An English professor and scholar, Binyon was also recognized as a skilled crime writer. His works of crime fiction include Swan Song (1982) and Greek Gifts (1988).
He served his country in the linguistics branch of the military, working as a Russian interpreter during the Cold War era. Before teaching Russian Literature at the University of Leeds, he graduated from Exeter College, Oxford.
His 2002 biography of Aleksandr Pushkin earned him the Samuel Johnson Prize in 2003.
His marriage to Felicity Butterwick lasted for nearly two decades. Following his divorce from Butterwick, he married Helen Ellis in 2000.
He was related to the popular 20th-century English poet, Laurence Binyon .