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Malcolm Rose (1953–) Biography

Personal, Addresses, Career, Member, Honors Awards, Writings, Sidelights

Born 1953, in Coventry, England; Education: University of York, B.A., 1974, D.Phil., 1978. Politics: "Listing to the left." Hobbies and other interests: Science, sports, music, hill walking.


Agent—c/o Author Mail, Kingfisher Publications, New Penderel House, 283-288 High Holborn, London WC1V 7HZ, England.


University of Liverpool, Liverpool, England, postdoctoral research fellow in department of organic chemistry, 1977–79, member of staff in biochemistry department, 1979–81, senior experimental officer in department of biochemistry, 1981–83; Sheffield City Polytechnic, Sheffield, England, lecturer in analytical chemistry, 1983–86, senior lecturer, 1986–87; Open University, England, lecturer in chemistry, 1988–96; freelance writer, 1996–. Parent governor of local school.


Society of Authors, Scattered Authors' Society.

Honors Awards

Angus Book Award, 1997, for Tunnel Vision; Angus Book Award, and Lancashire Children's Book of the Year Award, both 2001, both for Plague; Outstanding Book designation, Internationaly Board on Books for Young People/Children's Book Council, 2006, for Framed!


Rift, Collins (London, England), 1985.

Malcolm Rose

The Highest Form of Killing, Andre Deutsch (London, England), 1990, expanded edition, Harcourt Brace (San Diego, CA), 1992.

Son of Pete Flude, Andre Deutsch (London, England), 1991.

The Obtuse Experiment, Scholastic (London, England), 1993.

The Smoking Gun (also see below), Scholastic (London, England), 1993, published as Formula for Murder, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1994.

Concrete Evidence (also see below), Scholastic (London, England), 1995.

The Alibi (also see below), Scholastic (London, England), 1996.

Tunnel Vision, Scholastic (London, England), 1996.

Circle of Nightmares, Scholastic (London, England), 1997.

The Malcolm Rose Collection: Three Degrees of Murder (includes The Alibi, Concrete Evidence, and The Smoking Gun), Scholastic (London, England), 1997.

Flying Upside Down, Scholastic (London, England), 1998.

Breathing Fear, Scholastic (London, England), 1999.

Plague, Scholastic (London, England), 2000.

Bloodline, Scholastic (London, England), 2002.

Clone, Scholastic (London, England), 2002.

Transplant, Scholastic (London, England), 2003.

The Tortured Wood, Scholastic (London, England), 2004.

Hurricane Force, Simon & Schuster (London, England), 2005.

The Death Gene, Simon & Schuster (London, England), 2006.

Author of numerous short stories for young adults.

Rose's novels have been published in German, Spanish, Catalan, Danish, French, Greek, and Italian.


The Secrets of the Dead, Scholastic (London, England), 1997.

Deep Waters, Scholastic (London, England), 1997.

Magic Eye, Scholastic (London, England), 1998.

Still Life, Scholastic (London, England), 1998.

Fire and Water, Scholastic (London, England), 1998.

Lethal Harvest, Scholastic (London, England), 1999.

Flying Blind, Scholastic (London, England), 1999.


Framed!, Kingfisher (Boston, MA), 2005.

Lost Bullet, Kingfisher (Boston, MA), 2005.

Roll Call, Kingfisher (London, England), 2005, Kingfisher (Boston, MA), 2006.

Double Check, Kingfisher (London, England), 2006.

Final Lap, Kingfisher (London, England), 2007.


Malcolm Rose is the prolific author of young-adult suspense novels that often use science to solve the quandaries presented. An instructor in chemistry for many years, Rose moonlighted as an author of realistic teen fiction and his efforts proved so successful that he eventually left teaching to devote his full time to writing. As Rose once explained to SATA: "I was born in Coventry, England, in 1953 and began writing stories as a hobby while taking a Ph.D. in chemistry at York University. Writing fiction was my escape from real life. My then girlfriend (now wife) was taking a subsidiary course on children's literature. At one point she read one of my efforts and commented that I ought to try to get it published. I had never thought of writing as anything other than a hobby. Besides, as I thought then, a budding chemist couldn't possibly be any good at it! Anyway, I joined a writers' club to find out how to submit a manuscript and, to cut a long story short, found a publisher in William Collins for my first novel, Rift."

Published in 1985, Rift focuses on Neil, an adolescent living in the north of England who is left home alone for the weekend, and during this time unlocks his own supernatural powers. Though Neil has dreamed of physical romance, he also has experienced visions of ghastly events. After his friends hold a séance at his home, Neil attends a theater performance. The bus trip home is stopped short due to an industrial accident involving a tanker truck and some deadly acid spillage, and when the bus driver gets out to investigate, he dies gruesomely. Neil must save the passengers by driving the bus—the rubber tires of which have been eaten away by the acid—backward down a hill. Bits and pieces of this real-life trauma have already appeared to him in visions and at the séance. In the midst of this weekend Neil finds romance with a fellow student, and some very bad British Isles weather adds to the drama.

Jane Woodley, reviewing Rift for School Librarian, remarked that in Rose's debut work the author's "inexperience is hardly discernible," and his background in science "provides a technical expertise in the important denouement of the tale." A Junior Bookshelf reviewer described Neil's experiences as a "cocktail of horrors," but questioned the suitability of some sexual themes for the book's intended teen readership. A critic for Growing Point described the novel's climax as the defining place where "action and temperament come together with unmistakable reality."

Another of Rose's YA novels with sophisticated themes, The Highest Form of Killing centers on the animal-rights movement and a government cover-up. Once again, Rose's knowledge of chemistry informs the plot, which opens with the discovery of a mutilated dog's corpse on the beach. The couple who has discovered it immediately vanish, and a nearby resident, Mark, reports seeing the man and woman being trundled into separate vans. Just before her abduction, the woman managed to phone her brother Derek, a chemistry professor. In turn, Derek enlists Sylvia, a former student of his who is now interning at what turns out to be a top-secret chemical-weapons-development facility. Mark, who is also Sylvia's ex-boyfriend, joins them to solve the mystery he witnessed on the beach. As The Highest Form of Killing progresses, both men compete for Sylvia's affections while all attempt to locate the missing couple, their task made more complex after one of Sylvia's co-workers commits suicide with a mysterious vial of a deadly chemical called T42.

Catherine M. Dwyer, reviewing The Highest Form of Killing for Voice of Youth Advocates, remarked that though "the premise here is exciting … readers hoping for a taut suspense novel may be disappointed" due to the plot's many coincidences. In contrast, Lyle Blake Smythers wrote in School Library Journal that Rose's plot is well constructed. Roger Sutton, in a review for the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, maintained that the author's prose is infused with "a melodramatic quality," but granted that his "story is taut in all the right places [and] the pace is terrific."

The Obtuse Experiment, Rose's next book for teen readers, is set in the near future aboard a school cruise for a class composed of juvenile delinquents. A nefarious government minister has conveniently planned that the vessel collide with an iceberg and sink, depositing all the ship's passengers at the bottom of the North Sea. A group of aliens, whose mission is to right the wrongs of history before they occur, learns of the ultraconservative political plot and attempts to halt the impending disaster. Because Rose incorporates serious political themes into his action-adventure tale, School Librarian reviewer Mike Hayhoe questioned "the ethical boundaries … between fiction and propaganda written for adolescent readers." Hayhoe found the group of misfits inadequately characterized, except for a few passages that show off "Rose's more complex talent."

Rose returns to the subject of teens who live on the margins of British society for his novel Tunnel Vision. In this work, Pat, a charismatic youth leader, has covertly laid the foundation for a white-supremacist, apocalyptic cult within his seemingly innocuous "Fellowship" group. Pat's true intent is suspected by Maria, a teen still traumatized by the strife she endured in her Central African homeland. Maria becomes friends with Joel, a victim of disfiguring leprosy, who is involved in the Fellowship, but their interracial friendship puts Joel on shaky ground within the controlling framework of the youth group. Joel and another Fellowship member are being trained by Pat for a national youth sporting event, and as the plot unfolds the teens uncover a bomb Sixteen-year-old forensic investigator Luke Harding and his robot assistant Malc are assigned their first case: a campus murder where the clues soon seem to point to Luke himself! (Cover design by John Fordham.)plot to destroy the Sheffield stadium where the event is to be held. Adrian Jackson, reviewing Tunnel Vision in Books for Keeps, found it "a tense, thought-provoking thriller." Lavishing praise upon both plot and characterization, a critic in Junior Bookshelf noted that Rose's "plotting is economical … and the action can be readily seen to arise out of skillful characterization." Helen Allen, writing in School Librarian, found the methods by which the Fellowship lures misfit teens to be "only too credible," adding that readers are "made aware of how vulnerable people are seduced, sometimes literally, by such organizations."

Other novels by Rose include Hurricane Force and The Death Gene. In Hurricane Force Jake must keep his talent of predicting the weather from being used by corrupt government forces, while The Death Gene finds two teen heroes hoping to derail a plot to transform a scientific discovery about creating new life forms into a dangerous weapon.

In the "Traces" series, Rose uses elements of forensic science and investigation as a backdrop to the adventures of his teen hero. Set in a parallel England that contains sci-fi technology (including talking robots and an ominous government called "The Authorities"), the "Traces" novels feature Luke Harding, a sixteen year old who has just earned his license as a forensic investigator. Assisted by robot sidekick Malc, Luke does his best to untangle tricky crimes. In Framed!, the first novel in the series, all the evidence points to Luke as a murderer; now, not only must he find the real killer, but he also has to clear his name. Rose "makes the forensic science a gripping part of this entry," wrote Hazel Rochman in Booklist, while School Library Journal contributor Elizabeth Fernandez noted that Rose's "futuristic novel has a thrilling plot and deadpan humor."

Lost Bullet introduces a supremacist cult that is involved with serial murder. "Fans of melodramatic crime dramas will suck up this rain-soaked page-turner," promised John Peters in his Booklist review. The third book in the "Traces" series, Roll Call, pits Luke against a murderer who kills women who share the name "Emily Wonder." "Quick pacing makes Roll Call a page turner; it also blurs the finer details of this futuristic setting," wrote Ernie Cox in Kliatt. The "Traces" series continues with Double Check and Final Lap.

In an interview for Bookseller, Rose explained why he uses the forensic sciences in the "Traces" series. "The first person I have to excite about any one of my own stories is myself," he wrote, "and the reason I'm particularly keen on forensic science is that I'm a scientist by training…. I like writing crime stories where there is forensic investigation. There's always something new in science, so you can always come up with something a bit different."

On his home page Rose discussed his dual life as scientist and novelist. "In one life, I mix chemicals, stew them for a while, and observe the reaction. In the other, In another installment in the "Traces" series, Luke and Malc follow the case of a ruthless shooter whose murderous rampage is escallating. (Cover design by John Fordham.)I mix characters, stir in a bit of conflict, and, again, observe the outcome." Describing the parallels between chemistry and writing thrillers, he once told SATA: "Until 1996, I was a lecturer in chemistry at the Open University of the United Kingdom. I carried out research in the fields of chemical aspects of cot death [Sudden Infant Death Syndrome] and the analysis of drugs, and I taught mainly organic chemistry. This job left very little time for writing fiction, which I did mostly after midnight. Perhaps that's why my strongest scenes were set on dark nights!

"Having put aside my test-tubes and picked up a pen, I am now a full-time writer. In other words, I used to add chemicals together, brew them up a bit and see what happened, but now I mix fictional characters, stir in a bit of conflict and see what happens. Hopefully, either can be explosive! Both are investigations and I have always liked investigating things. I write thrillers and crime stories mainly, highlighting the forensic science that lurks behind police investigations, but my next book is just as likely to be a comedy.

"Many people think it odd and fascinating that a scientist should also be a novelist. In fact, at the Open University there are three scientists who are published novelists. Beside myself, there is a physicist and a biologist, both of whom have been very successful. I do not find it so strange. After all, scientists do write a lot; in particular, they produce textbooks and papers on their research. They also have to be creative and show perseverance to carry out research. Anyone who can stick to a task, is imaginative, and knows how to construct a sentence has the credentials for writing a novel. In addition, my chemical research is aimed at understanding a little better some aspect of human life. A novel also seeks to illuminate some aspect of human life. The aims are similar although the tools are different.

"I get ideas from several places. Newspaper and magazine articles gave me the idea of the smart gun featured in The Secrets of the Dead. Also, reports of teenage suicides were the motivation behind my book on bullying, Flying Upside Down…. Science often lies behind my crime stories: the baddies using poisons and explosives, the goodies using forensic science. Frequently, I am motivated by outrage. The use of chemistry to kill people in warfare, racist attacks, suicide after bullying, and new weapon development have been perverse inspiration. I am not sufficiently naive that I believe I can solve big problems by writing about them in a novel, but at least I can raise awareness. That is one of my main aims: to make a reader think while he or she is being entertained. And that is why I write for teenagers. Young people have open minds that are receptive to new ideas—probably more so than us boring old adults!"

Biographical and Critical Sources


Booklist, May 1, 2005, Hazel Rochman, review of Framed! p. 1541; June 1, 2005, John Peters, review of Lost Bullet, p. 1789.

Bookseller, December 10, 2004, "Crime Scenes Investigated in a Parallel England," p. 27.

Books for Keeps, November, 1990, p. 12; July, 1993, p. 28; May, 1996, Adrian Jackson, review of Tunnel Vision, p. 17.

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, October, 1992, Roger Sutton, review of The Highest Form of Killing, p. 52.

Growing Point, July, 1985, review of Rift, p. 4471.

Junior Bookshelf, October, 1985, review of Rift, p. 234; April, 1996, review of Tunnel Vision, p. 89.

Kliatt, November, 2005, Ernie Cox, review of Roll Call, p. 22.

School Librarian, December, 1985, Jane Woodley, review of Rift, p. 359; November, 1990, p. 160; August, 1993, Mike Hayhoe, review of The Obtuse Experiment, p. 123; May, 1996, Helen Allen, review of Tunnel Vision, p. 76.

School Library Journal, October, 1992, Lyle Blake Smythers, review of The Highest Form of Killing, p. 146; July, 2005, Elizabeth Fernandez, review of Framed!, p. 107.

Times Educational Supplement, October 11, 1985, p. 26; May 10, 1996, p. 8.

Voice of Youth Advocates, December, 1992, Catherine M. Dwyer, review of The Highest Form of Killing, p. 285.


Malcolm Rose Home Page, http://www.malcolmrose.co.uk (February 21, 2006).

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