Australian novelist, born in Sydney. At 17 he began training as a Catholic priest but in 1960 abandoned his intention to become ordained, turning to writing full‐time after the publication of his first novel, The Place at Whitton (1964). This was followed by The Fear (1965), a condensed version of which was published as By the Line in 1989. He has travelled widely and published several accounts of his journeys, including Now and In Time to Be: Ireland and the Irish (1991) and The Place Where Souls Are Born (1992), about the American south‐west. His first major success was Bring Larks and Heroes (1967), a historical novel. Subsequent novels include Three Cheers for the Paraclete (1968); The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith (1972); Blood Red, Sister Rose (1974), a historical novel about Joan of Arc; Confederates (1979), set during the American Civil War; A Family Madness (1985); The Playmaker (1987), set in 1789 and dealing with Australia's first dramatic production (adapted for the stage by T. Wertenbaker as Our Country's Good); and Towards Asmara (1988).
His most celebrated work to date, Schindler's Ark (1982, Booker Prize), is the moving story of a German industrialist, Oskar Schindler, who risked his life saving Jews in Nazi‐occupied Poland during the Second World War; it was filmed by Steven Spielberg as Schindler's List. Other novels include Flying Hero Class (1991); Woman of the Inner Sea (1992); Jacko, the Great Intruder (1993); A River Town (1995), set in late 19th‐cent. Australia and based on his grandfather's life; Bettany's Book (2000); and The Tyrant's Novel (2003).