Justin was born in Freeport, Grand Bahama Island in 1971 and was brought up in York. He was educated at St Peter’s School, York, and was a member of St Cuthbert’s Society, Durham University.

He worked for seven years as a volunteer with VSO (Voluntary Service Overseas) in rural China and Africa, before returning home to Yorkshire in 1999.

Shieldwall is the first of The Conquest Series, which explores the events around the Battle of Hastings in 1066.  It was picked by The Sunday Times as a Book of the Year.

His internationally acclaimed first novel, The Drink and Dream Teahouse, won the 2003 Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize and a 2002 Betty Trask Award, and banned by the government in China. It was also picked by the Washington Post as a Notable Book of 2001.

His second novel, Passing Under Heaven, won the 2005 Somerset Maugham Award and was shortlisted for the Encore Award. The Independent on Sunday and Sunday Telegraph both picked it for their Christmas Recommended Reads in 2005.

Ciao Asmara, a factual account of his time in Eritrea, was shortlisted for the 2003 Thomas Cook Travel Book Award.

His work has been translated into fifteen languages.