Author, known as a novelist, poet and literary editor. He became famous in South Africa with his first novel, Turbott Wolfe (1925), which had inter-racial love and marriage as a theme. He was co-founder of the short-lived literary magazine Voorslag ("Whiplash") with two other South African rebels, Roy Campbell and Laurens van der Post; it promoted a racially equal South Africa. In the 1950s and 60s he edited several of Ian Fleming's James Bond novels.
Although he never spoke openly about his sexuality, his biographers record that during a period when he lived in Japan, he was in a sexual relationship with a Japanese man. Although overt homosexuality is absent from William Plomer's novels and poems, the relevance of his sexuality to his work is evident. He confided to the editor of his revised, posthumously published autobiography that he expected his biographer to take his sexual orientation seriously because it was important to his work.
After settling in England in 1929, he associated with a circle of homosexual literary people, and for the last thirty years of his life, his devoted companion was Charles Erdmann.