George Douglas Brown, who sometimes wrote under the pen names Kennedy King and George Douglas, was born on 26 January 1869 in Ochiltree, Ayrshire to George Douglas Brown, a farmer, and Sarah Gemmel a farm-servant of Irish descent. Brown was illegitimate.
He was educated at local schools in Ochiltree and Coylton, attending Ayr Academy from 1883. From 1887-1890 he studied at the University of Glasgow, taking a First in Classics and in 1891 he won a scholarship to Balliol College, Oxford. Although maintaining his academic record, he did not enjoy Oxford, feeling that he did not fit in socially.
Before he was due to sit his final examinations, he returned to Ayrshire to nurse his mother in her last illness; the consequent mixture of stress and grief contributed to his taking only a third class degree in the examinations of 1895.
Brown settled in London and made his living by journalism and teaching. In 1899 he published 'Love and a Sword' under the pen name "Kennedy King". He contributed a mixture of short fictions and critical articles to various journals including Blackwood's magazine.
In the autumn of 1900 he began writing the book for which he became famous, 'The House with the Green Shutters'. Brown's health failed in 1902 and he died at the London home of his friend Andrew Melrose. He was buried in Ayr, beside his mother.