McAleer, Biographer of Stout and Emerson, Dies at 80

McAleer, Biographer of Stout and Emerson, Dies at 80

A funeral Mass was said on Nov. 22 at Sacred Heart Church in Lexington for Prof. Emeritus John J. McAleer, who taught English at Boston College for nearly half a century. Prof. McAleer, 80, died of cancer on Nov. 19 at his Lexington home.

John McAleer
Prof. McAleer was well known for his vast knowledge of mystery authors and their works. His biography of one of the world's favorite "whodunit" writers, Rex Stout: A Majesty's Life, won the Edgar Award for crime literature and was chosen for the Book-of-the-Month Club mystery series distribution.

He also wrote major biographies of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Sinclair Lewis and was the author of a highly acclaimed novel, Unit Pride, about the Korean War and the experiences of an American soldier in that conflict.

Prof. McAleer donated his papers on Stout and more than 1,300 mystery novels - many of them signed editions by such crime writers as P.D. James and Robert Parker - to the John J. Burns Library at BC.

A 1945 alumnus, Prof. McAleer joined the University's English department faculty in 1955 and taught a wide array of courses, including Literary Boston and Literature of the Sea, during his 48-year tenure. He also was a member of the faculty of the Woods College of Advancing Studies.

This semester, Prof. McAleer had agreed to co-teach, along with his son Andrew McAleer, a course on famous mystery writers titled Master Sleuths.

"John was a very learned man," said Rattigan Professor of English John L. Mahoney, who had been Prof. McAleer's friend and professional colleague since the mid-1950s. "He was a great story-teller and a scholar of some note."

After service in the Army in World War II, Prof. McAleer returned to Boston College to complete his undergraduate degree. He worked for John F. Kennedy in his first campaign for political office, helping him get elected to Congress in 1946. He noted in his diary that the young JFK "was a real good candidate with a real future ahead."

Prof. McAleer received a master's degree from Boston College in 1947 and added a doctorate from Harvard University in 1955.

"What I remember about John," added Mahoney, "is when I arrived at Harvard from Boston College, he was finishing his doctorate just as I was starting. He was very kind to me, showing me the ropes and giving me advice on what were the good courses. I have never forgotten that."

Prof. McAleer is survived by his wife Ruth (Delaney) McAleer; his sons Andrew, Paul and John III; his daughters Mary Alycia O'Brien, Saragh Delaney Hoey and Seana C. McAleer; and eight grandchildren.

He was buried in Cambridge Catholic Cemetery.

-Reid Oslin


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