My friend and former colleague Ian Michael, who has died aged 84, was an academic specialising in medieval Spanish culture and the author of a series of detective novels under the pseudonym David Serafín.

He was born and raised in Neath, West Glamorgan, the son of Gwilym Michael, a Welsh rugby international, and his wife, Glynis, a Welsh tennis champion.

Ian was a promising schoolboy rugby player at Neath grammar school. He went on to study Spanish at King’s College London, and then gained his PhD at Manchester University. His doctoral thesis, on the medieval Spanish poem The Book of Alexander, marked the start of a brilliant academic career, in which he focused primarily on the canonical texts of medieval Spain, in particular on The Poem of the Cid: an edition that Ian produced remains the standard text.

He taught at Manchester from 1957 to 1971, when he was appointed to the chair of Spanish at Southampton University.

In 1982 he became the King Alfonso XIII chair of Spanish studies at the University of Oxford.

Ian’s detailed knowledge of Madrid, before and during the transition to democracy, provided the backdrop to his series of six detective novels, the first of which, Saturday of Glory, was published in 1979. They featured his creation Inspector Bernal, a clever and unflappable but hard-bitten detective. The last of the series, The Angel of Torremolinos, was published in 1988.

After his retirement from Oxford in 2003, Ian moved to Madrid, where he lived close to the national library. His hobbies were wine, art nouveau artefacts, yachting and gardening. He became a corresponding member of the Royal Spanish Academy in 2009.

He is survived by his husband, David Bernal Rodríguez, whom he had known for 62 years and married recently.



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