James Elward was born in Chicago, Illinois and received a bachelor's degree in 1950 from The Catholic University of America in Washington. He was most noted for writing soap operas in the 1960s and 1970s such as The Secret Storm, The Guiding Light, and Dr. Kildare. He also wrote and produced a soap opera called The Young Marrieds.
Additionally, he wrote several plays for theaters in New York and London. He published three novels for Doubleday under the name of "Rebecca James": Storm's End (1974), The House Is Dark (1976), and Tomorrow Is Mine (1979). He also published under his own name, including Ask For Nothing More (1984), Monday's Child Is Dead (1995), and Public Smiles, Private Tears (1982) with Helen Van Slyke. In 1991 he helped to organize Mystery Stage, Inc. a group that worked to foster stage performances in the mystery genre in New York City. James' most critically acclaimed play, Best of Friends, was first produced in London in 1970.