James Hume Nisbet was born in Stirling, Scotland, arriving in Melbourne at the age of sixteen where he became involved in theatrical life. He returned to Britain to study art, and went on to teach and exhibit in Edinburgh. He became a prolific book illustrator, and was later commissioned by Cassell and Co. to visit Australia and New Guinea, contributing articles and sketches for Cassell's Picturesque Australasia (1887-89). Nisbet published seventeen novels, many of which were set in and around Australia and the Pacific. The first, The Land of the Hibiscus Blossom: a yarn of the Papuan Gulf, was published in 1888 and then republished ten years later as part of Heinemann's Colonial Library of Popular Fiction. Nisbet's fiction in fact covered a range of popular genres, including romance, colonial adventure and crime. His autobiographical writings included A Colonial Tramp: Travels and Adventures in Australia and New Guinea (1891) and Reminiscences of Early Australian Life (1893).