Born in Dalby, Queensland, he is the ninth of ten children. His primary schooling was at St Columba's in Dalby, and later he was College Captain while attending St Mary's, Dalby. His final two years at school, years 11 and 12, were spent at Marist College Ashgrove. He commenced an Arts degree at the University of Queensland but dropped out after only one month to return home to work on the family wheat farm.
His first novel, Praise, won the Australian/Vogel Literary Award in 1991, a success that launched him on a full-time writing career. Following the book's popularity, particularly with a sub-30 year old readership, publishers began applying the term Grunge Lit to Praise and other similar works which described nihilistic urban and suburban lifestyles.
Two of his novels have been adapted for the stage, both for Brisbane's La Boite Theatre - Last Drinks and The White Earth. The stage version of The White Earth, adapted by McGahan and Shaun Charles, premieres at the theatre in early 2009.