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Innes, Hammond

Entry updated 22 June 2023. Tagged: Author.

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(1913-1998) UK journalist and author of adventure novels, who wrote nonfantastic children's adventure tales as by Ralph Hammond. His earliest work was exclusively devoted to the Peter Deveril sequence of thrillers beginning with the nonfantastic The Doppelganger (1936), featuring a newspaper reporter and criminologist whose investigations sometimes hover at the edge of the fantastic through Inventions involving improbable Technologies, and spy plots against Britain. In Sabotage Broadcast (1938) a Scientist attempts to blackmail the world into peace; All Roads Lead to Friday (1939) features a revolutionary process to generate oil directly from coal on the cheap. Much of the action throughout takes place Underground, in caverns and tunnels which can be found throughout his career.

Two transitional singletons are of some sf interest. Wreckers Must Breathe (1940; vt Trapped 1940), which features U-boats operating out of Cornwall, verges on the fantastic; and The Trojan Horse (1940) is an sf tale clearly in the mode of John Buchan, though in this case the McGuffin is an Invention, a super-alloy whose use in aircraft engines – after German spies and traitors in the British government have been thwarted – will gain Britain victory in World War Two. The inventor of this alloy is an Austrian Jew who has escaped from a Nazi "concentration camp", an early application of the term in this context, certainly in popular fiction. Despite his age he is physically brave, takes heroic action at the violent climax of the tale, and survives.

In Innes's later career protagonists are usually pitted against the natural elements, which are intensely imagined, as in his most famous title, The "Mary Deare" (1956); his later fiction tends to focus mostly on wildlife and the environment as a whole, in defence of both. In Levkas Man (1971) an anthropologist claims to have found proof that Homo sapiens has evolved from a killer ancestor (see Apes as Human; Anthropology), and that modern humanity is devolving back to its dark origins (see Devolution). In The Black Tide (1982) environmental terrorists threaten a very Near Future world with devastating Pollution from a grounded supertanker. His final novel Delta Connection (1996) takes its thriller action into the valley of Nirvana, a kind of Ruritanian Lost World where secret underground descendants of Vikings who long ago settled this land are encountered and the rightful heir to the throne is restored.

Innes was appointed CBE in 1978. [JC]

Ralph Hammond Innes

born Horsham, Sussex: 13 July 1913

died Kersey, Suffolk: 10 June 1998

works (highly selected)


Peter Deveril

individual titles

  • Wreckers Must Breathe (London: Collins, 1940) [in the publisher's Collins Mystery Novels series: hb/uncredited]
    • Trapped (New York: G P Putnam's Sons, 1940) [vt of the above: hb/]
  • The Trojan Horse (London: Collins, 1940) [in the publisher's Collins Mystery Novels series: hb/Leslie Leonard Stead]
  • The Black Tide (London: Collins, 1982) [hb/]
  • Levkas Man (London: Collins, 1971) [hb/Richard Dalkins]
  • Delta Connection (London: Macmillan, 1996) [hb/]


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