The son of Scottish missionaries, he grew up in Japan and the Far East, giving his novels an extraordinary realism. At the age of 19, he returned to Scotland and studied at the University of Edinburgh. It was during that time that he started his writing. During WWII, he served in the Scots Guard where at one point he was captured and spent three years as a prisoner of war. After the war, he returned to Scotland where he lived the rest of his life.