James grew up in Johannesburg and was schooled at St John’s College. He has an honours degree in science from the University of Natal, Pietermaritzburg and a masters in Human Development from the University of Cape Town.
After a year as a guitar teacher and sports coach, James moved to the wilderness, where for the next eight years, he worked as a safari guide, head ranger, guide trainer, land manager and lodge manager. Working in the bush afforded James the chance to further his research in rural South Africa. He has published various articles on his research with rural people who live around game reserves – this was the focus of his master's thesis.
James has always had a bent for the theatrical. He has worked as a professional musician, guitar teacher and part-time actor. He has also dabbled in wildlife filmmaking (appearing in a children's wildlife series), produces sales videos for safari operators and composes the music scores for these videos.
James has a dry, sarcastic wit that reflects the inspiration and joy he derives from observing the human condition and the natural environment. He speaks both Shangane and isiZulu and is the author and co-author of three South African best-selling books.