The stories of Charles Birkin, however, are not for the squeamish. Be warned, if you are at all sensitive, leave him well alone. He deals unflinchingly with such subjects as murder, rape, concentration camps, patricide, mutilation and torture.
—Hugh Lamb, introduction to "Marjorie's On Starlight" from A Wave Of Fear (W. H. Allen Ltd, 1973)
Birkin was the son of Colonel Charles Wilfred Birkin and Claire Howe, the daughter of Alexander Howe. He was educated at Eton College and was later employed by the publisher Philip Allan to edit the Creeps horror story anthologies, the first one of which appeared in 1932. Birkin included stories of his own in most of these volumes, which were later collected as Devil's Spawn (1936). He succeeded his uncle as 5th Baronet Birkin in 1942. During the Second World War he served in the Sherwood Foresters. After a long hiatus, Birkin resumed writing in 1960, following a return to London, and two new stories appeared in Dennis Wheatley's anthologies Quiver of Horror (1964) and Shafts of Fear (1964). This was followed by eight collections of original Birkin stories, beginning with The Kiss of Death (1964) and ending with Spawn of Satan (1970). This last volume was published in the US only. From 1970 to 1974 he lived in Cyprus which he fled after getting caught up in the violence following the Turkish invasion. His short story A Low Profile (1977) reflects his experiences there. He married Australian actress Janet Ramsey Johnson, the daughter of Peter Johnson, and had a two daughters and a son, John Birkin, who directed many notable British television comedies including Mr Bean, French and Saunders, and Harry Enfield. He and his wife spent their later years in Sulby, Isle of Man. Birkin's short stories have been estimated as numbering over one hundred.