Ivan Southall was born in Melbourne and grew up in the suburb of Surrey Hills. He started writing his first book when he was 14 and by the age of 20 had written four books, three of which were revised and published after World War II. During the war Southall served in the RAAF, based in England. At the end of the war he worked in England as a war historian for the RAAF. On his return to Australia he became a full-time writer, supplementing his income from farming his property in the Dandenong Ranges. Since 1950 he has written about 60 books, mostly for young people, and his books have been translated and published in 23 languages.