Saturday, May 30, 2009

"The Crimes of Paris"

Dorothy and Thomas Hoobler, a married couple, are the authors of The Monsters, a chronicle of the creation of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. Their novel, In Darkness, Death, won a 2005 Edgar Award.

They applied the “Page 69 Test” to their new book, The Crimes of Paris: A True Story of Murder, Theft, and Detection, and reported the following:
As far as we’re concerned, the best thing about page 69 of our book is that it contains nothing at all about the Mona Lisa. Because a part of our book--concerning the theft of the Mona Lisa in 1911--appeared in Vanity Fair’s May issue, people have come to think that is all the book is about. Quite untrue, as you might realize from reading the title: The Crimes of Paris, as in “more than one crime.” Among the others are the first use of a getaway car (by a band of murderous anarchist bankrobbers) and the death of a newspaper editor at the hands of the wife of a prominent politician the newspaper had attacked. (Her defense: “There is no justice in France. There is only the revolver.”) But it’s more than a compendium of crimes as well.

If you read page 69, you will begin to learn about one of the most interesting figures in the history of crime and detection: François-Eugène Vidocq, who was a master of disguise and a career criminal who became the first head of the Sûreté, France’s equivalent of the FBI. He inspired many fictional counterparts, not least of which was Edgar Allan Poe’s Auguste Dupin, the hero of the first modern detective story. One of the subjects we examine in our book is the connection between real-life crime and fiction. A principal figure in our story is the criminologist Edmund Locard, who might well be said to be the founder of crime-scene investigation (the C.S.I. of the popular TV programs), when he declared, “Every criminal leaves a part of himself at the crime scene, and takes away with him something from that scene as well.” Locard frankly admitted his indebtedness to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s fictional creation, Sherlock Holmes.

Vidocq too blurred the line between fact and fiction in his memoirs, written with the assistance of France’s great novelist Balzac, and since there is no crime on page 69, we will leave you with the opening from Vidocq’s memoirs (true or false), that we quote on that page:

“I was born at Arras, but as my constant disguise, the mobility of my features, and a singular aptness in make-up have caused some doubt about my age, it will not be superfluous to state that I came into the world on the twenty-third of July, 1775, in a house near where Robespierre had been born sixteen years earlier. It was during the night; rain poured down in torrents; thunder rumbled; as a result a relative, who combined the functions of midwife and sybyl, drew the conclusion that my career would be a stormy one. In those days there were still good people who believed in omens, while in these enlightened times men rely on the infallibility of fortune-tellers.”
Browse inside The Crimes of Paris, and learn more about the book and authors at the publisher's website and the official website of Dorothy and Thomas Hoobler.

Visit the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue