Harold Avery's life story reads like one of the boy's own adventures he authored. In 1879, Avery and his family left England for Australia. His biography, published in the introduction to No Surrender!, states that the passenger ship was hijacked by Malay pirates in the Strait of Malacca, forcing it to run aground. Avery's parents died, and Avery himself spent three years living with the Lanuns, a native Malay people. In 1882 he was rescued by a Dutch naval ship and went to live with his aunt, Hanna Avery, in England, where he resumed his studies and later began writing, drawing on his experiences at Eton College and his time in Malaysia. He lived alone with his Aunt until early 1941, when he left to travel around the world. The last heard of Avery was a postcard to his Aunt written in 1943 from Rio de Janeiro.