A highly regarded author and playwright, Sumner Locke Elliott was the son of the writer Sumner Locke and the freelance journalist Henry Logan Elliott. The day after his birth Locke Elliott's mother died, leaving her son to be raised by several aunts. The situation resulted in a fierce custody battle which was only resolved when he was about ten years old. The impact of this childhood experience was to later resurface in the author's writing, particularly in his most 'overtly autobiographical' novel, Careful, He Might Hear You .
In 1934, then aged 13, Locke Elliott began what was to become a 12 years association with George Edwards and Nell Stirling of George Edwards Productions. Initially paid £7.50 a week, he played juvenile roles in their various radio productions, while also undertaking odd jobs such as running errands and marking up scripts. He eventually helped write some of the scripts for their children's programme, David and Dawn ('Man with 1,000 Voices'. After leaving school he established his credentials within the broader radio and theatre industries as a writer, actor and director 'in the traditions of Noel Coward and the fashionable drama of the 1930s' (ctd Companion to Theatre in Australia, p.202). He also became a member of Sydney's Independent Theatre, where seven of his early plays were produced.
Serving with the Australian Army during Word War II, Locke Elliott's war time experiences are detailed in the play Rusty Bugles; first performed in 1948, the play was originally banned because of its realistic portrayal of army life in Australia's northern frontier.
In 1948 Locke Elliott emigrated to the United States where he was to remain for most of his adult life. He settled in New York, eventually became an American citizen in 1955, and apart from one brief visit did not return to Australia for any length of time until 1974. Working for both CBS and NBC, he gained prominence [developing a career] writing dramas for American television, producing more than fifty screenplays for this medium. Sumner Locke Elliot's American screen writing career included the famous adaptations of stage plays The Women by Clare Booth Luce and J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan as well as the novel The Prisoner of Zenda.
Locke Elliott was a prodigious writer with an output which far exceeded his reputation as a novelist. His ten novels (six of which contain Australian settings/content) nevertheless provide the core of his published oeuvre, and particularly for 'Australian readers', the 'outstanding feature' of many of these works 'is the re-creation of the distinctive flavour of the national life of the 1930s and 1940s'. Following his death in 1991, the Sydney Morning Herald paid tribute to this aspect of Locke Elliott's, noting that that even 'after taking American citizenship he remained one of the supreme expatriates of his generation, writing of his old country through memory and from a great distance.'