John Prebble was a journalist, novelist, documentarian and historian. He was born in England but his family moved to Canada following WWI, later returning to England where Prebble was educated at Latymer School.
Prebble began his writing life as a journalist in 1934, and drew on his experiences as an artilleryman in WWII when he wrote his first novel, Where the Sea Breaks, published in 1944. He joined the Communist Party of Great Britain, but abandoned it after World War II. His Canadian prairie experience also influenced his work: The Buffalo Soldier is a historical novel about the American West.
Scottish history formed the subject of many of Prebble’s subsequent novels. His Fire and Sword Trilogy, focused on the fall of the clan system in 17th Century Scotland. Culloden was the first book, chronicling the defeat of the clans in one pivotal battle. The second book of the trilogy, The Highland Clearances (1963), remains one of Prebble’s best known works because the subject matter is still one of great historical debate. Glencoe (1966), the final book, was a study of the causes and effects of the Glencoe massacre of 1692. His later works, Mutiny (1975) and The King's Jaunt (1988) extended the theme.
Prebble also co-wrote the screenplay of the film Zulu, as well as radio dramas and documentaries. He was awarded an OBE in 1998, just three years before his death.