by Lang Reid
Death in the City of Light
in the City of Light is a thriller, in every sense of the word.
However, as opposed to the many thrillers on the Bookazine Big C
Extra shelves, Death in the City of Light (ISBN 978-0-7515-48
45-7, Sphere Publishers, 2011) is a true story.
It has, what all good thrillers should have, a murder or two (or
many as in this instance), sex, drugs, a police inspector who is
not the sharpest knife in the drawer, confusions and side
tracks, and unfolds in wartime Paris with the Nazi occupation in
full swing. But this is all true, remember! Author David King
has not made any of it up.
Like a good fiction, author David King gives great detail. Even
down to the number of the police car the Inspector used to
pursue the murderer. Painstaking research on the author’s part.
But this is all true, remember!
Real-life celebrities such as Pablo Picasso join the cast of
thousands in this book, including John-Paul Sartre and it was
with interest that I noted Sartre’s book reviews went on for
6,000 words. (More than mine, by several thousand!)
The actual reason(s) given credence by the public for the serial
killings outlined in the book ranged from madness to depravity
and all human characteristics in between. In the absence of the
presumed murderer, everything was guesswork, rather than
sleuthing, something that was not being shown by the police.
Now throw in the wild card of the French Resistance fighters and
illicit passages out of France and away from the German
occupation, run by gangsters, not patriots, and it becomes even
more intriguing. Tickets and visas to Argentina were sold to the
highest bidder, so forget the concept of ‘noblesse oblige’.
This era of German occupation of Paris (the City of Light) is
fascinating, and the historical aspect as written by author
David King is somewhat different from that in the popular
history books. Collaboration seems to have been the collective
‘plat de jour’, other than for the increasingly oppressed Jews.
Another character to be dragged into the plot is the fictitious
policeman Jules Maigret from the pen of Georges Simenon, whose
persona is said to have been modeled upon the Police Inspector
Massu, the one who sought the presumed murderer for three years.
When the murderer was finally apprehended, his trial under
French law took months going into years. It was described as
“the most sensational criminal trial in modern French history.”
The various nuances of French law are explained for the
Anglo-Saxons for whom the book was written.
At B. 468, this is a steal. A book that will keep you occupied
for days, and awake for as many nights. Notes and a bibliography
take up the final 80 pages in a blockbuster of a book! It is not
a thriller you can just skim through as author King gives you so
much detail. He gives special thanks to the Prefecture de Police
for granting him access to the dossier, which had been regarded
as classified information up till his getting hold of it.
selected this book, Voodoo Histories (ISBN 978-0-099-47896-6, Vintage Books,
2009), subtitled “How Conspiracy Theory has Shaped Modern History” from the
Bookazine Big C Extra shelf, thinking this was going to be a feast of voodoo
influences. It isn’t, or wasn’t.
The author is David Aaronovitch, billed as an award winning journalist and
he uses the direct journalistic approach when looking at the individual
conspiracies; however, it is not till the end of that chapter that you start
to get an inkling as to whether it is fact, or a make-up, which has been
perpetuated by journalists themselves, for most part.
The book deals with many conspiracies, beginning with the one that prompted
his interest in the subject - did man really walk on the moon, or was it
filmed in an American desert somewhere? Here he points out that if that
really was the case, how did the US government stop “the truth” coming out?
No astronaut “spilled the beans” that they didn’t get there, or navy person
say the landing in the ocean was a hoax. Thousands of people who were part
of the event could deny it, but have not. Common sense says the conspiracy
He deals with the protocols of the Elders of Zion and shows to my
satisfaction, at least that these were (are) a forgery which has seen
notables such as Henry Ford taken in by them. Plus pre-war Germany and a
Diana gets her moments of glory (probably moment of ‘gory’ would be more
apt). Aaronovitch points out that the concept of MI6, the British Royal
family, Uncle Tom Cobbly and all influencing the outcome of a ride in a car
driven by a driver who was drunk, is just too fanciful and should be laughed
at - but - there is money to be made by propagating rumors to sell
newspapers, and books and TV specials as well. Inadvertent death in a car
accident not masterminded by anyone other than coincidence does not sell -
but put MI6 in the equation and the public laps it up.
Velikovsky, Hancock and Von Daniken are lumped together as ‘pseudo
scholars’, but there is no getting away from the fact that these three have
millions of followers, but in my mind, they were not selling conspiracies.
(But they did sell some books! Millions of them!)
Some of the conspiracies are very American and not of much interest to
British folk, and vice versa for the British conspiracies.
However, at B. 495, I have to say I was rather disappointed in this book.
Author Aaronovitch has done much research and presents this in its entirety,
but yet failed to excite me enough for me to look forward to the next
conspiracy. Aaronovitch writes, “I have written this book because I believe
that conspiracies aren’t powerful. It is instead the idea of conspiracies
that has power.” Yes, the Power of the Press perhaps?
I also found annoying the lack of a contents page so chapters could be
accessed directly by going to the conspiracy theory of choice. However,
there is an Index and a Bibliography at the end.