John Newton Chance was born in London in 1911, the son of Robert Newton Chance, a comic-strip editor. In addition to his private educational training, he attended secondary school in London and Streatham Hill College. He was married to Shirley Savill, with whom he later collaborated on at least one book, and they had three sons.
Chance began his literary career in 1931 with a story written for the British Broadcasting Corporation. Later, writing for the Sunday Graphic, he produced “Murder Mosaics,” a series of mystery dramas that, taken together, constituted a serial murder novel. After the publication of Murder in Oils in 1935, he became well known as an author of popular fiction and remained so throughout much of the twentieth century. His best works were produced from the 1930’s to the 1950’s; the later books, often categorized as potboilers, did not maintain the same high standards. Even for his fine early works, Chance did not receive the critical recognition he deserved, and his fame remains largely restricted to England.
During World War II, Chance flew with the Royal Air Force; he was invalided out of the service in 1944. His wartime experiences, as well as his literary ones, are chronicled in his autobiographical work Yellow Belly (1959). Chance died in Cornwall, England, on August 3, 1983.