John Burnett was born on July 24, 1951, in north London, the son of police officer Frank Burdett and seamstress Eva Burdett. Interested in writing from his early teens, Burdett later turned to law as a means of earning a living.
He attended the University of Warwick, where he was particularly interested in the work of D. H. Lawrence and Graham Greene, and graduated in 1973. He afterward earned a degree at the College of Law and qualified as a barrister, in which capacity he worked for a time in London, practicing family law, before being sent to the British colonies as a government attorney. Burdett practiced for ten years in the criminal courts of Hong Kong, then went into private practice, eventually becoming a partner in the prestigious law firm of Johnson, Stokes, and Master. Burdett married Laura Liguori in 1995, and the couple produced one daughter before divorcing.
While still employed as a lawyer, Burdett used his spare time to write his first novel, A Personal History of Thirst, a London-based love triangle between ambitious working-class lawyer James Knight, a man named Oliver Thirst whom Knight successfully defended on a charge of theft, and Daisy Smith, a woman who was romantically involved with both men and is accused of killing Thirst. Burdett’s second novel, The Last Six Million Seconds, was a thriller set in Hong Kong just before the Chinese takeover, in which half-Irish, half-Chinese detective Chan Siukai...
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