Anna Clarke was born on April 28, 1919, in Cape Town, South Africa, the daughter of Fred Clarke and Edith Annie Gillams Clarke. Her parents were both educators, and Clarke grew up with a love for reading. She attended schools in Cape Town and Montreal and attended universities in Toronto and Oxford. Planning a career in mathematics, she studied for and received an external degree in economics from London University in 1945. A severe illness, however, cut short her career plans, and she went to work as a publisher’s secretary in London. She was a private secretary for Victor Gollancz from 1947 to 1950, and in 1951 she took a similar job with Eyre and Spottiswoode, where she worked until 1953.
In 1956 Clarke became the administrative secretary for the British Association for American Studies, a post she retained until 1962. Plagued by the lingering effects of her illness, she quit full-time work and eventually returned to university studies, receiving a bachelor’s degree from the Open University in 1973 and a master of arts degree from the University of Sussex, Brighton, in 1975.
As an escape from office jobs, which she hated, Clarke turned to writing. Having no success with so-called straight novels, she began writing mysteries. Between 1968 and 1996, she produced twenty-seven novels of mystery and suspense. Clarke died on November 7, 2004, in Brighton, East Sussex.