A Scottish author, poet, journalist, and film critic, he became famous for The Dreamers, Love and Death on Long Island, and other cinematic adaptations of his novels. His other works of fiction include The Holy Innocents and Alice through the Needle's Eye.
He moved from Scotland to France in 1968 and remained in Paris until 1980. His debut work, The Holy Innocents, won the 1988 Authors' Club First Novel Award.
He translated George Perec's novel, A Void, into English.
He was born in Kilmarnock, Scotland. A homosexual, he made a point of saying that he wanted to be thought of as simply a writer, rather than as a gay writer.
His novel, The Holy Innocents, was made into the 2003 Bernardo Bertolucci film, The Dreamers.