Ralph Hammond Innes was an English novelist who wrote over 30 novels, as well as children's and travel books.He was awarded a C.B.E. (Commander, Order of the British Empire) in 1978. The World Mystery Convention honoured Innes with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Bouchercon XXIV awards in Omaha, Nebraska, Oct, 1993.
Innes was born in Horsham, Sussex, and educated at the Cranbrook School in Kent. He left in 1931 to work as a journalist, initially with the Financial Times
(at the time called the Financial News
). The Doppelganger
, his first novel, was published in 1937. In WWII he served in the Royal Artillery, eventually rising to the rank of Major. During the war, a number of his books were published, including Wreckers Must Breathe
(1940), The Trojan Horse
(1941) and Attack Alarm
(1941); the last of which was based on his experiences as an anti-aircraft gunner during the Battle of Britain at RAF Kenley. After being discharged in 1946, he worked full-time as a writer, achieving a number of early successes.
His novels are notable for a fine attention to accurate detail in descriptions of places, such as in Air Bridge
(1951), set partially at RAF Gatow, RAF Membury after its closure and RAF Wunstorf during the Berlin Airlift.
Innes went on to produce books in a regular sequence, with six months of travel and research followed by six months of writing. Many of his works featured events at sea. His output decreased in the 1960s, but was still substantial. He became interested in ecological themes. He continued writing until just before his death. His last novel was Delta Connection
Unusually for the thriller genre, Innes' protagonists were often not "heroes" in the typical sense, but ordinary men suddenly thrust into extreme situations by circumstance. Often, this involved being placed in a hostile environment (the Arctic, the open sea, deserts), or unwittingly becoming involved in a larger conflict or conspiracy. The protagonist generally is forced to rely on his own wits and making best use of limited resources, rather than the weapons and gadgetry commonly used by thriller writers.
Four of his early novels were made into films: Snowbound
(1948)from The Lonely Skier
(1947), Hell Below Zero
(1954) from The White South
(1949), Campbell's Kingdom
(1957), and The Wreck of the Mary Deare
(1959). His 1973 novel Golden Soak
was adapted into a six-part television series in 1979.
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