‘A must for fans of true crime, and those keen to learn more about China’s fascinating history’
– Murders of Old China
Murders of Old China, an Audible original true crime title, presents twelve true crime cases from early twentieth century China, studying these gripping stories to explore the turbulence and transformation taking place in the country during these decades.
Taking listeners from the modernising metropolis of Shanghai to the bandit-ridden hinterlands of Inner Mongolia, Murders of Old China is described as ‘a fascinating title which uses gripping true crime to shine a light on the hidden side of foreign society in China in the early 1900s.’
Paul French is a New York Times bestseller known for his award-winning books Midnight in Peking and City of Devils: A Shanghai Noir.
Murders of Old China was released exclusively on Audible on 4th December 2019 and I am delighted to be joining the tour today with a very special post written by Paul French so I do hope you enjoy!
Firstly though, let me tell you more about Murders of Old China.
[ About Murders of Old China ]
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 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 foreign society 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.
The Stories Aren’t Over
by Paul French
I’ve been writing true crime for over a decade now – magazine articles, for the newspaper supplements, short stories and two books, Midnight in Peking: How the Murder of a Young Englishwoman Haunted the Last Days of Old China (Penguin) and City of Devils: The Two Men Who Ruled the Underworld of Old Shanghai (Riverrun). All my work is set in China in the tumultuous first half of the twentieth century. So when Audible asked if I’d be interested in telling more old China true crime stories as an exclusive Original for them I jumped at the chance.
Of course, Audible gives you a great audience and audio is growing massively at the moment. But for me there was another compelling reason to do an exclusive audio project – my stories aren’t over. Every book I’ve published has brought people out of the woodwork – family members of murder victims who never knew what happened to their ancestors; others there at the time; people with alternative theories (usually intriguing as well as sometimes totally barmy). I once met an old man in his 90s who had long believed the murderer of his old school friend in China in the 1930s was one person he had liked when it was really another person entirely. The book brought him some comfort.
People often hold knowledge they don’t even know they have. An old lady in her late 80s once asked me at a book signing why I didn’t mention that one of the witnesses in a court case 70 years previously, when she as a teenager, owned the nightclub a murder took place in? The answer was simple – nobody knew that; it wasn’t written down anywhere. This lady had been walking around for 70 years with that piece of vital information in her head. My book unlocked it.
Sometimes it’s a problem with true crime. One irate reader has pursued me for years for publishing documents that proved her grandfather, a British diplomat, was racist, misogynist and incompetent and that he was demoted for it by the Foreign Office. She didn’t like that being out there I’m afraid. Another reader was shocked to find that one of her relatives was not all she had believed (no spoilers!) and had some very dodgy politics in World War Two. She was initially angry, but later decided to deal with it all by writing a book about her ancestor and tying to understand the times and what had happened. I helped where I could; a little awkwardly admittedly. Best of all I managed to tell a family, originally from Vienna and now living in England, what had really happened to one of their relatives who went to China in the 1920s and never came home. They’d never quite known the full story. It was a mystery in their family history solved.
And so, while I hope Murders of Old China contains a dozen interesting and compelling cases that will fascinate listeners, as well as shed some light on China’s past, they are inevitably works in progress. If past experience is any guide once word gets out, people listen, tell other people who also listen, then I’ll hopefully get some emails from the relatives of the victims, the cops, the judges and lawyers, the witnesses and, sometimes, from the relatives of the murderers
[ Bio ]
Paul French was born in Enfield, London and moved to Shanghai after studying Chinese at the City Literary Institute. 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.
Twitter ~ @chinarhyming