Saturday, October 7, 2017

BIRTH | Oct 7 – Helen Clark MacInnes

Helen Clark MacInnes
On this day in 1907 was born in Glasgow the novelist Helen Clark McInnes. She wrote realistic, tight stories about espionage, starting with several novels set in World War II Europe.

Her first novel, Above Suspicion (1941), was about a husband and wife who are recruited to locate a British agent who is missing in Nazi-controlled territory. The book was made into a movie in 1943.

The story was inspired by the wartime work of Gilbert Highet, a fellow alumnus of Glasgow University whom she married in 1932.  The couple began by jointly translating books from German. Highet was an Oxford classicist based at Balliol and St John's. He played a great role in popularizing the classics in the mid-twentieth century. I was a big fan of several of his books. 

He obtained a one-year appointment as a Professor of Classics at Columbia in 1937, and was offered a tenured position in 1938. He and his wife became naturalized Americans. He was a frequent speaker at the New York Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race Dinner.

MacInnes wrote more than 20 spy novels over her 40-year career. Her approach was to frighten the reader by the difficult options faced by her characters:
In my stories, suspense is not achieved by hiding things from the reader. The question is, when is the event going to take place and how can you stop it? A reader may know everything, but still be scared stiff by the situation.
She died in New York in 1985.

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