Monday, April 9, 2012

Paul French

Paul French's new novel is Midnight in Peking.

From a Q & A with the author at the book's website:

You have written a number of books before this, but Midnight in Peking is your first foray into a more literary style. Why did you choose to write this book in this way, and how does it affect the story?

I’m story led – the story dictates the style as far as I’m concerned. In the past the stories I’ve picked and the characters I’ve written about have dictated to me a (hopefully) fairly casual but definitely traditional non-fiction style. At its heart Midnight in Peking is a murder story and so I thought why not use the conventions and stylistic traits of crime fiction, particularly the noir crime fiction that is now so symbolic of the 1930s and 1940s, the same time period as Midnight in Peking.

Additionally I was thinking of books that had used literary devices to both tell dramatic true stories in ways that really convey the mood and sensibilities of the time and bring real characters to life better than might be possible in straight non-fiction. I’m thinking of creative non-fiction books that I love such as James Fox’s White Mischief about the still unsolved 1941 murder of Josslyn Hay, the Earl of Erroll, in Kenya and the rather unflattering light that crime shed on the ‘fast set’ of Europeans in Kenya’s so-called Happy Valley. I’d also cite James Ellroy’s The Black Dahlia, about the 1947 murder of Elizabeth Short in Los Angeles (A horrific killing that has overlaps with the mutilations inflicted upon Pamela Werner) and John Berendt’s Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil which used a true crime to reveal the fascinating dirty linen of Savannah, Georgia. All these books combined the details of true crimes but also superbly recreated the locations and times the murders occurred in. I hope Midnight in Peking does the same for 1937 Beijing.

Of course ultimately I hope that the more literary style I’ve used makes the book a great read, heightens the suspense in the way a great crime book should and also presents an evocative portrait of a Peking that was swept up and destroyed during the Second World War. A tall order but...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue