Born in Irvine, Ayrshire, Niven read English Literature at Glasgow University, graduating in 1991 with First Class honours. For the next ten years, he worked for a variety of record companies, including London Records and Independiente. He left the music industry to write full time in 2002 and published his debut novella Music from Big Pink in 2005 (Continuum Press). The novella was optioned for the screen by CC Films with a script has been written by English playwright Jez Butterworth. Niven's breakthrough novel Kill Your Friends is a satire of the music business, based on his brief career in A&R, during which he passed up the chance to sign Coldplay and Muse. The novel was published by William Heinemann in 2008 and achieved much acclaim, with Word magazine describing it as "possibly the best British Novel since Trainspotting". It has been translated into seven languages and was a bestseller in Britain and Germany. Niven has since published The Amateurs (2009), The Second Coming (2011), Cold Hands (2012) and Straight White Male (2013). He also writes original screenplays with writing partner Nick Ball, the younger brother of British TV presenter Zoë Ball. His journalistic contributions to newspapers and magazines include a monthly column for Q magazine, entitled "London Kills Me". In 2009 Niven wrote a controversial article for The Independent newspaper where he attacked the media's largely complacent coverage of Michael Jackson's death. Niven lives in Buckinghamshire with his fiancee and infant daughter. He has a teenage son from a previous marriage.