David Christie Murray was born on April 13, 1847 in West Bromwich in the family of a printer, educated at West Bromway and Spon Lane schools, helped his father at work from the age of 11. At the age of 18, he was sent to London to study printing, but soon volunteered for service in the army, joining the 4th Regiment of the Royal Irish Dragoons.
After completing his service, he became a journalist. Initially he wrote for the Wednesbury Advertiser, later for the Birmingham Morning News, where he specialized in crime chronicles. In 1871 he got married, and had a daughter who died early in the marriage. He also had four illegitimate children.