Born in Washington in 1947, Lawton began his working life as a housepainter and gardener in the early 1960s. Settling in England he had a brief and unspectacular career in London publishing prior to becoming, by the mid 1980s, a documentary television producer at the newly-created Channel 4. In 1993 he settled in New York, and in 1995 won a WH Smith award for his third book Black Out. He went back into television in England in 1997, and by 1999 had dropped off the TV and books map completely. He returned in 2001 with Riptide (American title: Bluffing Mr. Churchill), which was snapped up by Columbia Pictures. For most of the 21st century, so far, he has tended to be elusive and itinerant, residing in England, the USA and Italy.