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Ralph Hammond Innes was a British novelist who wrote more than 30 novels, travel books and children . He was born on July 15, 1913 and died on June 10, 1998. He married actress Dorothy Marie Lang. He was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1978.
Innes was born in Horsham, Sussex, and studied at the Cranbrook School in Kent. He left in 1931 to work as a journalist, initially in the Financial Times (at the time of the so-called Financial News). His first novel was published in 1937, The Doppelganger. In the Second World War he served in the Royal Artillery, reaching the rank of Major. During the war, several of his books were published, including The Destroyers Must Breathe (1940), The Trojan Horse (1941) and Attack Alarm (1941), the last of which is based on his experiences as an anti-aircraft gunner during the Battle of Britain in the Royal Air Force, known as RAF Kenley. After being demobilized in 1946, he worked full time as a writer, with the achievement of a series of early successes.
His novels are characterized by an excellent attention to the exact details in the descriptions of places, as in The Airlift (1951), staged partially at the Real Gatow Air Station, the Real Membury Air Station after its closure and the Royal Wunstorf air station during the Berlin blockade.
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 show events at sea. Its production decreased in the 1960s, but it was still substantial. He was interested in ecological issues. He continued writing until shortly before his death. His last novel was Delta Connection (1996).
Unusually for the thriller genre, the protagonists of Innes were often not “heroes” in the typical sense; they were common and ordinary men placed in extreme situations, for some given circumstance. Often, this being involved is placed in a hostile environment (the Arctic, the open sea, deserts) or unintentionally gets involved in a larger conflict or conspiracy. The protagonist in general, is forced to rely on his wit and make the best use of limited resources, rather than the weapons and gadgets used by suspense writers.
Four of his first novels were taken to the cinema: besieged by snow (1948) by The Lonely Skier (1947), Hell Below Zero (1954) by The White Sur (1949), by Campbell Unido (1957) from the book of the same name (1952), and the shipwreck of Mary Deare (1959) also from the book of the same name (1956). His 1973 Golden Soak novel was adapted into a six-episode television series in 1979. It was filmed in part at Nullagine, Western Australia. An audio adaptation of The Doomed Oasis was repeated on the radio station of the UK’s BBC Digital Radio 7 (now called the BBC Radio 4 extra).
His great love and experience at sea as an experienced navigator, was reflected in many of his novels. He and his wife Dorothy traveled and toured both on their yachts called the Trinity of Troy and Maria Deare. Upon his death he left most of his estate to the Association of Sea Formation Organizations, to allow others to gain training and experience in navigating the element he loved.
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