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

The Old Bund – Jardine Matheson’s Foyer…

Posted: January 27th, 2020 | No Comments »

A nice shot of the old foyer of the Jardine Matheson building at No.27 the Shanghai Bund . The building is not in bad shape – it’s got a Rolex showroom on the ground floor now for people without much original taste in wristwatches and had an extra floor added in the early 1980s for some bizarre reason….

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Talking Murders of Old China, true crime & research on the Writer’s Routine Podcast…

Posted: January 24th, 2020 | No Comments »

I recently recorded an episode of the Writer’s Routine podcast (check it out as it has some seriously heavy hitters on there and loads of good interviews). Mine’s perhaps a little different as i’m talking about my Audible Oirignal Murders of Old China, China writing in general, true crime and research methods as well as the specificities of writing for audio.

Click here to listen

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China’s Wartime Road to Russia – Ulan Bator to Chengdu…

Posted: January 23rd, 2020 | No Comments »

In 1938 it was announced that, with the Burma Road still pretty basic, and the old military supply road that ran from Ulan Bator in Mongolia to Kalgan (Zhangjiakou) cut by the Japanese invasion, 1,000,000 labourers were at work on a new military road to unite Nationalist China and Soviet Russia.

According to the map above the new road would run from UB to Lanchow (Lanzhou) in Gansu and then down to Chengtu (Chengdu) in Sichuan. Not sure it ever got finished though as it was ultiamtely the Burma Road that would become China’s major supply line.

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A Little More of Sir Philip Sassoon’s Port Lymne…

Posted: January 22nd, 2020 | No Comments »

Following on from yesterday’s pictures of Port Lymne – here’s a few more…

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Philip Sassoon’s Port Lymne

Posted: January 21st, 2020 | No Comments »

I blogged some time back about Damian Collins’s biography of Sir Philip Sassoon, Charmed Life: The Phenomenal World of Sir Philip Sassoon. Philip, who died young just before the Second World War, is sadly largely forgotten now but was the most interesting of the section of the Bagdhad/Shanghai Sassoon clan that went to England. Anyway, I recently visited Philip Sassoon’s Kent estate Port Lymne, which is now the wildlife park started by John Aspinal. Anyway, a few photos of the house here…there are more pictures of the house today and back in its 1930s heyday on my instagram feed (oldshanghaipaul).

the main house
Sassoon’s initials in his garden…

the gatehouse to the estate
the gatehouse to the estate

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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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