Anna Clarke was the daughter of Fred Clarke, a British professor of education who was later knighted. She was educated in South Africa, Canada, and England, following her father's academic appointments. She earned a degree in economics at London University in 1945 and a master's degree from the University of Sussex in Victorian literature. She became the private secretary to publisher Victor Gollancz and later moved to rival publishing house Eyre and Spottiswoode. In 1947, she married David Hackel; the couple divorced in 1957. She worked for seven years as administrative secretary to the British Association for American Studies. Her writing career did not began until she was about 50 years old, but she produced about 30 mystery novels at a prolific rate, beginning with The Darkened Room (1968). Several of them featured English literature professor-turned-amateur sleuth Paula Glenning.