Charles McColl Portis was born in 1933, in El Dorado Arkansas and was raised in various towns in southern Arkansas. He served in the Marine Corps during the Korean war and after his discharge in 1955 attended the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. He graduated with a degree in journalism in 1958.
His journalistic career included work at the Arkansas Gazette before he moved to New York to work for The New York Herald Tribune. After serving as the London bureau chief for the The New York Herald Tribune, he left journalism in 1964 and returned to Arkansas to write novels.
He currently lives in Little Rock, Arkansas.