A B Facey was born in 1894 and grew up on the Kalgoorlie goldfields and in the wheat-belt of Western Australia. His father died before he was two and he was deserted by his mother soon afterwards. He was looked after by his grandmother until he was eight years old, when he went out to work. His many jobs included droving, hammering spikes on the railway line from Merredin to Wickepin and boxing in a travelling troupe. He was in the Eleventh Battalion at the Gallipoli landing. After the war, he became a farmer under the Soldier Settlement Scheme but was forced off the land during the Depression. He joined the tramways and was active in the Tramways Union.
Facey, who had no formal education, taught himself to read and write. He made the first notes of his life soon after World War I, and filled notebooks with his accounts of his experiences. Finally, on his children's urging, he submitted the hand-written manuscript to the Fremantle Arts Centre Press. He died in 1982, nine months after 'A Fortunate Life' had been published to wide acclaim.