James originally worked in publishing other people's books. In 1972 he embarked on the career of "a full-time freelance author and journalist". For several years thereafter he published short science fiction stories in both Britain and the US.
In 1974 he published his first full-length novel, "Earth Lies Sleeping" - the first in a series focused on the exploits of a galactic secret agent named Simon Rack. At the time he was living with his wife and their three children at an east Herefordshire village. In addition, around 1974, James published the fantasy saga of Hells Angels in England & Wales in the early 1990s under the name Mick Norman. The four books, Angels from Hell, Angel Challenge, Guardian Angels, and Angels on my Mind, were compiled as the Angel Chronicles (Creation Books, ISBN 1-871592-43-7).
Also in 1974 James' publisher at the time, Sphere Books, provided the reading public with a list of "what Laurence James likes" - including Alf Tupper, Wilson and Beraddock, old films, old comics, and Rock 'n' roll. Among what he disliked were suits, gherkins and earwigs.
Thereafter, James embarked on a highly prolific career, publishing dozens of novels under his own name as well as the pen names James Darke, James McPhee, Jonathan May, and James Axler. His writings included books for the series "Dark Future," "Earth Blood," "Galactic Security Service" and "Survival 2000," as well as a number of independent novels and short stories.
His biggest success was the post apocalyptic "Deathlands" series. "Pilgrimage to Hell" () which launched the series was started in 1986 by Christopher Lowder, completed by James and published under the name James Axler.
James then went on to write solely no less than 32 novels in this series, attracting a significant fandom, up to and including Eclipse at Noon' in 1995.
Due to failing health, James was on that year forced to leave the series. He wrote one last novel, Crucible of Time that appeared in 1998.