Hawley was born and grew up in South Korea, the son of missionary
parents. After earning BA and MA degrees in history at Queen’s
University in Kingston, Ontario, he returned to East Asia with his wife
to work as a teacher for nearly two decades, first in Japan and then
Korea, ending in 2007 as an associate professor of English at Yonsei
University in Seoul.
was in Japan in the early 1990s that Hawley started writing for
magazines and newspapers on topics ranging from
international travel and sumo wrestling to daimyo clocks and
big-city fishing. By the late ‘90s he had turned his
attention to books. His most notable work from this period is The Imjin War, the most comprehensive account in English of Japan’s
sixteenth-century invasion of
Korea and attempted conquest of China, an event of seismic importance
in Asian history. He next focused on US Navy ensign and
diplomat George C. Foulk, Washington’s representative in Seoul at the
time of Korea’s opening to the West. Hawley's interest in Foulk resulted in two books, America's Man in Korea, and Inside the Hermit Kingdom, in 2007.
Hawley began writing
full-time upon returning to Canada in 2007, starting with the biography I
Just Ran: Percy Williams, World’s Fastest Human, about one of Canada’s greatest yet least known athletes. I Just Ran won an Independent
Publisher Awards silver medal and was named one of five "Best Sports
Books of the Year" by the CBC. He followed this with Speed Duel: The Inside Story of the Land
Speed Record in the Sixties, which received
starred reviews in both Publishers
Weekly and Library Journal.
He then turned to fiction with the novel Bad
Elephant Far Stream,
an imagined life story of the real circus elephant Topsy,
electrocuted on Coney Island in 1903. His latest book is the thriller Homeowner With a Gun, called "one of the year's best crime novels" by BestThrillers.com. He has also written two feature
film screenplays, Speed Duel and Homeowner With a Gun, based on his books.
Hawley's most recent project is The Fight That Started the Movies: The World Heavyweight Championship, the Birth of Cinema and the First Feature Film. It marks his return to narrative nonfiction and is due out in 2016.