Leslie Epstein was born in Los Angeles, California, to a family of well-known filmmakers. HIs father Philip G. Epstein and uncle Julius J. Epstein wrote the screenplays for numerous films, including Casablanca (1942). He graduated from Yale University and won a Rhodes Scholarship for study at Oxford University in England. He has written 10 novels including King of the Jews (1979), considered a classic of Holocaust literature. His book San Remo Drive: A Novel from Memory (2004) was based on his childhood growing up in Hollywood. He has written article for magazines such as Esquire, The Atlantic Monthly, Harper's, and The Nation, as well as book reviews for The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Boston Globe. He was the director of the Creative Writing Program at Boston University for 30 years, beginning in 1978.