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The Badlands: Decadent Playground of Old Peking

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3.71  ·  Rating details ·  103 ratings  ·  13 reviews
The Badlands, a warren of narrow hutongs in the eastern district of pre-communist Peking, had its heyday in the 1930s. Home to the city's drifters, misfits and the odd bohemian, it was a place of opium dens, divebars, brothels, flophouses and cabarets, and was infamous for its ability to satisfy every human desire from the exotically entertaining to the criminally depraved ...more
ebook, Penguin eBooks
Published October 15th 2012 by Penguin Australia
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Average rating 3.71  · 
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Steve
Jun 28, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: china
Interesting only if you've read the author's "Midnight in Peking" and want to read material on the notorious Badlands area of 1920's and 1930's Beijing that serves as the setting of "Midnight in Peking." It's a quick, inexpensive read; it's like a series of magazine articles about various characters from the Badlands. The characters outlined in "The Badlands" are quirky, depraved and sad, and while the author does a nice job writing up what he has there isn't enough remaining historical informat ...more
Tocotin
Eh… no. This is so not good. I hoped for way more than that. I should have listened to other reviewers… It’s just a loosely assembled collection of sketches about the inhabitants of the Badlands who appear in Midnight in Peking and are – mind – of European/American extraction. Almost no new information or interesting detail, maybe apart from the two chapters (are they even chapters?) about Marie and Peggy, and the two madams. But the flair is gone, the atmosphere is gone, the compassion is also ...more
Elliott Petty
Stick with Midnight in Peking. This ebook was clearly cobbled from material he couldn't fit in his book. Like any meal, clothing, etc. made solely from leftovers, it's subpar. The subject is also quite dark, and unlike Midnight in Peking there is no hero to balance the filth and depressing lives described. Quite depressing actually. ...more
Pip Jennings
I was a bit disappointed with this - was left feeling a bit unsatisfied. I realise that the information about the characters was very scarce, but it just didn't quite fulfill the expectations. I really enjoyed his "Midnight in Peking" and probably expected too much. ...more
Amy Young
Sep 07, 2013 rated it liked it
More information on the Badlands of Beijing (or as Paul calls it in his lovely British accent: "The seedy underbelly of Peking.") of the 1930's. Interesting to read -- glad I didn't live there then! And I'm sorry to hear that much of that area is going to be destroyed soon. ...more
Jay
Feb 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Sometimes in popular culture a story is told in which the background characters threaten to overshadow the main story itself. The best example I can think of is the film Casablanca, in which the varied refugees, travelers, criminals and other supporting cast each have their own fascinating personal tales, which may be hinted at but never told.

Such was the case when I recently read Paul French's Midnight in Peking, about the brutal murder of a young Englishwoman in Peking in 1937, on the eve of t
...more
Matt Conger
Great as an afterward, mediocre as a companion, and bad as a standalone book.

I loved Midnight in Peking. The audiobook format for that was particularly amazing, and I took the Paul French-approved walking tour of the Badlands from Bespoke Travel when I lived in Beijing. I was excited to jump back into the world of Midnight in Peking with this book. Yet it is so short and straightforward that it came across as a Wikipedia article with just a bit of flourish rather than the type of vivid prose an
...more
Daniel
May 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I share Mr. French's opinion that its the scoundrels, criminals, and shady characters of a society who are the really interesting people. Which is exactly why I enjoyed this. ...more
Kathleen
Okay okay okay anyone remember when I read Midnight in Peking? Anyone? Okay, if you don't, Midnight in Peking is about the murder of Pamela Warner in Peking, China (now Beijing) in the last days before the Japanese invaded China in World War II. There is a side person named Shura, an intersex crime boss who presented as a man or a woman apparently depending on how they felt that particular day, and was generally SO INCREDIBLY AWESOME I CAN'T EVEN. So I was talking in the review about how I wante ...more
Jane
Jan 07, 2016 rated it liked it
If you couldn't get over how good Midnight In Peking was, this is for you.
A series of character sketches, background research, really, of some of the
elusive figures that populated the worst neighborhood in the city. Pimps,
drug dealers, madams - these are not nice people, but their stories are
fascinating - and sad.
...more
J
Nov 21, 2014 rated it it was ok
tore through it in an afternoon... sure it was kind of captivating, but mostly i wanted to be done with it. so much of the content was so irredeemably vile that i felt like throwing the book away (or, at times, setting it on fire...)
and even though it managed to illicit such an emotional response it was kind of a dull account of something that should have been much more interesting
Anna Bosman
May 04, 2016 rated it liked it
A black-and-white picture of a world that's gone for good. White Russians play the biggest and the saddest role in this small... documentary? Somehow, I feel that preserving all the little glimpses is important. May they all rest in peace. ...more
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Paul French is the Chief China Representative of Access Asia, a market research and business intelligence company specialising in China and North Asia's economics and markets. He was educated in London and at the University of Glasgow. He is the co-author of One Billion Shoppers - Accessing Asia's Consuming Passions (1998) and author of Carl Crow - A Tough Old China Hand: The Life, Times, and Adve ...more

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