Chad Taylor was born in Auckland, New Zealand. He read English and Art History while studying for a Fine Arts degree at Auckland University's Elam School of Fine Arts. While a student he wrote about music and film for Rip It Up magazine, and later became its Assistant Editor.
He graduated with a BFA in 1988. In the same year his first published fiction appeared in the anthology Other Voices: New Writers and Writing in New Zealand. Other short stories appeared in the literary anthologies Sport and Landfall.
Chad Taylor's debut novel Pack of Lies was published in 1993. His second, Heaven (1994) was made into a Miramax feature film produced by Sue Rogers and directed by Scott Reynolds. Pack of Lies was published in Germany as Lügenspiele.
His next book was a collection of short stories, The Man Who Wasn't Feeling Himself. Stories from the collection have been widely anthologised.
The 1999 entry for the Oxford Companion to New Zealand Literature described him as:
"... A writer of uncompromisingly contemporary fictions of transience and shifting realities in the modern city. Born and educated in Auckland, where his work is largely set, he graduated BFA at Elam and has carried that interest into the strong visual quality of his writing... The fictions often work on the edge of such conventions as the murder story ('No Sun, No Rain'), futuristic fantasy ('Somewhere in the 21st Century') or romance triangle (Pack of Lies, 'Calling Doctor Dollywell'), often through unreliable or unattractive narrators... As these literary norms are subverted, perceptions of reality and identity are challenged. Strong visual representations, especially of sex and clothing, and filmic treatment with fragmentary and mobile scenes and chronology, provide metaphorical access to these internal concerns."
Taylor's next novel, Shirker was published by Canongate Books (UK) in 2000. Rebecca Ascher-Walsh, writing in Entertainment Weekly said the novel "morphs from a mystery into an exploration of passion and mortality."
Shirker was published by Walker Books in the USA. It appeared in Italian and German editions and was published by Editions Christian Bourgois in France. The novel was praised in Stern, The Guardian and Livres Hebdo. Andre Meyer in Eye wrote that "Taylor's resistance to fashionable cynicism and the paucity of pop-culture references gives Shirker a timeless quality." The Sunday Telegraph hailed it as "a beautifully written and skilfully constructed nightmare from a writer of great imagination."
Chad Taylor was awarded a Buddle Findlay Sargeson Fellowship for literature in 2001.
His fourth novel, Electric was published in 2003 by Jonathan Cape (UK) and Christian Bourgois. Electric received strong reviews in Le Figaro, The Observer and HQ magazine. The Australian's Clare Harvey applauded the novel as "rare and refreshing." Novelist Scarlett Thomas in The Scotsman described Electric as "blank, noirish, drugged-up - an intense juxtaposition of big ideas." Electric was London Time Out's Book of the Week in 2003.
Taylor was awarded the Auckland University Fellowship for Literature and appeared at the Auckland and Sydney Writers' Festivals. In May 2003 he was listed as one of New Zealand's Top Ten Novelists Under Forty by The Listener, which said:
"What could be more topical than electricity failure? More than a device to reveal the rat underbelly of Auckland, Chad Taylor's Electric has taken service failure and its character exposing metaphors to an international audience. Secretly we are delighted to be on the map of inner-city decline. Taylor's writing is relentless, cool, focussed like a police horse in a riot. "He was sustained, without knowing it, by the French refusal to accept poverty as a sign of failure in an artist" (Mavis Gallant) might be a credo, but fortune has a way of changing. Chad Taylor deserves it because he has real style." (Elizabeth Smither)
"Chad Taylor's Electric confirms him as one of the outstanding novelists of his generation. His Auckland is a node in the global marketplace and a casino of possibilities. He writes about drug-enhanced chaos, about abundance, excess, choices - about everything grinding down towards entropy. His novels are as smooth and as aggressive as the best techno. He captures the way a whole trendy sub-culture of Auckland speaks and thus renders their mindset with satisfying, pitch-perfect precision." (David Eggleton)
Taylor appeared at the Hong Kong and Shanghai Literary Festivals in 2005. His short story 'Oilskin' reappeared as a short film adapted by director Josh Bridgeman. 1993's Pack of Lies was re-published in Peter Simpson's Nine New Zealand Novellas and reviewed in New Zealand Books in 2005:
"Catrina takes her ex-lover Babe, now pregnant, to a surprise out-out-of-town birthday party that never materialises. There are no beaches here, only a hot pool at a seedy motel, and a relentless tone of grimy, urban nihilism that is pure Taylor. It's another clever selection on [editor Peter] Simpson's part, ending as he began with a challenging read, and implying in the trajectory from [Janet] Frame to Taylor both continuity in the NZ novella and a strong future for the genre."
His fifth novel Departure Lounge (2006) was published by Jonathan Cape in the UK, Editions Christian Bourgois in France, in Italy by Edizione E/O and in the USA by Europa Editions. The novel received a starred review in the Publisher's Weekly (20.02.2006) and was recently dramatised for National Radio. Jonathan Yardley of The Washington Post described it as "smart, original, surprising and just about as cool as a novel can get."
Chad Taylor was one of 12 New Zealand authors invited to tour France for Les Belles Etrangeres in 2006. His sixth novel The Church of John Coltrane was published in 2009. He appeared at the Frankfurt Book Festival in 2012.
Chad Taylor is the author of the novels Departure Lounge, Electric, Shirker, Heaven, Pack of Lies, The Church of John Coltrane and the short story collection The Man Who Wasn't Feeling Himself.