Tessier was born in Waterbury, Connecticut, attended University College Dublin and lived in London in the United Kingdom for several years before returning to the United States, where he lives still. His three published books of poetry are How We Died (New Writers Press, Dublin 1970), In Sight of Chaos (Turret Books, London 1971) and Abandoned Homes (Gallery Press, Dublin 1971). His plays have been produced, but not published.
Tessier's novels are literate, compact and frequently extremely bleak. His first book, The Fates (1978), is an episodic hybrid of horror and science fiction, about a mysterious force which causes death and destruction in an American town. One of the characters speculates that the Earth is revenging itself on humanity, but at the end of the book the mystery has not been solved and the destruction has not stopped.
Tessier's next book was The Nightwalker (1979), the brief, terse story of a young American Vietnam veteran adrift in London who seems possessed by an uncontrollable urge to inflict mutilation and death and may, in fact, be a werewolf. In Shockwaves (1982), a young woman achieves an ambition out of romantic fiction when an up-and-coming lawyer asks her to marry him; but her life is overshadowed by the presence of an apparently supernatural murderer known only as The Blade. Phantom (1982), one of Tessier's richest books, deals with a young boy's confrontations with death, starting with his mother's dangerous asthma attack and ending with a disturbing vision of the afterlife.
Besides works of supernatural horror, Tessier has also written non-supernatural stories such as Rapture (1987), about a psychopathic stalker, and Secret Strangers (1990), about a teenage girl whose father's sudden disappearance prompts her to an amoral rebellion which leads to appalling discoveries about a suburban child abuse ring.
Tessier's other novels include Finishing Touches (1986), about a young doctor (again, an American alone in London) drawn into the perverse and sadistic world of a megalomaniac plastic surgeon; Fog Heart (1997), about the involvement of two married couples with a suicidal young medium; and Father Panic's Opera Macabre (2001), in which a writer of bland historical fiction is suddenly confronted with horrific atrocities which occurred in Croatia during the Second World War.
Tessier's short fiction has been collected in Ghost Music and Other Tales (2000). A new novel, Wicked Things, is scheduled for publication in 2007.
Tessier is married to the former Alice Audietis. They have one son and one daughter.