Upcoming: CITY OF DEVILS by Paul French (Picador/riverrun)

FrenchP-CityOfDevilsUSI’ve only recently started to read Paul French‘s books. I’ve been aware of his stuff for a long while, but this past Christmas I went on a Penguin China Special reading-binge, which meant I finally read two of French’s titles: Betrayal in ParisThe Badlands and Bloody Saturday — all three of which were excellent.* I promptly bought Midnight in Peking (for myself and family members), and will read it very soon. In the meantime, I thought I’d some information about his next non-fiction book, City of Devils. here’s the synopsis:

1930s Shanghai could give Chicago a run for its money. In the years before the Japanese invaded, the city was a haven for outlaws from all over the world: a place where pasts could be forgotten, fascism and communism outrun, names invented, fortunes made — and lost.

‘Lucky’ Jack Riley was the most notorious of those outlaws. An ex-Navy boxing champion, he escaped from prison in the States, spotted a craze for gambling and rose to become the Slot King of Shanghai. Ruler of the clubs in that day was ‘Dapper’ Joe Farren — a Jewish boy who fled Vienna’s ghetto with a dream of dance halls. His chorus lines rivalled Ziegfeld’s and his name was in lights above the city’s biggest casino.

In 1940 they bestrode the Shanghai Badlands like kings, while all around the Solitary Island was poverty, starvation and genocide. They thought they ruled Shanghai; but the city had other ideas. This is the story of their rise to power, their downfall, and the trail of destruction they left in their wake. Shanghai was their playground for a flickering few years, a city where for a fleeting moment even the wildest dreams seemed possible.

In the vein of true crime books whose real brilliance is the recreation of a time and place, this is an impeccably researched narrative non-fiction told with superb energy and brio, as if James Ellroy had stumbled into a Shanghai cathouse.

City of Devils is due to be published in July by Picador in North America (Raincoast in Canada), and in June by riverrun in the UK.

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

 

* The Penguin Specials series is fantastic in general: around 100 pages or so, compact and focused non-fiction narratives. I’d highly recommend them. They appear to be focusing on a different theme every year (or so). Last year, for example, they released a handful of Hong Kong Specials, which I’ll be buying and reading very soon.

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Interview with DARYL GREGORY

Vt7GelpOLet’s start with an introduction: Who is Daryl Gregory?

What an impossible question! From the books I’ve read on neuroscience and consciousness, it’s clear that the contiguous self, this “I” who is typing this, is an illusion generated by the brain. Let’s not even mention the illusion of free will. So how about this? “You” and “I” will agree, for convenience, that there’s a person called Daryl who has somehow chosen to write a book. Ready? Here goes:

I’m a writer who lives in Oakland, California, and exists primarily on a diet of beer and coffee. I’ve written six novels, the novella We Are All Completely Fine, which won the World Fantasy Award and the Shirley Jackson Award, as well as short stories, comics, and video games.

And now you may be regretting this interview. Continue reading

Review: DR. KNOX by Peter Spiegelman (Knopf/Quercus)

spiegelmanp-drknoxusAn excellent LA-based thriller

Adam Knox comes from a long line of patrician Connecticut doctors — a line he broke to serve with an NGO in the war-torn Central African Republic. His attempt to protect his patients there from a brutal militia ended in disaster and disgrace, and now he runs a clinic near Los Angeles’s Skid Row, making ends meet by making house calls — cash only, no questions asked—on those too famous or too criminal to seek other medical care.

When a young boy is abandoned at his clinic, Knox is determined to find the boy’s family and save him from the not-so-tender mercies of the child welfare bureaucracy. But Knox’s search for the volatile woman who may or may not be the boy’s mother leads him and his friend, a former Special Forces operator, into a labyrinth of human traffickers, Russian mobsters, and corporate security thugs; and squarely into the sights of a powerful, secretive, and utterly ruthless family that threatens to destroy Dr. Knox and everything — and everyone — he holds dear.

I actually read this quite a while ago, but I kept forgetting to write the review. Dr. Knox is the first novel I read by Spiegelman, but it certainly won’t be the last. An idealistic protagonist, single-minded antagonists, organized crime and vulture business collide in this novel. Easily one of my favourite novels of the year. Continue reading