Paul French

The author of Midnight in Peking on masterpieces of true crime writing.



Paul French's Midnight in Peking tells the true story of an ex-pat's murder in late 1930s China as WWII looms. This week, he points us to three books "that prove that 'true crime' can be among the most compelling literature."


Books by Paul French





The Devil in the White City

By Erik Larson


"A great literary true crime book takes you into a place and a time where bad things happened and immerses you completely. Larson skilfully interweaves the true tales of how Chicago staged the 1893 World's Fair, and how Dr. H. H. Holmes, a serial killer, lured his victims to their death in his elaborately constructed 'Murder Castle' during the Fair. Fair to say 'the best of times, the worst of times.' Larson's ability to switch seamlessly between the struggle of Chicago's boosters to stage a show that would amaze the world and put their city on the map and the horrors occurring just around the corner that showed the dark underbelly of America's second city is masterful."



Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

By John Berendt


"No literary true crime work can succeed without those characters that prove that truth is invariably stranger than fiction -- Berendt's accused Savannah antiques dealer Jim Williams was one such. Berendt also got the wonderful drag queen The Lady Chablis to act as his Greek chorus. For success you also need a stunning setting and Savannah delivers marvelously that old Southern Gothic that drips atmosphere along with a hot summer sweat. With Berendt I share that fascination with 'midnight' as a concept -- that time when good turns to bad, when safety turns to danger. There are few books so good they've made me get on a plane, cross the Atlantic, and check into a hotel just to soak up some Savannah humidity for myself!"



Blood on the Altar

By Tobias Jones


"When Truman Capote wrote In Cold Blood and, coincidentally, invented the literary true crime genre, he commented that it wasn't a book about murder but about a town: Holcomb, Kansas. Tobias Jones has written several nonfiction books and then several detective novels all set in, what is obviously, his beloved Italy. Blood on the Altar is the true tale of a teenager from the Italian village of Potenza who went missing in 1993. The case took nearly 20 years to solve, in which time her family faced corrupt church officials, organized crime, and official disinterest. It was only when a housewife, a thousand miles away in England, was brutally murdered that the horrible truth was revealed. Justice was eventually served, but it's small-town Italy that lingers afterwards."

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Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
In the Light of What We Know

Zia Haider Rahman's mystery of a brilliant Bangladeshi mathematician's past barrels through the Ivy League, London high finance, and spy-haunted Afghanistan in a page-turning tale of exile, intrigue and the price of friendship. A Discover Great New Writers selection.

The People's Platform

Once touted as the foundation for tomorrow's digital democracy, the Internet is increasingly ruled by a few corporate giants, while millions of contributors till its fields for free. Astra Taylor looks at why the web has failed to deliver a communitarian cyberscape, and offers a compelling case for restoring its original vision.

A Private Venus

Dubbed "the Italian Simenon," Giorgio Scerbanenco (1911-1969) began his crime-writing career with books set in the USA, but quickly shifted scene closer to home, the city of Milan.  In this adventure, appearing in English for the first time, his underdog hero Dr. Duca Lamberti finds himself in the middle of a seedy, scantily clad criminal racket, where the presence of an outsider could result in death.