Ralph de Boissiere grew up in Trinidad where he then worked as a clerk and salesman. He spent six months in the United States of America to re-train in motor mechanics, prior to migrating to Australia where he worked as a car assembler and machinist with General Motors Holden.
As a young man in Trinidad, de Boissière joined the Beacon Group of writers and had a number of short stories published in local magazines. The influences on de Boissiere's writing have been many: Dostoevsky, Turgenev and Tolstoy during his formative years as a writer, and Galsworthy to a lesser extent; later, John Morrison, Arthur Miller, James Baldwin, T. E. Lawrence, Judah Waten and Romain Rolland. When de Boissiere arrived in Australia he brought with him a first completed novel in manuscript. He was a founding member of the Realist Writers' Goup and an original member of the editorial board of Overland. In 1981 he toured English and German universities to lecture on his novel Crown Jewel.