In China's Six-Thousand Year History....

...there were countless Empresses, but only one female Emperor. And she didn't get there by being nice and sweet and nurturing. Her name was Wu Tse-tien. We call her the Iron Empress. And she was the actual grandmother of THE COURT OF THE LION'S Emperor Minghuang. Pitted against her is another historical denizen of the T'ang, Magistrate Ti Ren-chieh, known to millions of readers through Robert Van Gulik's popular series the Judge Dee mysteries. In our book, Dee is restored to his rightful time, and as he did in real life, reinstates the legitimate dynastic succession after the Empress Wu's depradations. First published in the U.S. as DECEPTION—A Novel of Murder and Madness in T'ang China (1993), the book went on to phenomenal success in Europe. We had originally wanted to title the book IRON EMPRESS, but the publisher, concerned about possible confusion with Hugo Young’s 1990 biography of Margaret Thatcher, THE IRON LADY, nixed it. When the German publisher Bertelsmann bought the rights, they went ahead and translated our original title into German: DIE EISERNE KAISERIN, which rings with power whether one speaks German or not. The book was a runaway bestseller there, as it was in France (L’IMPERATRICE DES MENSONGES) and Spain (ENGAGÑO).  There was a Dutch edition, and even one in Bulgarian. 

"If P.D. James and Umberto Eco collaborated on a novel set in T'ang China," said Sterling Seagrave, "it might be like this." Said the Sunday SF CHronicle-Examiner: "A skittish dance on the razor's edge of paranoia."

Book One of the T'ang Trilogy


...with her lookalike mother, Madame Yang, her senior by a mere fourteen years, Wu spares nothing and no one in her ascent from the rank of mere court concubine, starting with the murder of her own infant daughter and then the sexual conquest of the T’ang Dynasty Emperor Kaotsung. Mediocre son of a great father, Kaotsung is always being compared to the late Emperor Taitsung, and always coming up short. Before his death, the father, fearing that his son was perhaps not prime Emperor material, conferred authority on six elderly trusted advisors to represent Taitsung from beyond the grave, to watch over young Kaotsung until he should mature. The wrinkled and aged Council of Six are not Taitsung’s only legacy—Kaotsung  also inherits the smooth, fragrant and delectable Lady Wu, once a favored consort of his father’s. A lucky man! Or is he? And who will help poor weak Kaotsung find the strength he needs to be a great Emperor? And who, again with the help of Madame Yang, will not allow sentimentality to impede her in the removal of six extremely irritating, tiresome and meddlesome old men who should have been dead long ago?

Meanwhile, in the gritty port city of Yangchou, far away from the Imperial court, another historical denizen of the T'ang, Magistrate Ti Ren-chieh (known to millions of readers through Robert Van Gulik's popular series the Judge Dee mysteries, but here restored to his rightful era), is obsessed with a series of mysterious murders. He, like other rational Confucianists devoted to empirical thought and the eradication of ignorance, is dismayed by an incursion in the Empire of what he sees as a dark, foreign, cultish, backward, superstitious influence. As he cracks these baffling cases, his investigations take him far from the light of rational Confucianism and deep into the shadows of charlatan Buddhism, where hucksters, poseurs and opportunists abound. Little does he imagine where his perseverance will deliver him.

Aided by her mother and eventually by a rogue Tibetan monk-magician, Hsueh Huai-i, who is also her lover, the Empress Wu overcomes the final barrier to ultimate power: her gender. The challenge of Dee’s career arrives in the form of the bloody hoofprints of a horse on the shining wooden floors of the mansions of slaughtered wealthy families in the capital city of Ch’angan. Clues hidden in Buddhist sutras lead Dee into the arcane world of demons, saints and prophecies, and ultimately to the palace, the Empress herself, and an extraordinary showdown with Hsueh Huai-i.


"Wonderful...compelling...a hard-driven saga of good and evil without the car chases. Enough beheadings, poisonings and back-stabbings, both literal and figurative, to bloody a whole series of books..."

--San Francisco Chronicle

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08.03 | 09:51

Checking whether the domment replies have been fixed

12.02 | 19:49

I've always held a special pace in my heart for your the "Court of the Li...

18.11 | 00:53

Thank you for the kind words, Mr. Byrnes. It was indeed a shock, ...

14.11 | 14:10

Terrible shocking news. R I P, Mr. Altieri. Condolences to Mrs. Altieri , yo...