Drewe was born in Melbourne, but moved with his family to Perth, Western Australia at the age of six. He was educated at Hale School, and in his final year was appointed School Captain. He stayed in Perth and had a job as a junior reporter with The West Australian from his late teens until his early twenties, when he got a job with The Age and moved back to Melbourne. He went on to be literary editor at The Australian before he turned to writing fiction.
He has seven children; James, Benjamin, Amy, Jack, Laura, Sam and Anna and four grandchildren; Madeline, Cory, Leea and Andeyan.
He has twice been a winner of Walkley Awards for excellence in journalism.
In around 2005, Drewe moved to the far north New South Wales coast with his wife, Candace Baker, and their two children, partly to get "more writing done".
Drewe has published six novels, four collections of short stories, and two works of non-fiction. He has also edited five collections of short stories and prose. His novel Our Sunshine was adapted for the cinema as Ned Kelly in 2003.
Drewe's collected manuscripts are held in the Scholars' Centre at the University of Western Australia Library.
The Shark Net
The Shark Net is a semi autobiographical/semi fictional account of Drewe's Childhood and adolescence and is best described as a memoir structured as a novel. It was reproduced as an ABC television miniseries. The name, shark net is a metaphor for the modus operandi of a character in the story, the serial killer Eric Edgar Cooke, whom Drewe met in his childhood and can also be interpreted to symbolise a false sense of security.
The novel charts Drewe's life from his earliest memories of Melbourne to his childhood in Perth, education at Hale School and his relationship with his father who was a senior manager in the Dunlop rubber company. It includes growing up and coming-of-age themes and also themes to do with Eric Cooke, who was a Dunlop employee. Drewe fictionalises chapters of The Shark Net to do with Cooke, based upon his interviews with Cooke's family and his own experiences while reporting at his trial for The West Australian.
The novel is currently used as a study text for the subject of English in schools across the states of New South Wales, South Australia, Western Australia, Victoria and Tasmania.
Grace is Drewe's novel about the start of the 21st century and the things that he is "passionately interested in ... relationships, politics, the environment, human rights ... and things that I believe are wrong and are changing the face of the Australia we used to respect". It was inspired, he said, by his anger at "our appalling treatment of asylum seekers, and those hapless illegal fishermen in flimsy boats". It has been described as part action thriller, part road movie.