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."

April 19: "What you see first, after the starting gun's crack, is a column of bobbing runners, thousands of them, surging downhill..."

Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch is the winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. James Parker calls this Dickensian coming-of-age novel "an enveloping…

advertisement
Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
Poems That Make Grown Men Cry

And women too.  Luminaries from Colin Firth to Nick Cave and Jonathan Franzen chose the poems that bring them to tears, and the result is a stunning collection of poignant verse from writers like Auden, Whitman, Bishop, Larkin, Neruda and many others.  Warning: choking-up hazard.

The King of Pain

Trapped beneath his entertainment system, reality TV mastermind Rick Salter reflects on his life and tries to piece together the events of the previous evening. Seth Kaufman’s romp is an outrageous meditation on pain and entertainment in a deranged world in which the two are often interchangeable.

The Good Inn

Frank Black, frontman for the Pixies, has written a transgressive historical fiction with shades of Thomas Pynchon (focused as it is on the history of explosives and cinematic pornography), all set in a hallucinatory Edwardian Europe.