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

Good Morning America – & So We Begin – City of Devils Comes to Elliot Bay Books in Seattle next Monday

Posted: July 5th, 2018 | No Comments »

Apologies – the next couple of weeks are going to be a bit hectic as on book tour and this blog might be a bit crammed with US events…but then it’ll be back to the good stuff of books, past lives and old buildings in August….

So, let’s kick things off on Monday in Seattle at the fabulous Elliot Bay Books…..if you do come along please do come and say hello….frankly I’m getting there early to browse!!

Date: 
Monday, July 9, 2018 – 7:00pm
Location:
The Elliott Bay Book Company
1521 Tenth Avenue
Seattle, WA 98122
City of Devils:

By the New York Times bestselling author of Midnight in Peking–winner of both the Edgar Award for Best Fact Crime and the CWA Gold Dagger for Non-Fiction–comes rags-to-riches tale of two self-made men set against a backdrop of crime and vice in the sprawling badlands of Shanghai.

Shanghai, 1930s; it was a haven for outlaws from all over the world: a place where pasts could beforgotten, fascism and communism outrun, names invented, and fortunes made–and lost.

“Lucky” Jack Riley was the most notorious of those outlaws. An ex-U.S. Navy boxing champion, he escaped from prison and rose to become the Slots King of Shanghai. “Dapper” Joe Farren–a Jewishboy who ed Vienna’s ghetto–ruled the nightclubs. His chorus lines rivalled Ziegfeld’s.

In 1940, Lucky Jack and Dapper Joe bestrode the Shanghai Badlands like kings, while all aroundthe Solitary Island was poverty, starvation, and war. They thought they ruled Shanghai, but the cityhad other ideas. This is the story of their rise to power, their downfall, and the trail of destruction leftin their wake. Shanghai was their playground for a flickering few years, a city where for a fleeting momenteven the wildest dreams could come true.

About the Author


PAUL FRENCH was born in London, educated there and in Glasgow, and has lived and worked in Shanghai for many years. His book Midnight in Peking was a New York Times Bestseller, a BBC Radio 4 Book of the Week, and will be made into an international mini-series by Kudos Film and Television, the UK creators of Broadchurch and Life on Mars.

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Opium and Pearl of the Orient Soaps

Posted: July 4th, 2018 | No Comments »

You can always rely on France for some excellently named soaps…what mkore could one want than opium in the Pearl of the Orient…

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City of Devils – US Book Tour, July 2018

Posted: June 26th, 2018 | No Comments »

I’ll be criss-crossing the United States for a couple of weeks in July talking about City of Devils, old Shanghai, gangsters and showgirls…a few old friends coming to moderate at some events too….If you’re in any of these towns please do come along and say hello…

07/09/18    Seattle, WA – ELLIOTT BAY, event (7pm)

07/10/18    Portland, OR – POWELLS, event (7:30pm) (moderator – Bill Lascher, author of Eve of a Hundred Midnights)

07/11/18    San Fran, CA– BOOK PASSAGE (Ferry Building) / event (6pm)

07/12/18    Scottsdale, AZ – POISONED PEN / event, (7pm)

07/13/18    New Orleans, LA – OCTAVIA BOOKS / event (6pm)

07/14/18    Baltimore – IVY BOOKSHOP’s café location BIRD IN HAND / event (7pm)

07/15/18    Washington DC – POLITICS & PROSE / event (5pm)

07/16/18    Arlington, VA – ONE MORE PAGE, event (7pm) (moderator – Scott Tong, former Shanghai correspondent for APR Marketplace & author of A Village with My Name)

07/20/18    Long Island, NY – BOOK HAMPTON, event (5PM)

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Comic China Representing Common Ground, 1890–1945

Posted: June 25th, 2018 | No Comments »

Wendy Gan’s Comic China investigates the circumstances and motivations of cross-cultural humor. How do works that trade in laughter shape our understanding of Western discourses about China? Is humor meant to be inclusive or exclusive? Does it protect or challenge the status quo? Gan suggests that the simple, straightforward laugh may actually be a far more intricate negotiation of power relations.

Gan unpacks texts by authors who had little real contact with China as well as writers whose proximity to China influenced their representations. Looking beyond the familiar canon of serious modernist texts and the Yellow Peril classics of popular fiction, Gan analyzes turn-of-the-twentieth-century musical comedies set in the Far East, Ernest Bramah’s chinoiserie-inspired tales, and interwar travel writing. She also considers the comic works of the missionary Arthur Henderson Smith, the former Maritime Customs Officer J.O.P. Bland, and the Shanghai journalist and advertising man Carl Crow.

Though it includes humor that is less than complimentary to the Chinese, Comic China reminds us that laughter is tied to our common humanity. Gan navigates the humor used in comic depictions ultimately to find, not superiority or ridicule, but common ground.

“What is really exciting about Comic China is the exemplary contribution that its thoroughgoing sinological expertise and literary scholarship make to this emergent interdisciplinary field. Carefully structured in its chronology, Gan’s book concentrates on a variety of publications that indicate or reflect the shift in Sino-West relations across the period. In an evenhanded and measured tone, Gan draws on less familiar texts and reorients our approach to others.”
Anne Witchard, Reader in English Studies in the Department of English, Linguistics and Cultural Studies at the University of Westminster and author of England’s Yellow Peril: Sinophobia and the Great War

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Talking of Suzhou – Back in 2002

Posted: June 22nd, 2018 | No Comments »

Talking of the calmness of Suzhou yesterday, but the rather sad loss of many gates and some longtang, I found these pictures taken in 2002 (sorry, due to moves, floods, and whatever I have very few pre-digital hard copy pictures to scan in)….

The almost total loss of the few longtang in Suzhou should of course make the preservation of those in Shanghai all the most urgent and precious…though that is not sadly the case; in fact quite the reverse – it seems total extinction of the architectural form is the only end result.

canals just pre-clean up – some of the waterside buildings were lost

An example of Suzhou longtang – slated for demolition in 2002 and so long gone now

entry gate to a Suzhou longtang – in the process of being demolished in 2002

(i actually tried to buy the carved stones over the arch – the demolition crew were ready to do a deal, but a local CCP cadre arrived with some cops and insisted I f**k off sharpish)

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Sleepy Suzhou After All These Years

Posted: June 21st, 2018 | No Comments »

Apropos of nothing I was in Suzhou recently. Of course I’ve always liked Suzhou and saw it go through the massive upheavals of the 1990s and 200os – SIP, New Area, subway going in etc. It looked then like old town might go – indeed much did go including some lovely parts of the city wall and gates as well as some of the only longtang housing outside of Shanghai. Still, with construction calmed down a bit and the old town area a little less hectic in terms of population and traffic I thought it had become decidedly pleasant. Now let’s hope they just leave it alone!!

It was a rather dank day when I visited recently – not good for photography, but did make the streets rather deserted…

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The Bulldozing of Old Shanghai – The End Huangpi Lu South

Posted: June 20th, 2018 | 4 Comments »

I made a point yesterday about the tragic destruction of the former Rue du Consulat (Jinping Lu), the last fully arcaded street in the former French Concession. Tragically that is not all the destruction that is occurring in the old Frenchtown – Huangpi Lu (Rue Bayle) and Hefei Lu (Rue du Pére Froc) are also being bulldozed. This is also incredibly sad – the buildings were all structurally sound, many had been refurbished on both sides of the Huangpi Lu and it was a genuine community. The eastern side of the street is coming down; the western side is plaqued as a “Model Quarter”, but it’s future cannot be assured now of course and plaques mean nothing in Shanghai. An especial tragedy is the loss of the corner structure on the junction of Huangpi and Hefei – these marvellous (and unique to Shanghai) corner buildings are now a seriously endangered species across the former concessions.

As I mentioned yesterday it is upsetting yet important to archive the philistine destruction of a once great city’s architecture. At some point I am convinced young Shanghainese will gaze around their architecturally bland and soulless city and wonder why it had to be trashed. There’s no going back of course, Shanghai is very close to finished architecturally now – a few stand out buildings and a Bund are not representative of anything if no ordinary houses, lanes, retail shops, fire stations, cop shops, schools etc exist. They’re like the dinosaur in London’s Natural History Museum, impressive but without any perspective.

It’s also important to challenge the still off-heard comment (at least a lot of people say it to me at events) that no further destruction will occur in Frenchtown, that the Party, the government and their developer cronies know the tourism and heritage value of the former French Concession. Sadly that is utterly untrue. The horrific faux heritage of Xintiandi shows that; the destruction of the Jian Ye Li shikumen cluster to create a luxury Capella hotel shows that; the bulldozing of Jinling Lu shows that and now the bulldozing of Huangpi Lu/Hefei Lu shows that.

The pictures below show the boarded up stretch of Huangpi Lu and the final picture shows the junction with Hefei Lu facing east indicating that the entire enormous block is slated to go….

 

 

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The Loss of Shanghai’s Rue du Consulat (Jinling Lu)

Posted: June 19th, 2018 | No Comments »

If I start to write about the Rue du Consulat in Shanghai’s former French Concession, it’s beautiful colonades, the wonderful shops and apartment buildings, how in Shanghai’s brutal summers that street was a sanctuary of shade and how now that street is being totally destroyed I’ll just cry. So here’s a link to Katya Knyazeva’s history of the street and a few pictures (because we must archive the philistine vandalism and destruction of a city’s heritage too as well as celebrate its past architectural glory) of the street as it comes to its final end….

Dreams of Boulevards des Arcadiens by Katya Knyazeva

And that dream now….(well late March when I was last there)

The shuttered shops of Jinling Lu

The side streets running south down towards Laoximen (also of course being flattened) also boarded up

the corner roads off Jinling Lu now blocked off as whole destruction of the rear of the apartment buildings over the street level shops continues apace

many of the rears of the buildings are already gone leaving only frontages now – the street can never now be restored

and here the total and utter eradication of Shanghai’s built heritage…

 

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