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Interwar American pulp fiction loved Shanghai – spies of all nations , White Russians dames, Japanese bad guys, all-American good guys. Then, after 1949, it looked like the pulps would have to find somewhere new to write about as the Bamboo Curtain descended. But, in the fascinating integrum period between 1949 and the mid-1950s there was still a space to tell stories of Shanghai as the old pre-war city just about clung on until the Communist consolidation. Paul French argues that Don Smith's now forgotten 1953 pulp novel China Coaster was the best of these at describing the last vestiges of old Shanghai.


This Zoom event is based on Paul French's RAS China 2021 Journal essay 'An Appreciation of Don Smith's 1952 China Coaster and the Period of "Interregnum Shanghai" it Portrays'.




About the speaker

Paul French lived and worked in China for many years. He has written a number of books, including a history of foreign correspondents in China and a biography of the legendary Shanghai adman, journalist and adventurer Carl Crow. His true crime book Midnight in Peking was a New York Times Bestseller, a BBC Radio 4 Book of the Week, a Mystery Writers' of America Edgar award winner for Best Fact Crime, and a Crime Writers' Association (UK) Dagger award for non-fiction. His Kirkus-starred book City of Devils: A Shanghai Noir focuses on the dancehalls, casinos and cabarets of wartime Shanghai. Both Midnight in Peking and City of Devils are being adapted for film and TV.


He occasionally works in audio drama with recent productions including Peking Noir for BBC Radio 3, and the twelve-part Audible Original, Murders of Old China. His 2020 researched-novella about the Jewish refugees who left Shanghai for Macao during World War Two, Strangers on the Praia, is currently being developed as a Sino-Australian co-produced movie from his own script.

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