In Xanadu did Kubla Khan A stately pleasure dome decree Kublai Khan lives on in the popular imagination thanks to these two lines of poetry by Coleridge. But the true story behind this legend is even more fantastic than the poem would have us believe. He inherited the second largest land empire in history from his grandfather, Genghis Khan. He promptly set about extending this into the biggest empire the world has ever seen, extending his rule from China to Iraq, from Siberia to Afghanistan. His personal domain covered sixty-percent of all Asia, and one-fifth of the worlds land area. The West first learnt of this great Khan through the reports of Marco Polo. Kublai had not been born to rule, but had clawed his way to leadership, achieving power only in his 40s. He had inherited Genghis Khans great dream of world domination. But unlike his grandfather he saw China and not Mongolia as the key to controlling power and turned Genghis unwieldy empire into a federation. Using Chinas great wealth, coupled with his shrewd and subtle government, he created an empire that was the greatest since the fall of Rome, and shaped the modern world as we know it today. He gave China its modern-day borders and his legacy is that countrys resurgence, and the superpower China of tomorrow.
"The Lion's Share", just published on Kindle, is a new edition of a thriller written years ago about the 'real' - in quotes, i.e. fictional - fate of Haile Selassie, Emperor of Ethiopia.
Since writing the original, I have focused mainly on non-fiction, exploring interests in Central Asia and turning-points in written communication. I like to mix history, narrative and personal experience, exploring the places I write about. It brings things to life, and it's also probably to do with escaping a secure, rural childhood in Kent. I did German and French at Oxford, and two postgraduate courses, History and Philosophy of Science at Oxford and Mongolian at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London (to join an expedition that never happened).
After working in journalism and publishing, I turned to writing, with occasional forays into film, TV and radio. A planned trilogy on three major revolutions in writing has resulted in two books, "Alpha Beta" (on the alphabet) and "The Gutenberg Revolution" (on printing), both republished in 2009. The third, on the origin of writing, is on hold, because it depends on access to Iraq. (There's a fourth revolution, the Internet, about which many others can write far better than me).
My interest in Mongolia revived in 1996 with a trip to the Gobi. "Gobi: Tracking the Desert" was the first book on the region since those by the American explorer Roy Chapman Andrew in the 1920's. As anyone quickly discovers in Mongolia, everything leads back to Genghis. The result was "Genghis Khan: Life, Death and Resurrection," now in 20 languages, and (from 2011) in a new, revised edition. Luckily, there's more to Mongol studies than Genghis. "Attila the Hun" and "Kublai Khan" followed.
Another main theme in Mongol history is the ancient and modern relationship between Mongolia and China. "The Terracotta Army" was followed by "The Great Wall". "The Leadership Secrets of Genghis Khan" (combining history and modern leadership theory) and "Xanadu: Marco Polo and Europe's Discovery of the East" pretty much exhausted Inner Asian themes for me.
So recently I have become interested in Japan. For "Samurai: The Last Warrior", I followed in the footsteps of Saigo Takamori, the real Last Samurai, published in February 2011. After that, more fiction, perhaps.
I live in north London, inspired by a multi-talented, strong and beautiful family - wife, children and grand-children.