Camara Laye published his first novel in 1953, the autobiographical L'Enfant noir (The African Child, also published under the title The Dark Child). It follows his own journey from childhood in Kouroussa, his education in Conakry, and eventual departure for France. The book won the Prix Charles Veillon in 1954. L'Enfant noir was followed the next year by Le Regard du roi (The Radiance of the King). The Radiance of the King was described by Kwame Anthony Appiah as "one of the greatest of the African novels of the colonial period."
In 1956 Camara Laye returned to Africa, first to Dahomey, then the Gold Coast, and finally to newly independent Guinea, where he held several government posts. He left Guinea for Senegal in 1965 because of political issues, never returning to his home country. In 1966 Camara Laye's third novel, Dramouss (A Dream of Africa), was published. In 1978 his fourth and final work, Le Maître de la parole - Kouma Lafôlô Kouma (The Guardian of the Word), was published. The novel was based on a Malian epic told by the griot Babou Condé about Sundiata Keita, the thirteenth-century founder of the Mali Empire.
Camara Laye's authorship of Le Regard du roi was questioned by literary scholar Adele King in her book Rereading Camara Laye. She claimed that he had considerable help in writing L'Enfant noir and did not write any part of Le Regard du roi. Scholar F. Abiola Irele, in an article called In Search of Camara Laye asserts that the claims are not "sufficiently grounded" to adequately justify that Laye did not author the mentioned work.