The Rise of Appleby

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At various stages in my life I have succumbed to the lure of crime fiction, and I have always been a habitué of second-hand bookshops. That was how I came across Michael Innes in the late 1970s, when I bought one of his books in a green Penguin edition. I read it rapidly, instantly loved it and persuaded my wife to read it. From that moment we were Innes addicts.

In the mid-1980s that marriage ended, and the shelf of Innes books disappeared. But some years later, in another second-hand shop, I found a stack of hardback crime novels in their original bright yellow Gollancz jackets. Among them was Appleby’s End (1945) by Michael Innes. And so I began a new collection of the Appleby novels.

Michael Innes was the pseudonym of John Innes Mackintosh Stewart. He was born near Edinburgh in 1906 and went up to Oriel College, Oxford, where he read English and knew Auden and Isherwood. After graduating in 1929, he studied Freudian analysis in Vienna, and then took up a lectureship at Leeds before moving to Australia in 1936 to become Jury Professor of English Literature at the University of Adelaide. It was on the long sea voyage out from Liverpool that Stewart wrote his first mystery story, Death at the President’s Lodging (1936), a book that both launched his career as the crime writer Michael Innes and introduced his most famous creation, Detective Inspector John Appleby.

Stewart returned to Britain after the Second World War to take up a post at Queen’s University, Belfast, then moved to Christ Church, Oxford, where he eventually became Reader in English Literature and then, on retirement, Professor Emeritus. He died in 1994. Throughout this illustrious career, in addition to works on Montaigne, James Joyce, Thomas Love Peacock, Kipling, Conrad and Thomas Hardy, he wrote fifty crime novels as well as various other works of fiction, short stories and an autobiography.

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About the contributor

Paul Atterbury lives in Dorset, where he spends far too much of his time writing books about railways. When not thus engaged, he appears on the BBC’s Antiques Roadshow.

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