The case of the scribbling professor

By Ralph McInerny

Ralph McInerny is the Michael P. Grace chair of philosophy at Notre Dame, where he has taught for 50 years. He has published hundreds of scholarly essays and books, along with short stories, novels and several mystery series. The most well-known of his mysteries are his Father Dowling books. In the following edited excerpt from his just-published memoir I Alone Have Escaped To Tell You: My Life and Pastimes (University of Notre Dame Press), he discusses the beginning of his fiction-writing career.)

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DISAPPEARANCE OF AN AUTHOR

By Ralph McInerny

When Ned Doremus cut the Gordian knot and decided to keep his engagement to speak and sign copies of his new book at Notre Dame, reactions were mixed. For two weeks campus bulletin boards had announced the triumphant return of an alumnus who had achieved literary acclaim before turning 30. His biography of Ambrose Bierce was a nominee for the National Book Award, a featured selection of the History Book Club and first alternate of the Book of the Month. Quarter page ads, underwritten by the publisher, had appeared every other day in The Observer announcing a talk on “Disappearance of an Author.” A scheduling conflict and adverse local reaction gave added interest to the prospective event. Professor Petit of the English department who had notoriously been working on Ambrose Bierce for decades accused the former student of stealing his material.…

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