Macklin began his writing career for the Courier Mail (Brisbane), later moving to The Age in Melbourne and then The Canberra Times in Canberra. In 1967 he became press secretary to Deputy Prime Minister John McEwen shortly before the death of Harold Holt when McEwen briefly became Prime Minister.
In 1974 while working in the Philippines at the Asian Development Bank he began writing both fiction and non-fiction books, beginning with the novel The Queenslander. Awarded a Commonwealth Writer's Fellowship, he returned to Australia in 1975 and wrote The Paper Castle (1978) and Juryman (1980), adapted by MGM to the film Storyville (1994) starring James Spader and Jason Robards.
His non-fiction work includes 100 Great Australians, The Secret Life of Jesus, Jacka VC: Australian Hero, Fire in the Blood: The epic tale of Frank Gardiner and Australia's other bushrangers, Bravest: How Some of Australia's Greatest War Heroes Won Their Medals, the memoir War Babies, and Kevin Rudd: The Biography.
With Peter Thompson he co-authored The Battle of Brisbane, The Man Who Died Twice – the life and adventures of Morrison of Peking (re-issued as Morrison of China), Kill The Tiger, Keep Off the Skyline and The Big Fella: The Rise and Rise of BHP Billiton.
He is a graduate of the screen writing course of the Australian Film, Television and Radio School and has written and directed documentary films in 32 countries of Asia and the South Pacific. With producer Andrew Pike he has written the screenplay Barefoot on Australia’s only Chinese bushranger, Sam Poo.
Married to Wendy Macklin, he has two sons, Rob and Ben, and currently lives in Canberra.
- The Queenslander
- The Paper Castle
- 100 Great Australians
- The Secret Life of Jesus, Pan Books, Sydney, ISBN 0-330-27191-1
- Jacka VC: Australian Hero
- Kevin Rudd - the biography
- Bravest: How Some of Australia's Greatest War Heroes Won Their Medals
- Fire in the Blood: The Epic Tale of Frank Gardiner and Australia's Other Bushrangers
With Peter Thompson
- The Battle of Brisbane
- The Man Who Died Twice - the life and adventures of Morrison of Peking
- Kill the Tiger
- Keep off the Skyline
- The Big Fella - the rise and rise of BHP Billiton
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