Ralph Graves was born in Washington, D. C. to a prominent family. His father was an editor of National Geographic magazine and his stepfather, who his mother married while Graves was in high school, was the last United States High Commissioner to the Philippines. Graves studied at Williams College and Harvard University and worked at Life magazine, where he climbed the ranks from staff writer to Managing Editor. After the demise of Life in 1972, he began focusing on writing novels and memoirs. He published eight books, the most beloved of which are his affectionate parodies of the self-centered upper crust among which he spent most of his life.