He attended the University of Glasgow, where he studied chemistry.
Bell was schooled at Kelvinside Academy and Morrison"s Academy. After becoming a journalist, Bell worked for the Glasgow Evening Times, and as sub-editor of the Scots Pictorial. His articles described the life of working-class Glaswegians, and were often written in the vernacular.
He created the character of "MacGreegor" for his Evening Times articles, and the stories were so popular that they were published in book form, and later made into a film.
Bell has often been criticised for being overly sentimental, but it is also said that his vernacular was accurately representative, which is partly what made them popular. During recent years though, Bell"s books are increasingly neglected.