The Emperor’s Pool is the provisional title of a contemporary political thriller I’ve just finished and which I’m revising with my agent’s help. Set in Beijing and Washington DC, the novel is around one fifth longer than its predecessors at just over 100,000 words.

The action mostly takes place in and around an indoor swimming pool in Beijing’s government complex, the Zhongnanhai, the pool where Mao Zedong humiliated Nikita Khrushchev in 1958.

My ‘pitch’:

Chinese Communist leader Qin is dying. He’s determined to secure his legacy by fulfilling a pledge made every year since the 1949 Revolution: the unification of China, and that means the conquest of democratic Taiwan. Standing in Qin’s way is an unlikely and initially reluctant opponent: a young American linguist named Ava Shute.

The idea’s simple enough, but the execution proved rather complex. Fortunately, I stumbled on a wealth of material thanks to Ian Easton, research fellow at the Project 2049 Institute and author of The Chinese Invasion Threat: Taiwan’s Defence and American Strategy in Asia (Eastbridge Books, Manchester, UK, 2019) as well as a book by Kerry Brown and Kalley Wu Tzu-hui, The Trouble With Taiwan: History, the United States and a Rising China (Zed Books, London, 2019). There were several other published sources I relied on for background research, and they’ll be listed in the acknowledgements at the end of the novel.

A friend of mine fluent in Mandarin, Cantonese and Japanese was a huge help. He gave generously of his time to assist with Chinese expressions as well as titbits of political rumour and gossip on the mainland. He produced scores of ideas and suggestions, but because he’s located well within range of the ’relevant department’, he can’t be named for fear of putting him and his family in danger.

I owe him my grateful thanks.

I had fun writing the Qin chapters. After all, we know so little about China’s paramount leaders and their private lives. Essentially, I was Qin for the duration – a bully enjoying absolute power without accountability, self-indulgent in matters of sex and food, quite ruthless, too, believing as he does in the march of history, more than willing to sanction the taking of life and even doing so personally when his mercurial temper gets the better of him. He’s a murderous narcissist and sociopath, unrestrained by the Rule of Law or the norms of good governance regardless of Party ideology. Not that we’re in danger of running short of populist leaders of this type, unfortunately, East or West, capitalist or Communist.

Even if the copious military and intelligence details aren’t to the reader’s liking, the novel should still be sufficiently entertaining through to the dénouement. That’s the intention. Let me know if you think it works – or not – if and when you get around to reading it. My agent will probably start submitting it to editors sometime in March.

If you do enjoy it, please leave a rating and a few words on Amazon, Goodreads and/or bookseller sites; it really does help.

John Fullerton
February 2022

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