Frank Dalby Davison was born in Melbourne. He left school at 12 to work on farms in Victoria. Then, in 1909, he moved with his family to the USA where he worked as an apprentice printer in New York. He travelled widely in North America and served with the British cavalry during World War I before returning to Australia in 1919. With a wife and young family, he spent four hard years as a farmer in southern Queensland until drought drove him back to Sydney to work in his father's real estate business. He was also involved with his father's journal, the Australian, publishing short stories and two novels in its pages. These novels were later published in book form, one of them, Man-Shy (1931), winning the Australian Literature Society Medal. His widely admired story of the Australian Light Horse, Wells of Beersheeba, appeared in 1933.
Davison was a conservationist, writing Blue Coast Caravan (1935) in reponse to the destruction caused by development in Queensland. He was also active in the FAW in the 1930s and 1940s, working with Marjorie Barnard and Flora Eldershaw. During this time his reviews and short stories appeared regularly in the Bulletin. A collection of these stories was published in 1940 and another novel, Dusty appeared in 1946, winning first prize in the Argus competition for novels. For the next two decades Davison worked on his massive novel The White Thorntree, finally publishing it in 1968.
Davison's most popular novels are Man-Shy and Dusty which tell the story of a wild red heifer and a half-breed dog, respectively. While the protagonists in these stories are animals, they explore many themes that have human relevance. In The White Thorntree Davision chronicles the search of several characters for sexual happiness, but he balances this search with a concern for other human desires such as love, purpose and meaning.
During his writing career, Davison worked at several jobs and was awarded a Commonwealth Literary Fund fellowship. With his second wife, he bought a farm in Victoria. He moved there in 1951 and made a living from mixed farming for some time while writing The White Thorntree. He died in 1970.