John Harvey was born in London in 1938. After studying at Goldsmiths College, University of London, and at Hatfield Polytechnic, he took his master’s degree in American Studies at the University of Nottingham, where he taught film and literature as a part-time lecturer between 1980 and 1986.
Harvey taught English and drama in secondary schools for twelve years. Since then, he has lived primarily by his writing, and has more than one hundred published books to his credit. After what he calls his apprentice years, writing paperback fiction for both adults and teenagers, he is now principally known as a writer of crime fiction, with the first of the Charlie Resnick novels, Lonely Hearts, being named by The Times (London) as one of the 100 most notable crime novels of the last century. Flesh and Blood, the first of three novels featuring Frank Elder, was awarded both the British Crime Writers’ Association Silver Dagger and the US Barry Award in 2004. His books have won two major prizes in France, the Grand Prix du Roman Noir Etranger for Cold Light in 2000 and the Prix du Polar Europ'een for Ash & Bone in 2007. In 2007, he was the recipient of the CWA Cartier Diamond Dagger for sustained excellence in crime writing.
Harvey has written many scripts for television and radio, specializing in adapting his and others’ work. His radio work includes dramatizations of two Graham Greene novels, The End of the Affair and The Heart of the Matter, as well as The Frederica Quartet by A. S. Byatt and (with Shelly Silas) The Raj Quartet by Paul Scott.
After living in Nottingham for many years, Harvey now lives in north London with his partner and their young daughter.