About James Phelan

“Jed Walker is right there in Reacher’s rear-view mirror.” Lee Child

James Phelan was born on the 21st of May, 1979, in Melbourne, Australia. His creative spirit was nurtured from a young age, and he credits his overactive imagination to being exposed to authors such as Roald Dahl and Paul Jennings, as well as such works as The Hobbit, Treasure Island, The Jungle Book, Tales of the Punjab, Siddhartha, and The Little Prince. He holds an MA and PhD in literature. He is the author of 25 novels.

“…if you think you can hear an echo of Jack Reacher in there, you’re not the only one.” Sydney Morning Herald.

© Tessa Ross Phelan.


As a teenager James discovered a love of geo-political thrillers, of being entertained and informed on topical global events. James cites influences on his Fox and Walker series from reading such authors as Alistair MacLean, Clive Cussler, Jeffery Archer, Ken Follett, Tom Clancy, Jack Higgins, Robert Ludlum, John le Carre, Ian Fleming, and Jeffery Deaver.

“James Phelan has produced a big, juicy, rollicking tale in the spirit of Robert Ludlum. We haven’t seen an international thriller like this for a long time. Let’s hope Lachlan Fox is planning on getting into more trouble in the near future!” Jeffery Deaver

JP copy

© Daniel Stainsby

“James Phelan is one of the hottest thriller writers to arrive on the scene in years. His hero, Lachlan Fox, is just the kind of gritty man the world needs in a time of crisis.” Vince Flynn

In 1995, aged fifteen, James started his first novel, which he went on to develop as part of his major VCE English assignment in 1996. A thriller involving a terrorist attack on the 2000 Sydney Olympics, James continued to work on this novel but eventually abandoned the storyline when Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six was published in 1998. While this story idea died, the lead protagonists of Lachlan Fox and Alister Gammaldi lived on as James went in search of another introductory tale for these series characters.

After high school James went to RMIT to study Architecture, and worked  on the Federation Square Design team. He then attended the University of Melbourne to study Creative Writing, culminating in an MA and PhD (on Young Adult Literature) at Swinburne University of Technology. It was during his masters degree and while working at The Age newspaper James developed the idea that would become his first published book – and would soon lead to seeing his novels in print.

Literati: Australian Contemporary Literary Figure Discuss Fear, Frustrations and Fame (John Wiley & Sons) was published to critical acclaim in August 2005. Comprising 21 candid interviews with key Australian authors and publishing figures, Literati answered many questions for would-be writers, those in the industry, and readers with a keen interest in the writing and publishing process.

“Drawn to a keen edge, smart, resilent Lachlan Fox is a tough, savvy hero who takes the reader on a fast and furious ride through a complicated maze of timely political intrigue. James Phelan has earned a new avid fan. Steve Berry

FOX HUNT (Hachette, 2006) would prove to be the story to propel Lachlan Fox and Alister Gammaldi into the world stage of successful international thriller characters. FOX HUNT is a bridging novel between the aftermath of the Cold War and the new era of globalisation and the War on Terror. It is a book that pays homage to the greats who have defined the genre and reflects the times we now find ourselves in. From Chechnya to New York, Venice to Washington, the storyline looks at the dangers of the Star Wars Missile Shield (aka Missile Defence), and the fragile reality of the remnants of the Cold War: political, military, and personal. Fox and Gammaldi must race against time before an ex-Soviet weapon is used by terrorists against the US.

PATRIOT ACT (Hachette, 2007) is the sequel to FOX HUNT and the second book in the Fox series, where we meet Lachlan Fox and Alister Gammaldi living in New York, working for the Global Syndicate of Reporters. This storyline involves rogue French agents attempting to hack into the NSA’s computers and Echelon system. It looks at the inherent dangers of communications and signals intelligence if it falls into the wrong hands, and centers around the “USA Partiot Act” introduced after the September 11th terrorist attacks. Ultimately, it is a story of love and betrayal, on both a personal and nationalistic front. This story introduced a love interest for Fox, as well as a CIA conspiracy that leads into the next novel.

BLOOD OIL (Hachette, 2008) introduces a 3 book arc of antagonists in the form of UMBRA, a tale of friendship and redemption set in the chaotic scene of Nigeria. This is a dark tale for Fox as he battles his personal demons and what it means to seek out the truth at any cost.

LIQUID GOLD (Hachette, 2009) sees Fox and Gammaldi uncovering a water crisis between India and Pakistan that has repercussions to the highest levels, all the while with the key characters questioning relationships, brotherhood, and faith against an intense deadline.

RED ICE (Hachette 2010) is the first Fox novel to be set within a 24-hour time frame. From Paris to Shanghai, Fox must stop UMBRA from enacting the secret protocol attached to Russia’s 1867 sale of Alaska to the USA, in a thrilling story that concludes many of the themes and plots of the series to date.

“Insider secrets and violent power plays fuel the exciting new international thriller by James Phelan. From dark alleys to elite board rooms, this tale will rivet you with its fresh take on global politics and the fascinating men and women who pull the strings.” Gayle Lynds

As part of the research for the Fox series, James consults several active and retired members of the Australian Defence Force, as well as journalists and NGO personnel that have experienced most of what he writes about.

The ALONE trilogy was first published by Hachette in 2010-2011, with titles of CHASERS, SURVIVOR, and QUARANTINE. The trilogy follows 16-year-old Jesse in a post-apocalyptic war-zone of Manhattan, where for 21 days he must not only stay alive and avoid the infected, but will discover inner strength and resolve as he learns just what he can do… alone.

James is currently focused on writing thrillers and YA fiction. His new high-concept suspense series features some fan-favourite Fox spin-off characters and introduces the world to a new character, Jed Walker. The first Walker novel, THE SPY, was published in December 2013, and its sequels, THE HUNTED, in February 2015, and KILL SWITCH in December 2015. A fourth title is being published in 2016.

Appearing in 2013 was a new 13-book series to be published by Scholastic. Titled THE LAST THIRTEEN, each serialised instalment introduces a new character to work with our protagonist, Sam, as well as a new international setting, and ever-increasing revelations, tensions, twists and turns as our thirteen teens must battle it out for the control of our dream world. The publisher, Scholastic, billed it as: “Inception meets The Da Vinci Code in this new series from the publisher of the worldwide bestselling 39 Clues!” A follow-up to the series is being published in 2016.

James has written several short stories that have appeared in anthologies and periodicals, and has contributed chapters to serialised novels – including, with Jeffery Deaver and Lee Child, THE COPPER BRACELET (as an audio book narrated by Alfred Molina) and published as WATCHLIST (Vanguard 2010).

With cartoonist and author Dave Hackett, James is developing a middle-grade illustrated series titled Grandpa Spies. More details about this project soon!

James lives in Melbourne and travels extensively throughout the year, talking at schools, libraries, and literary festivals across the globe. He is passionate about promoting literacy, and providing young and reluctant readers with fun and entertaining stories to inspire a love for reading.



– Literati: Australian Contemporary Literary Figures Discuss Fear, Frustrations and Fame (John Wiley & Sons 2005).

The Lachlan Fox thriller series:
– FOX HUNT (2006)
– PATRIOT ACT (2007)
– BLOOD OIL (2008)
– LIQUID GOLD (2009)
– RED ICE (2010)

The Alone trilogy for Young Adults:
– ALONE: Chasers (2010)
– ALONE: Survivor (2011)
– ALONE: Quarantine (2011)

The Jed Walker thriller series:
– THE SPY (2013)

– THE HUNTED (2015)

– KILL SWITCH (2015)

The Last Thirteen series for Middle Grade to Young Adult readers:
– 13 (2013)

– 12 (2013)

– 11 (2014)

– 10 (2014)

– 9 (2014)

– 8 (2014)

– 7 (2014)

– 6 (2014)

– 5 (2014)

– 4 (2014)

– 3 (2014)

– 2 (2014)

– 1 (2014)

– Untitled (2016)

Grandpa Spies

– Titles and release dates TBC.


Short Stories published in the following anthologies:

– Griffith Review: The next big thing (2007)
– Through the clock’s workings (2008)
– Herding Kites (2009)
– Picture This (Pearson, 2010)
– Get Reading! (2011)

James has attended the following professional development courses:

John Marsden’s Tye Estate Writers Conference, 2003
Louise Zaetta’s Queenscliff Writers Workshop, 2004
Robert McKee’s Story Seminar, 2004
Thrillerfest New York 2007 & 2009
Bouchercon, Albany, New York, 2012

James is an active member of the International Thriller Writers.



“The Spy is the first Jed Walker thriller by James Phelan, author of the Lachlan Fox action series. It’s a corker, arguably Phelan’s best bit of genre fiction yet, and, with a fillip from Lee Child on the cover, it is bound to appeal to anyone who wants their tough guys to be just that. Walker is an ex-CIA operative intent on restoring his name with the agency that has disowned him. He is a man on a mission to save the world from a secret terrorist scourge. A shadowy organisation known as Zodiac has hatched 12 terrorist plots against targets around the globe, each operated by a sleeper cell activated by the successful completion of a terrorist act. Only Walker can track them down and he is on a tight deadline to do it. Phelan writes in swift, gritty prose, never wasting a word. His action sequences are vivid and suspenseful, drawing you right in, and he has mastered a forbidding array of intelligence and military jargon. It’s a hard-knuckle post-bin Laden terrorist thriller, an espionage novel with grunt.” The Sydney Morning Herald.

“From car chasers around the Eiffel Tower to black ops in Shanghai, James Phelan’s RED ICE runs a mean line in high-octane adventure. It is the fifth book in the Australian author’s Lachlan Fox thriller series and a case of practice makes perfect: Phelan has mastered the art of action-packed international espionage fiction. Fans of Clancy, Ludlum, Deighton, etc will find themselves quickly sucked in.” The Age.

“The end of the world is apparently never far from teenage minds – and what more perfect fit for the teenage psyche than a heroic central character who is the sole survivor of the next apocalypse? So much cooler than just running away from home. Not since Z for Zachariah has an end-of-the-world diary-cum-first-person account been so gripping. Jesse is an Australian teenager on a school trip to New York when the subway crashes. He and three mates crawl out into a world of zombie survivors. The foursome set up camp in a restaurant at the Rockefeller Centre to figure out their next move. Its psychological, tense and the end comes out of the blue. Thank goodness – like all good modern teen fiction – it is the first in a trilogy.” The West Australian.

“Alone is a fast-paced page-turner that is sure to be a favourite with teens but which can be enjoyed equally by adults.” Cairns Post.

“Phelan writes a terse and tense brand of hardboiled action suspense…” Sydney Morning Herald.

“James takes his thriller-writing very seriously, and investigates his subjects with tenacity and a determination to bring serious issues to the public’s attention.” The Weekend Post.

“Written at a breakneck pace using techniques such as filmic intercutting between alternating scenes that build towards a climax, Patriot Act almost owes more to the modern blockbuster action film, than to any literary heritage.” The Age.

“Melbourne author James Phelan goes to elaborate lengths to ensure his political thrillers have an authentic edge.” The Courier Mail.

“Melbourne-based author James Phelan continues to redefine the often stale and cliche-ridden political thriller genre. The setting of his third novel is present-day Nigeria. Australian journalist Lachlan Fox is assigned to cover a devastating terrorist attack on an oil refinery, and the resulting turmoil on oil markets. The trail leads to a plot to overthrow the Nigerian government, take over the oil reserves, and eventually destabilise America. Although Blood Oil relies on conventional ingredients–Arab terrorists, corrupt politicians, ruthless Russian businessmen, a maverick ex-CIA agent, a gutsy hero, and an action climax–the author refreshingly re-invigorates them without resorting to the predictable political agenda of writers such as Tom Clancy and Vince Flynn. Because Phelan’s hero is an investigative journalist rather than a gung-ho Rambo type, the author seamlessly integrates factual background without interrupting the narrative flow, and injects a serious moral component usually missing in most thrillers. The genre is in safe hands–Phelan proves again that intelligent thriller is not necessarily an oxymoron.” Bookseller & Publisher.

“Phelan provides a timely peek into the realm of `Big Oil’… with high-powered action, tension and suspense.” Good Reading.

“Melbourne-based Phelan churns out a pacy thriller, his third in a successful series starring Fox. Phelan’s techno-thriller is in the same league as Clive Cussler and Tom Clancy.” Sun Herald.

The collapse of the Soviet Empire and the changing map of Europe have created a new species of political thriller. Cold war realpolitik and the threat of nuclear war have been replaced by more ambiguous high-tech threats. Not only have the threats changed, so have the heroes. Today’s heroes (and villains) carry laptops as well AK47’s. Melbourne author James Phelan belongs firmly to a new generation of thriller writers typified by American author Vince Flynn. Tom Clancy’s overtly political Jack Ryan has definitely been replaced by rugged individualists such as Flynn’s Mitch Rapp and Phelan’s Lachlan Fox. Whereas Phelan’s first novel Fox Hunt dealt with the residue of the cold war, Patriot Act is post 9/11 and reintroduces Australian journalist Lachlan Fox. Fox uncovers a plot by right-wing French extremists to take power all over Europe, and to control the world economy by tapping into ECHELON, the American communications surveillance computer. Phelan gets the balance absolutely right. There is enough action, plenty of fascinating technical jargon, a light smattering of sex, and thankfully no political agenda. He very effectively uses two-to-three-page chapters to propel the action at a rattling pace. An absolute must-read for fans of Clancy, Ludlum et al.” Bookseller & Publisher.

“This debut author has put in a finely honed story which proves the thriller genre is alive… Can’t wait for the next one.” Sunday Times.

“A rollicking post Cold War terrorism tale.” Sun Herald.

“Exciting from go to whoa!” The Weekend Gold Coast Bulletin.

“Big on weapons detail, with a huge body count.” Herald Sun.

“Deserves to be a huge success.” The Manly Daily.

“Of course, like all good thrillers, there are enough twists in Patriot Act’s plot to keep the reader guessing right up to the last page.” The Age.

“Phelan does an impressive job in this tale of contemporary espionage.” The Geelong Advertiser.

“Phelan, a Melbourne writer, understands his genre and works it with confidence.” The Sydney Morning Herald.

“James Phelan is like a hound in his quest for greatness and Fox Hunt could be the launching pad.” The Border Mail.

“This one is definitely a hit.” The Sunshine Coast Daily

“Here is a dose of slick, post-apocalyptic storytelling. James Phelan knows his stuff, so the pace is nicely judged, and the twist at the end is a cracker.” The Australian.

“(ALONE: Chasers) …conjures up a claustrophobic sense of menace’ SFX Magazine UK.

Current book jacket publicity shot, © Tessa Ross-Phelan


James Phelan’s author pic for the first 3 Fox novels. © Tessa Ross Phelan.


JP publicity pic 2007 (holding an advance readers copy of PATRIOT ACT).


James on an RAAF Bushmaster


James talking to the boys at Scotch College.


James at the FOX HUNT launch.


James and the real Al Gammaldi, at the PATRIOT ACT launch.


James signing books at BLOOD OIL Launch.


Editing desk.

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