Every successful author needs to have his next book ready before the previous book is out. Celebrity author Paul French of Midnight in Pekinghas two in the making, while he is touring to promote his latest book, he tells The Scotsman.
He is fascinated by Old China hands like Werner (who had been in China for half a century when Pamela was murdered) and brings his vanished world back to vivid, pulsating life. But it is the storytelling flair that marks Midnight in Peking so highly above the run-of-the-mill true crime stories: with its false leads and twists, and the care taken never to reveal anything ahead of his protagonists, it sucks the reader in like the best fiction.
Exceptionally, this is a story that also casts light on the kind of characters who normally live only in darkened margins of history: White Russian gangsters, half-Korean brothel madams, hermaphrodite cabaret stars, prostitutes on the run from the authorities.
It is these demi-mondaines who will be the subjects of his next two books. First, there will be a short book giving more of the back stories of some of the shadier characters in Midnight in Peking. Then, he’ll switch to the city he knows best: Shangai. “It’s going to be girls, gangs, jazz, sex, the badlands, casinos. Everyone has an image of the Shanghai between 1939 and 1941. It was the Chicago of the East, a real wild town. You’ve got to imagine the whole international concession is surrounded by the Japanese but they didn’t invade until after Pearl Harbour in 1941. Until then, there’s this wild party going on in the Bund (European central area) while outside the Chinese are fighting for survival. Inside the Bund, the foreigners can’t escape and there is no effective policing, but they all have a lot of money – and that’s a hugely combustible mix. Even if you don’t get all of the history, I hope you’ll get a sense of a world falling apart, as in Isherwood’s Cabaret. Everyone knows things are going to be bad – though nobody can imagine quite how bad they actually will be – so they party like there’s no tomorrow. “
Paul French is a speaker at the China Speakers Bureau. Do you need him at your meeting or conference? Do get in touch or fill in our speakers’ request form.
- Midnight in Peking – review (chinaherald.net)
- Did Paul French solve a 75-year old murder? – Time review (chinaherald.net)
- Paul French’ “Midnight in Peking” to become TV drama (chinaherald.net)
- Foreigners do not learn from mistakes in China – Paul French (chinaherald.net)
- The year of the squeezed middle class – Paul French (chinaspeakersbureau.info)
- Making money in groceries is tough – Paul French (chinaspeakersbureau.info)