Walter Allen, was educated at King Edward's Grammar School, Aston, Birmingham and then at Birmingham University.
After graduation he became a freelance writer and during the course of his career was a prolific contributor to all kinds of publications. Allen was one of a small group of novelists, which included John Hampson, Henry Green and Leslie Halward, working in Birmingham in the later 1930s. His first novel, 'Innocence is Drowned', was published in 1938, and this was shortly followed by 'Blind Man's Ditch' (1939) and 'Living Space' (1940). He subsequently went on to publish four more novels; 'All in a Lifetime' published in 1959 is considered his finest. Allen is perhaps better known for his works of literary criticism, particularly for his two studies of the novel, 'The English Novel: A Short Critical History' (1954) and 'Tradition and Dream: The English and American Novel from the Twenties to Our Time' (1964). Other critical works included studies of Arnold Bennett (1948) and George Eliot (1964) and he also published his autobiography in 1981 under the title 'As I Walked Down New Grub Street'.
As a literary journalist, Allen was employed as features editor for Cater's News Agency, Birmingham, 1935-37 and he was also a reviewer for the New Statesman in the later 1940s and 1950s, becoming Assistant Literary, then Literary Editor for the period 1959-61. He also held various teaching posts and visiting professorships, particularly in North America, and from 1967 until 1973, he was Professor of English at the New University of Ulster, Coleraine.