An American-born journalist and writer of both fiction and non-fiction, he is known for works such as China's Red Masters and A Kind of Treason. Many of his works are set in Asia; his 2005 novel, Cry Peace, takes place during the Korean War.
After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University, he received a diploma in the Chinese language from Yale University and subsequently traveled to Asia, where he worked as a journalist for many years.
He received an Edgar Allan Poe Special Award for his 1966 novel, A Kind of Treason.
He was born in New York; after traveling throughout Asia, he lived in both England and Italy. He married Ursula Rosemary Righter in 2003. Previously, he had been married to artist Moira Clarissa Brady, with whom he had two children.
He and Peter Arnett both studied at Harvard University.