A prolific and inventive American writer, he is particularly known for his 1976 novel, The Balloonist, which focuses on a polar expedition.
He taught at the University of California, Irvine, where he co-founded the creative writing program.
MacDonald Harris was his pseudonym; his real name was Donald Heiney.
He grew up in South Pasadena and San Gabriel, California. He married Ann Heiney.
He and Brian Jacques both served in the Merchant Marine.