This brief review of a book by Michael Innes is taken from the German branch of the Amazon website. This book is The Weight of the Evidence, published by Gollancz of London in 1944. Professor Pluckrose is fictional, of course. It would be interesting to know where and how Michael Innes came across the Pluckrose name - which, as we all know, is extremely uncommon. One possibility is that Michael Innes, whose real name was John Innes Mackintosh Stewart may have met one of the South Australian Pluckroses when he was Professor of English Literature at the University of Adelaide from 1936 - 1945.

Has anyone any other examples of Pluckroses or Plucks in fiction?

The Murder of Professor Pluckrose

Meteorites fall from the sky but seldom onto the heads of science dons in redbrick universities; yet this is what happens to Professor Pluckrose of Nestfield University. Inspector Appleby soon discovers that the meteorite was not fresh and that the professor's deckchair had been placed underneath a large, accessible tower - he already knew something of academic jealousies but he was to find out a great deal more.

Biography of Author

John Innes Mackintosh Stewart was born in Edinburgh, educated at Oxford, and taught English in universities all over the world. His scholarly career includes successful works on Rudyard Kipling and Thomas Hardy, but he is better known as mystery writer Michael Innes, whose legendary character, Inspector John Appleby, inspired a lasting vogue for donnish detective fiction.

Stewart's witty, playful mystery stories, written in a highly literate prose, are classics of the genre. His hero was Inspector Appleby, who later becomes Sir John, retired Scotland Yard Commissioner. In 1987 the critic H.R.F. Keating included APPLEBY'S END (1945) among the 100 best crime and mystery books ever published. Stewart also produced academic monographs, including the final volume of the Oxford History of English Literature.

John Innes Mackintosh Stewart was born near Edinburgh, the son of John Stewart and Elizabeth Jane (née Clark) 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. At Oriel College, Oxford, Stewart studied English. Among his undergraduate contemporaries were Christopher Isherwood and W.H. Auden. He won the Matthew Arnold Memorial Prize and was named a Bishop Frazer's scholar. After graduation in 1929 he went to Vienna where he studied Freudian psychoanalysis for a year. Stewart's first book, an edition of Florio's translation of Montaigne, got him a lectureship at the University of Leeds (1930-1935). Stewart was married in 1932 to Margaret Harwick, who created a career as a doctor. They had five children, one of them the novelist Angus Stewart, author of Sandel (1968).

From 1936 Stewart was professor of English at the University of Adelaide, in South Australia. While travelling from Liverpool to Adelaide, Stewart wrote his first mystery story, DEATH AT THE PRESIDENT'S LODGING (1936). His second, HAMLET, REVENGE! (1937), confirmed his reputation as a highly entertaining and cultivated writer. In the story a murder occurs in the context of a theatrical performance of Hamlet. The key document in the case is Shakespeare's play itself.

After World War II Stewart returned to England. He spent two years at Queen's University in Belfast. There he wrote THE JOURNEYING BOY (1949), notable for the richly comedic use of an Irish setting. In 1949 he was appointed Student at Christ Church, Oxford, and from 1969 to 1973 Stewart also held the position of Reader in English Literature of Oxford University. Upon retirement, he became Professor Emeritus. Stewart died on November 12, 1994, at the age of eighty-eight. His last mystery, APPLEBY AND THE OSPREYS, appeared in 1986.

Stewart published some 50 mystery novels, short stories, several novels and studies in literature, biographies, and plays. His best known detective character is John Appleby, whose cases took him onto the campuses of the great universities or to chase criminals in the tradition of John Buchan, Stewart's fellow Scot. During his career Appleby rises from inspector to knighted commissioner. Over the years he also acquires a wife, sculptor Judith Raven. Appleby has good manners, he likes to quote poetry, and seldom takes fingerprints. Later Stewart replaced Appleby by his son Bobby as in the novel AN AWKWARD LIE (1971).

Another series character was the painter and reluctant detective Honeybath, whose clients are usually successful businessmen. Honeybath first appeared in THE MYSTERIOUS COMMISSION (1975). THE NEW SONIA WAYWARD (1960) was a humorous story about creative writing. Sonia Wayward, bestselling romantic novelist, dies of a sudden stroke. Her husband, Colonel Ffolliot Petticate, realizes that to maintain his comfortable way of living, Sonia's literary output must continue. Stewart's attempts as a 'serious' novelist did not gain such acclaim as his mysteries. His models were C.P. Snow and Henry James, whose style influenced his essay MARK LAMBERT' SUPPER. In 1974-79 appeared the 'quintet' A STAIRCASE IN SURREY which had the University of Oxford as its main subject, the central character was Duncan Patullo. Among Stewart's other works are EIGHT MODERN WRITERS (1962), his paramount academic contribution to the Oxford History of English Literature, RUDYARD KIPLING (1966), THOMAS HARDY: A CRITICAL BIOGRAPHY (1972). Stewart's autobiography MYSELF AND MICHAEL INNES appeared in 1987.

| Search & Site Map | Contact me: | ©2007 Derrick Porter