Barrett was born in Bondi, Australia, the son of George and Marguerite Barrett. He left school at 14 to do a few odd jobs before taking on a trade as a butcher around the eastern suburbs of Sydney. He gave up his trade when a hind of beef fell on him and injured his shoulder. While he was on worker's compensation, he completed three writing courses at the WEA (Workers' Educational Association). When his sickness benefits ran out he worked in various jobs, DJ, barman, or went on the dole. His first writing job was gag writing for disc jockeys on Radio 2SM. He also signed on with a casting agent and started acting in commercials and television series and appeared in what he says are 'two classic A-grade clunkers'; the movies Bullamakanka and The Empty Beach.
A week's holiday in Shoal Bay courtesy of Price Galese? Sweet. Help Eddie Salita pop a bent copper named Fishcake Fyshbyrne while you're up there? No worries. Solve a mystery on Virgin Island with a sweet little girl named Digger? You beauty! Les Norton, the lovable larrikin from the sunshine state, is back and is heading north, with a little bit of work and a hell of a lot of play in mind. But he had better watch out for hungry sharks and local louts with no manners; and gung-ho federal police with no bloody idea! As the saying goes, he don't go looking for trouble, trouble comes looking for him.