John Emerson owned and operated small businesses while publishing the odd article and working in a radio station until taking on a series of degrees in the 1990s.
He specialised in French and Australian cinema history, completing a postgraduate degree at the Sorbonne Nouvelle in Paris and a PhD at the University of Adelaide. His thesis compared the way contemporary French and Australian cinema represented their colonial pasts.
Since 2002 he has been working on books on the history of Adelaide’s legal professions with the John Bray Law Chapter of the University of Adelaide’s Alumni Association. He is currently working on other projects related to this area.