James Waterson is a graduate of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London and received his Master’s Degree from the University of Dundee. He travelled and worked in the United States and China for a number of years but now calls Tuscany home and Dubai 'the office'. He has, at various times, been an actor in Chinese movies, a radio host, an oil rig worker, and a university lecturer.
Defending Heaven, his 2013 history of China's long resistance to the Mongol invasions, is his fourth book and he was inspired to write it by an after dinner chat with Jung Chang at the 2009 Emirates Airlines International Festival of Literature in Dubai.
Sacred Swords, published in 2010, completed a trilogy of books covering the mediaeval Middle East and he likes to think that the idea for a history of jihad in the Holy Land during the Crusades period, came to him during a quiet moment in the courtyard of Damascus' Great Mosque.
The Ismaili Assassins, which grew from his travels in Iran was published in 2008 and has been praised for de-mystifying the sect and yet making them even more intriguing. It has become the basis for a forthcoming TV show titled ‘Ancient Dark Ops’.
His first book, The Knights of Islam, a history of the slave soldiers and sultans of Islam was started on a nearly dead laptop propped up on an ironing board in Shanghai, added to in a London bedsit and completed on a building site masquerading as a house in the Appenines; eventually being published in 2007. It has become a standard undergraduate text in both the United States and in the UK.
Video clip: Ancient Black Ops | Yesterday Channel