Robert Elegant was born in New York City in 1928. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Pennsylvania at eighteen and, after voluntary US Army service, studied Japanese and advanced Chinese at Yale and Columbia. In 1951, while he was at Columbia, his first book, China’s Red Masters, was published to wide acclaim. He arrived in Asia as a Pulitzer traveling fellow and became one of the youngest American reporters covering the Korean War, scooping the world in 1953 with his exclusive report that an armistice had been agreed upon.
Elegant’s subsequent career included stints as Asia bureau chief for Newsweek and columnist for the Los Angeles Times. Both Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger consulted him personally before Nixon made the decision to go to Beijing and reopen relations with China. He has published seventeen books of both fiction and nonfiction, most centered on China. A recipient of several major press awards, his books have been widely translated and many have become bestsellers; he also won an Edgar Award for a political thriller set in Vietnam. Elegant lives with his wife, Rosemary; shih-tzu dogs; and cats in Umbria, Italy, where he is working on more books; writers, he says, never retire.