James Curtis was born Geoffrey Basil Maiden, in Sturry, Kent on 4 July 1907.He was privately educated in Kent and after leaving school he moved to London.In 1934, Curtis appeared in two films, Manhattan Melodrama and Fugitive Lady, in uncredited roles.
He later adopted the pseudonym of James Curtis and began a career as an author. In total he wrote 6 novels as well as, at least, one work of political observations.
Curtis was forced to stop writing when World War II broke out. He would go on to tour France and Burma and rose to the rank of Major. After the war, his marriage had failed and his literary momentum never recovered.
Curtis used his plots to highlight society's unfairness and the lack of opportunity that often led people to break the law in times of poverty. The lexicographer Eric Partridge frequently cited Curtis as a source of new slang words in his A Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English.
His debut novel The Gilt Kid was published in 1936 by Penguin Books.
In 1937 he published two novels, You’re in the Racket Too and There Ain't No Justice.
You’re in the Racket Too is notable for being one of the earliest examples in print of the expression ”Gordon Bennett!”
1937 also saw the publication of his only non-fiction work, ''A Guide to British Liberties'', featuring left-wing political observations.
In 1938 he published his fourth novel, They Drive By Night followed in 1939 by his penultimate novel, What Immortal Hand.
After a 17 year absence he published his final published work in 1956, the novel Look Long Upon a Monkey.
In 2007, London Books republished his 1936 novel, The Gilt Kid to coincide with the 30th anniversary of his death. It featured an interview with his daughter, Nicolette Edwards. In 2008 a reissue of They Drive By Night followed as part of their London Classics series.