Garry Disher was born in rural South Australia and attended local schools before completing his high school education at Adelaide Boys High. In 1971 he graduated with a BA from Adelaide University. During the next two years he travelled extensively, living and working in Britain, Europe, Israel and Africa. After his return to Australia he completed an MA in Australian History and began a career as a teacher.
By the late 1970s Disher had published several short stories in literary magazines. He was awarded a creative writing fellowship at Stanford University, California, in 1978, and completed his first collection of stories there. During the 1980s Disher taught creative writing and helped design the professional writing course for the Victorian TAFE system. He began writing full-time in 1988.
Disher is a versatile writer, serving a number of audiences. His publications include novels, short story collections, history textbooks, writers' handbooks and crime thrillers. Disher's reputation was first established with fiction for young adults. He has won several prizes in that genre, including the Children's Book Council Award for The Bamboo Flute (1992). His novels for adults have also attracted attention, most notably The Sunken Road (1996) which was shortlisted for several awards. Most recently, Disher has won several international awards for his crime fiction. His Wyatt series is widely considered one of the best series of crime fiction from an Australian writer.
In 2018, Disher received a lifetime achievement award from the Ned Kelly Awards, in recognition of his significance as a crime writer.