Thomas Edmund Perry was born on August 7, 1947, in Tonawanda, New York, an area that became the setting for his Jane Whitefield series. He is the son of Richard Perry, a superintendent of schools, and Elizabeth Perry, an English teacher. He attended Cornell University, receiving a bachelor’s degree in 1969, and received a doctorate in English literature from the University of Rochester. He was a member of the Air National Guard.
After his studies, Perry worked for a year as a commercial fisherman before working in higher education, first as assistant to the provost of the College of Creative Studies at the University of California at Santa Barbara from 1975 to 1980. There he met his second wife, Jo Anne Lee, also a writer with a doctorate in English, whom he married in 1980; they have two daughters, Alix and Isabel. He then became assistant coordinator of the general education program at the University of Southern California. His third attempt at writing a novel, The Butcher’s Boy, was published in 1982. The book won an Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America in 1983 and a silver medal from the Commonwealth Club of California the same year. His next novel, Metzger’s Dog (1983), was named a New York Times notable book for 1984.
In 1984, Perry began to work in television as both a producer and a writer. Although he worked mainly for the light detective series Simon and Simon (1981-1988), he also wrote for Twenty-one Jump Street (1987-1991) and Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987-1994). He and his wife cowrote some episodes, including “Reunion” for Star Trek, but when their first daughter was born in 1989, Perry’s wife decided to stay at home to raise her, and Perry resolved to become a full-time novelist.
Perry’s first novel about Jane Whitefield led to a series, and these books, like many of Perry’s other novels, have been optioned for films. Of Perry’s later, nonseries novels, Pursuit (2001) won the Gumshoe Award for 2002.