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XII No.3 - Sunday february 10 - Saturday february 23, 2013

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Book Review: by Lang Reid

Death in the City of Light

Death 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.

Voodoo Histories

I 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 isn’t!
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 host more.
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.

HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]

Death in the City of Light

Voodoo Histories



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