Morris Langlo West was born in Melbourne, the eldest son of Charles West, a traveling salesman addicted to gambling, and Florence Hanlon; she worked as a cleaning lady to support the family when Charles had spent all his money on horse racing. Both of his parents were of Irish descent. For a period of his childhood, West lived with his aunt.
From 1933 he taught in New South Wales and Tasmania, but before taking
his final vows, he dedided to leave religious life in 1940. During the
World War II West served in the Australian Imperial Forces Corps of
Signals, in the South Pacific, from 1939 to 1943. While stationed in
Queensland, West wrote his first book, A Moon in My Pocket (1945),
based on his experiences in the religious order, and published under
the name of Julian Morris. The work, which questioned religious customs,
became a bestseller. In 1943 West became a secretary to William Morris Hughes, former Prime Minister of Australia.From the 1950s West lived abroad. Between the years 1956 and 1968 he
lived in England, and later in Italy, Austria, and the Unites States. In
Vatican he worked six months as the Vatican correspondent of the London
Daily Mail. West returned to Australia in 1982. Only three of his novels were set in his home country. Morris West was at various times, chairman of the National Book Council and the National Library
Morris West died while working at his desk on 9th October 1999.
in his eighty-fourth year, West had published twenty-six novels and two plays. His works had been translated into twenty-seven languages and had sold more than sixty million copies. His first best-seller (and the first book in the so-called Vatican trilogy), The Devil's Advocate (1959), presents the investigation by Blaise Meredith--on behalf of the Catholic Church--of the claims for beatification of an Italian partisan. With this book began four decades of popular success on a scale enjoyed by no other Australian novelist. It was not, however, often complemented by critical acclaim.
Morris West was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia in the Australia Day Honours of 1985.
He was upgraded to Officer of the Order in the Queen's Birthday Honours of 1997.