“History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.”
— Mark Twain

Meyer Lansky’s Copy of Carl Crow…

Posted: January 8th, 2020 | No Comments »

This came up for auction recently, but i sadly missed it!! Meyer Lansky’s Personal Copy of “Master Kung – The Story of Confucius” by Carl Crow. The book also includes an envelope from The Berkeley-Carteret Hotel in Ashbury Park New Jersey Used By Lansky to take notes (his hobby was words). Plus a leter from the Lansky family authenticating it….

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Murders of Old China – An Audible Original

Posted: January 6th, 2020 | No Comments »

Just realised that I post about this everywhere but on my blog!! I spent a goodly portion of last year researching, writing and then recording this special commissioned project for Audible. It’s 12 murder cases in China between the early 1900s and the eve of the 1949 revolution. I’ve gone back and reinvestigated them all with some rather surprising new information…

Murders of Old China is an Audible Original – commissioned by them exclusively for Audible. You can buy it, but, if you’re a subscriber then you can use a credit to listen…and it’s narrated by me!!

Paul French (Midnight in Peking, City of Devils: A Shanghai Noir) dives into fifty years of murder and true crime across China and Hong Kong from the start of the twentieth century in this new Audible Original narrative non-fiction Murders of Old China. Drawing on two and a half decades of research, French explores a dozen gripping murder cases, taking listeners from warlord-wracked Beijing, through the mighty international city of Shanghai and on to the remote and bandit-infested hinterlands of the Tibetan border and Inner Mongolia.

Using new documentation, cross-referencing and what French calls ‘sleuthing by hindsight’, Murders of Old China takes a fresh look at these twelve cases, whisking listeners on a journey through the dangerous underbelly of old China and uncovering more of the country’s unique history.

Each true crime case offers new insights into the foreign community in China in the last days of the dying Qing Dynasty and the first decades of the Chinese Republic, shining a light on racial tensions and the criminal underworld, and querying the extent to which foreigners exploited the turmoil of the time. With a backdrop of war, imperialism and revolution, these stories provide an incredible insight into how modern China was formed, and the dark realities behind much of its recent past.

Narrated by French, and written in the style of the “American Noir” exemplified by Capote’s In Cold Blood, Murders of Old China is a must for fans of true crime, and those keen to learn more about China’s fascinating history.

Paul French was born in London and moved to Shanghai after studying Chinese. Paul spent nearly twenty years living and working in China, splitting time between Shanghai and Beijing. During this time, he worked as a journalist and book reviewer for a number of publications, researching the early twentieth century history of both cities, particularly the foreign communities that lived there.

French is known for his true crime literary non-fiction set in twentieth century China. His book Midnight in Peking was a New York Times bestseller, and won a number of prestigious awards including the CWA Gold Dagger for Non-Fiction and the Edgar Award for Best Fact Crime. Paul’s second literary non-fiction book City of Devils: A Shanghai Noir was a Kirkus Book of the Year.

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Mrs Miller, Missionary, Representing a Chinese Lady in her Boudoir

Posted: January 4th, 2020 | No Comments »

Spotted this in the window of an antique shop in St Albans a while back. ‘Mrs Miller, Missionary, Representing a Chinese Lady in her Boudoir’ by Marian Emily Dampier Terry. All i know of Ms. Terry is what is on the antique dealer’s card – born Ceylon (Sri Lanka) 1867, daughter of Lt-Col Frederick Stephen Terry. Her sister, Agnes Dampier Terry, apparrently exhibited at the RA Exhibition in London in 1911. Marian is noted as living in Cricklewood, London.

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Lafcadio Hearn in New Orleans

Posted: January 4th, 2020 | No Comments »

An interesting essay by S. Frederick Starr in a new collection New Orleans: A Literary History (edited by TR Johnson). It concerns the near decade Japan scholar Lafcadio Hearn spent in New Orleans from 1877, before his Japanese sojourn. The essay is interesting not just for more detail on Hearn’s pre-Japan background but his interactions on race in the city, including with immigrants from Manila.

Lafcadio Hearn – a couple of years after his New Orleans sojourn…
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Opium References in Popular Culture, the 2019 List

Posted: December 30th, 2019 | No Comments »

I’ve been spotting opium references in popular culture with interest for a few years now (2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013 & 2012) – just how opium keeps fascinating us…

My dopey 2019 started off with catching up with the new TV series of Picnic at Hanging Rock where both the mysterious Mrs Appleyard (Nathalie Dormer, below) and most of the school girls were pretty whacked out on laudanum throughout. Series 6 of Endeavour (that’s Inspector Morse in the 60s) got off to a good start with both opium being smoked and laudanum being drunk in 1969 – this being Oxford and Morse it all linked back to Lewis Carroll of course. Netflix’s The Highwaymen presented the intriguing historical fact that Bonnie Parker became a laudanum addict in her final few months before she and Clyde Barrow came face to face with the law and their machine guns.

A note to remember A Christmas Carol, as regimented by Stephen Knight (creator of Peaky Blinders – a show that is no stranger to an opium reference or two). Is Scrooge’s scary Christmas just one big frenzied opium dream?

In fiction opium was strangely absent from my reading this year – apart from the ever reliable Abir Mukherjee who had Sam Wyndham drying out from the Big O in Death in the East. There was also Cuban crime maestro Leonardo Padera’s Catch a Snake by the Tail, with Inspector Mario Conde investigating a murder in the Barrio Chino, the rundown Chinatown of Havana. Pedro Cuang is found hanging naked from a beam in the ceiling of his dingy room; opium is evidenced!

In non-fiction Lucy Inglis’s Milk of Paradise, a history of opium was published while Anne de Courcy’s Chanel’s Riviera had a good description of Cocteau’s opium smoking in Villefranche in the late 1920s.

And so into 2020 which, with the Trump, Johnson, Putin, Xi combo may well require some major amounts of opium to survive.

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Crime and the City 2019

Posted: December 29th, 2019 | No Comments »

Here’s all my Crime and the City columns uploaded to www.crimereads.com in 2019 – all available on http://crimereads.com – just use the search function or look under ‘reading lists’

Travel planning? here’s all my Crime & the City columns published on Crime Reads in 2019: Taipei, Naples, New Orleans, Jo’Burg, Helsinki, Bucharest, Montreal, Kingston, French Riviera, Athens, Oxford, Algiers, Dubai, Bali, Buenos Aires, KL, Madrid, the Hamptons, Budapest, Rangoon/Yangon, Berlin, Havana, New Delhi, Alaska…

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Christmas in Old Peking…

Posted: December 29th, 2019 | No Comments »

My South China Morning Post Magazine article on the old Legation Quarter Christmases of old is also available online as well as in the mag (see below)…

or: here

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Start the New Year with some Old China Photos…

Posted: December 27th, 2019 | No Comments »

If you’re not already do come follow me on instagram – oldshanghaipaul

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