He is perhaps best known for his book on Australian history, The Colonial Australians. John Hirst, writing in The Monthly in 2006, placed it on his brief list of the best Australian history books of all-time. Elsewhere, Hirst describes The Colonial Australians, as an "underrated" work that "explores... the nature of colonial society by examining its physical remains," and Denholm as the historian who "best understands" the sense in which that the culture of a colony is as old as the culture of the mother country.
He first came to national and international attention with his debut novel, The Last Blue Sea (1959), about the conflict between Australia and Japan during World War II. The novel, which emphasized the difficulty the Anzacs experienced in fighting in the heat and rain of New Guinea, has been called, "the classic short novel of the New Guinea campaign." He also wrote The Hollow Woodheap (1962), and a notable short story The Barambah Mob (1963), a humorous (and often anthologised) cricketing tale. His book length essay, The Colonial Australians (1975) was a bestseller. The Last Blue Sea won the first Mary Gilmore Prize.
Denholm was an adult learner who entered Queensland University in 1964, graduating in 1967. He went on to earn the PhD in history at the Australian National University in 1972. He taught at the University of New England, and then, after 1974, at the Riverina College of Advanced Education, of Charles Sturt University.
All as by David Forrest
- The Last Blue Sea (1959)
- The Hollow Woodheap (1962)
- Patrick White (1962)
- Corresponding voices : the letters of Bill Scott and David Denholm, 1963-1997. edited by Zita Denholm. 2000. 
- Arnold, John (2001). The Bibliography of Australian Literature: F-J. Univ. of Queensland Press. p. 74. ISBN 0702235008.
- Hirst, John. "The Best Australian History Books". The Monthly. Retrieved 16 March 2015.
- Hirst, John (2009). Sense and Nonsense in Australian History. p. 76. ISBN 1921825405.
- Mackay, Marina (2009). The Cambridge Companion to the Literature of World War II. Cambridge University Press. p. 153. ISBN 1139828452.
- Buckridge, Patrick (2007). By the Book: A Literary History of Queensland. University of Queensland Press. p. 67. ISBN 0702234680.
- Boadle, Don. "David Denholm". CSU.edu.au. Charles Sturt University. Retrieved 16 March 2015.
- "Novel Contest Won by Bank Clerk". The Sydney Morning Herald. 1 January 1959. Retrieved 16 March 2015.
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