Michael Innes was born John Innes Mackintosh Stewart in Edinburgh, Scotland, on September 30, 1906, the son of a professor. Educated at Edinburgh Academy and Oriel College, Oxford University, the young Innes read literature, receiving first-class honors at his graduation in 1928 and winning the Matthew Arnold Memorial Prize in 1929. After spending a year abroad in Vienna, Innes received his first assignment for publication, the Nonesuch Press edition of John Florio’s translations of Montaigne’s essays, as well as an invitation to join Leeds University, Yorkshire, as a lecturer in English. He married a young medical student, Margaret Hardwick, in 1932; they had five children. In 1935, the twenty-nine-year-old Innes left Leeds to become jury professor of English at the University of Adelaide in South Australia. During the decade of his tenure there, he began to write the mysteries for which he is famous under the name Michael Innes.
On his return to the British Isles in 1946, Innes taught at Queen’s University, Belfast, until, in 1949, he became a fellow of Christ Church, Oxford. It was at this time that he began publishing nonmystery short stories and novels as J. I. M. Stewart, his real name. His academic achievements, including critical studies of Thomas Love Peacock, Thomas Hardy, and William Shakespeare as well as biographies of Joseph Conrad and Rudyard Kipling, generated additional honors, including an appointment as the Walker-Ames professor at the University of Washington in 1961 and an honorary doctorate from the University of New Brunswick at Fredericton in 1962. Innes died in Surrey, England, in 1994.