He was born in Penang, Malaya to Scottish parents, and was raised and educated primarily in Scotland. He initially joined McMaster as a professor of English, with his academic focus evolving toward film during his time with the institution.
In addition to his academic works he published the novel Seahorse in 1980, and was a shortlisted nominee for the Books in Canada First Novel Award in 1981. In 1996, Soho Press published his second novel The Siege simultaneously with a reissue of Seahorse. He also published the short story "Village Theatre" in John Robert Colombo's 1981 anthology Not to Be Taken at Night.
- The Cinema of François Truffaut (1970)
- History Must Answer to Man: The Contemporary Hungarian Cinema (1981)
- Hollywood Destinies: European Directors in America, 1922-1931 (1986)
- Before the Wall Came Down: Soviet and East European Filmmakers Working in the West (1990)
- Johnston, Vida T.; Petrie, Graham (1997). The Films of Andrei Tarkovsky: A Visual Fugue. Bloomington: Indiana Univ. Press. ISBN 0-253-20887-4.
- Seahorse (1980)
- The Siege (1995)
- "Double the impact". Toronto Star, June 17, 1995.
- Stephen Broomer, Hamilton Babylon: A History of the McMaster Film Board. University of Toronto Press, 2016. ISBN 9781442647787.
- "Historian says Bergman one of few authentic movie geniuses". Toronto Star, January 13, 1976.
- "2 first novels take us into fable, myth". Toronto Star, October 24, 1981.
- "16th century fantasy has cruel twist". Toronto Star, January 20, 1996.
- "A serving of chillers for the scary season". The Globe and Mail, October 31, 1981.
- "Wild Child: Truffaut's return to greatness". The Globe and Mail, January 23, 1971.
- "Crossed cultures in Hollywood". The Globe and Mail, February 22, 1986.
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