Niven.
And Curt Evans, at The Passing Tramp, wrote:
Perhaps more than any British Golden Age mystery author outside those belonging to the select company of the “Crime Queens” themselves (particularly Dorothy L. Sayers), Michael Innes (1906-1994)–one of the key figures in the development of the erudite, “donnish” detective novel–epitomizes what so many people for so many decades have come to associate with Golden Age British mystery: country houses, dry wit, and lashings and lashings of learned literary allusions.
To be sure, Innes did have a tremendous fantastical streak that set him apart from most other mystery writers, especially in the earlier phases of his crime writing career. In Inspector John Appleby mysteries like Stop Press (1939), Appleby at Ararat (1941), The Daffodil Affair and Appleby’s End (1945)–which Innes’ English publisher Gollancz rather insistently called detective stories–chimerical elements abound. However, at some point in Innes’ career–say perhaps after the publication of Operation Pax (1951), the fantastification in Innes’ crime fiction diminished, to be replaced by a more sedate sense of genteel British whimsy.
The last 15 of the 32 Appleby mysteries, published between 1962 and 1986, are for the most part genial country house affairs investigated by the now-knighted Sir John Appleby (who has retired from his lofty post as Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police), usually with his gentry wife, Judith (Raven) Appleby along for the fun. Among this later group novels, it’s probably fair to say, there are no masterpieces on par with some of Innes’ preceding crime books, but as a group they afforded (and still do) a safe harbor to traditionalist mystery readers buffeted by the sheer beastliness, as many of them saw it, of modern crime fiction.
(Facsimile Dust Jacket V. G. Gollancz (UK), 1936)
Synopsis: The members of St Anthony’s College awake one bleak November morning to find the most chilling of crimes has happened in their quiet, contained college. Josiah Umpleby, President of the college, has been shot in his room during the night. The college buzzes with supposition and speculation. Orchard Ground and the lodgings are particularly insulated: only a limited number of senior staff have access and even fewer have their own keys. With the killer walking among them, Inspector John Appleby of the New Scotland Yard is called in to investigate. As tensions rise and accusations abound, can Appleby determine which of the seven suspects had motive and malice enough to murder a colleague in cold blood? (Source: Amazon)
Innes is one of my favorite authors, whose writing manages to include a great deal of wit and humor along with a splendidly complex plot. This was his first mystery. It’s highly entertaining. (Les Blatt at Classic Mysteries)