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Fraser Sutherland was born in Pictou county, Nova Scotia. He was educated at King's College, Halifax and Carleton University. He graduated in 1969 with a Bachelor of Journalism degree. He was a reporter and staff writer for several newspapers and magazines, among them the Toronto Star, the Globe and Mail and the Wall Street Journal before he became a freelance writer and editor in 1970. He was the founding editor of Northern Journey from 1971-1976, a columnist for Quill & Quire, and the managing editor of Books in Canada. During 1981-82 he was Writer-in-Residence at the University of Edinburgh, and in 1982-83 he taught at David Thompson University Centre, Nelson, B.C.
His published fiction, poetry and criticism includes books such as The Style of Innocence (Clarke, Irwin, 1972), Madwomen (Black Moss, 1978), John Glassco: An Essay and Bibliography (ECW Press, 1984), The Monthly Epic: A History of Canadian Magazines 1789-1989 (Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 1989), Jonestown: A Poem (McClelland & Stewart, 1996), Peace and War, with Goran Simic, privately published, 1999, and The Making of a Name: The Inside Story of the Brands We Buy (with Steve Rivkin, Oxford University Press, 2004).