Turner started his career as a teacher, then became a journalist with The Observer before moving on to radio and television. His first book, a study of British politics in the early twentieth century, was published in 1970. While writing and presenting documentary series for Thames, Yorkshire and Granada Television, he co-authored Adventures in Education and wrote Equality for Some, a history of girls' education. In 1972, he wrote A Place in the Country, a bestseller about life in the great country houses which inspired a television series.
In the mid 1970s, Barry joined Macmillan to develop a general non-fiction list before turning to marketing as a director of the academic press responsible for world sales. Returning to full-time writing in the early 1980s, he produced a wide range of work from theatrical biographies to a political and economic study of the five Nordic countries, The Other European Community. The story of ten thousand refugee children who escaped to Britain from Nazi Germany, ... And the Policeman Smiled, was published in 1990.
As founding editor of The Writer’s Handbook he has taken this annual reference title through to its twentieth edition. Barry was appointed editor of The Statesman's Yearbook in 1997.
Turner's recent work includes When Daddy Came Home, how family life changed forever in 1945; One Small Suitcase, an adaptation of ... And the Policeman Smiled for younger readers and Countdown to Victory, the story of the final European campaigns of World War II. His latest book, on the 1956 Suez crisis, was published in August 2006. He also reviews and serialises books for The Times and is founder and current chairman of the National Academy of Writing.