James William Barke was born in Selkirkshire in 1905 to Galloway parents, he moved in Glasgow in as a teenager. He worked on the Clyde shipyards and was involved in location and Nationalist politics before embarking on a writing career. His first novel was published in 1933, but he is now best remembered for his five-volume novelisation of the life of Robert Burns, which began in 1946 with The Wind That Shakes the Barley.
The Robert Burns quintet is being republished by Edinburgh’s Black & White Publishing. Barke also wrote The Land of the Leal, a number of plays including Gregarach, and contributed to anthologies of the Bard’s poetry.