Alex Rutherford is the pen name of Diana Preston and her husband Michael. Both studied at Oxford University reading History and English respectively. They are keen travellers and have now clocked up visits to over 140 of the world’s countries.
Their greatest love is India where they’ve spent at least a year of their lives. Their research into the building of the Taj Mahal for their non-fiction book ‘A Teardrop on the Cheek of Time’ (the story of the Taj Mahal- one of the greatest love stories of all time), led them to explore the early history of the dynasty which built the Taj – the Moghuls. To help get inside the heads of the founders of the Moghul dynasty for their fiction quintet ‘Empire of the Moghul’, they read all the chronicles of the time.
Over the years they’ve also retraced the steps of the Moghuls from the Ferghana Valley in Kyrgyzstan – home to the first Moghul emperor, the boy-king Babur – to Iran and to the blue domes and minarets of Samarkand in Uzbekistan, across the red deserts to the Oxus River, over the Hindu Kush to Kabul and Afghanistan and down through the Khyber Pass to the plains of northern India.
In fact, apart from one occasion when they were stranded on a remote island off the coast of Borneo and forced to hide from pirates, some of their hairiest moments when travelling have been when researching for their non-fiction books.
While working on their book about Captain Scott and the race for the South Pole, ‘A First Rate Tragedy’ (a brilliant account of the tragic adventure of survival in the frozen antartic which has been updated and revised to coincide with the 100th anniversary of Scott’s death), the Russian research vessel on which they were sailing into Antarctica’s Ross Sea was nearly lost in one of the worst storms in Antarctic history with 140 knot winds (over 240 kilometres per hour) and 20 metre high waves. The life rafts washed overboard and the superstructure iced up like the inside of an old fridge, putting the ship in danger of capsizing.
On another occasion while researching for their book on one of their favourite characters, the buccaneer-naturalist William Dampier, ‘A Pirate of Exquisite Mind’ (A rip-roaring swashbuckler about a forgotten 17th century English hero who, starting as a poor, piratical buccaneer, became a famed round-the-world explorer,) they set out in his footsteps to cross the Darien Isthmus in Panama with local Indian guides. They had to dodge FARC guerrillas, Colombian paramilitaries and the deadly fer de lance snake, in the latter case wading waist high in rivers – their guide claimed snakes can’t bite and swim at the same time!’
To date, there are five books in the fictional Empire of the Moghul Series:
Raiders from the North
The mighty Empire of the Moghuls burst out of Central Asia into India in the sixteenth century. The first in a compelling new series of novels, Raiders from the North tells the largely unknown story of the rise and fall of the Mogul dynasties.
It is 1494 when the ruler of Ferghana dies in an extraordinary accident. His only son, Babur, faces a seemingly impossible challenge. Babur is determined to live up to the example of his legendary ancestor, Tamburlaine, whose conquests transformed the face of the earth from Delhi to the Mediterranean, from wealthy Persia to the wildernesses along the Volga. But Babur is dangerously young to inherit a kingdom.
Before Babur can summon enough warlords to declare him the rightful king, plots against his crown, even his life, are hatching. And soon, he will discover that even the bravest and most fearless leader can be betrayed. With the wisest of advisers and most courageous of warriors by his side, Babur can achieve a great destiny and found an empire in India, but every step of his journey will be fraught with danger.
Brothers At War
1530, Agra, Northern India. Humayun, the newly-crowned second Moghul Emperor, is a fortunate man.
His father, Babur, has bequeathed him wealth, glory and an empire which stretches a thousand miles south from the Khyber pass; he must now build on his legacy, and make the Moghuls worthy of their forebear, Tamburlaine, but, unbeknownst to him, Humayun is already in grave danger.
His half-brothers are plotting against him; they doubt that he has the strength, the will, the brutality needed to command the Moghul armies and lead them to still-greater glories. Perhaps they are right. Soon Humayun will be locked in a terrible battle: not only for his crown, not only for his life, but for the existence of the very empire itself.
Ruler of the World
The great Moghul emperor, Akbar, is leader of a triumphant dynasty that contained the seeds of its own destruction.
Akbar, ruler of a sixth of the world’s people, colossally rich and utterly ruthless, was a contemporary of Elizabeth I, but infinitely more powerful. He extended his empire over much of Asia, skillfully commanding tens of thousands of men, elephants, and innovative technology. And despite the unimaginable bloodshed that resulted from it, his rule was based on universal religious tolerance.
However, Akbar’s home life was more complicated. He defied family, nobles, and mullahs to marry a beautiful Rajput princess, whose people he had conquered; but she hated Akbar and turned Salim, his eldest son, against him.
What’s more, as any Moghul prince could inherit his father’s crown and become emperor, his sons were brought up to be intensely competitive and suspicious of each other: to see each other as rivals for the greatest prize of all.
As Salim grew to manhood, the relationship between father and son became tainted by rebellion and competition to be the greatest Moghul of them all.
The Tainted Throne
Agra, India, 1606. Jahangir, the triumphant Moghul Emperor and ruler of most of the Indian subcontinent, is doomed. No amount of wealth and ruthlessness can protect him from his sons’ desire for power. The glorious Moghul throne is worth any amount of bloodshed and betrayal; once Jahangir raised troops against his own father; now he faces a bloody battle with Khurram, the ablest of his warring sons.
Worse is to come. Just as the heirs of Timur the Great share intelligence, physical strength and utter ruthlessness, they also have a great weakness for wine and opium. Once Jahangir is tempted, his talented wife, Mehrunissa, is only too willing to take up the reins of empire. And with Khurram and his half-brothers each still determined to be their father’s heir, the savage battle for the Moghul throne will be more ferocious than even Timur could have imagined…
The Serpent’s Tooth
The Moghul emperors are still bloodthirsty and entirely ruthless; they control a quarter of the world’s population and have wealth beyond imagining. But this is the final flowering of a doomed empire and, while Shah Jahan mourns his dead wife and obsesses over the Taj Mahal, her monument, his son Aurangzeb is planning to take his father’s throne, by any means necessary.
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