Author(s): Paul French
As 1936 gave way to 1937, the people of Peking waited nervously for the axe to fall. The encirclement by the Japanese army was tightening daily and troop skirmishes were on the rise. The Nationalist government of Chiang Kai-shek had fled south to Nanking, where some said he was ready to cut a deal with Tokyo and leave the people of Peking to their fate. In the opium dens of the notorious Badlands the partying was harder than usual, while the wealthy foreigners of the Legation Quarter were making the most of their final days of privilege. Each new day brought a racheting up of tension inside the city walls. On one of those walls, the ancient Tartar Wall, was a massive watchtower, built in the fifteenth century to keep out invaders. The locals believed the Fox Tower to be haunted at night by fox spirits that preyed upon innocent mortals. Then one bitterly cold January night, the body of an innocent mortal was dumped there. It belonged to English schoolgirl Pamela Werner, the daughter of a well-known Old China Hand and past British Consul. When the depraved nature of her murder became known, it was hard to fathom that any human could treat another in such a fashion. In a city more than usually prone to rumour and gossip, the killing of Pamela raised the panic to a whole new level. Midnight in Peking is an unputdownable true tale of murder and a gripping account of the end of an era.
Paul French is the author of four works of Asian History - Carl Crow: A Tough Old China Hand, North Korea: The Paranoid Peninsula, One Billion Shoppers: Accessing Asia's Consuming Passions, and Through the Looking Glass: China's Foreign Journalists from the Opium Wars to Mao.