A Time Travelers Notebook by Author Holly Tucker

BookPage Interview

Mar 16, 2017 | Interviews, Media

Holly Tucker’s City of Light, City of Poison: Murder, Magic, and the First Police Chief of Paris tells a story so outlandish, one would be forgiven for thinking the book was historical fiction. But this tale of Parisian witches and possibly murderous noblewomen really did happen, and it rocked the foundation of one of the most powerful monarchies the world has ever seen—the court of Louis XIV at Versailles.

The Affair of the Poisons was a panic and, depending on who you believe, crime wave that swept through the French aristocracy. A group of prominent and powerful noblewomen, including some former mistresses of the king, were accused of buying poisons to kill their husbands or female rivals for the king’s affections. In order to do so, they would have had to make contact with the infamous women of the Parisian criminal underworld. Tucker, a professor of French, Italian and Biomedical Ethics at Vanderbilt University, answered our questions about her riveting account of the affair.

As a French professor, you no doubt had read about this scandal many times. What made you decide to write a book about it yourself?
The Affair of the Poisons has long fascinated me as a specialist of early French history. Yet the story seemed initially just too murky and, frankly, too dark to let myself get sucked into it. I decided instead to write Blood Work: A Tale of Medicine & Murder in the Scientific Revolution, which tells the story of the first blood transfusions and the murder of the first blood transfusion patient by poisoning. Although this poisoning was not directly related to the Affair of the Poisons, I realize now that I was using my last book as an entrée into my next book. By the time I was finished with Blood Work, I just knew that I had to face my fears and dive in. Poison, magic, Paris and Louis XIV—the story was too extraordinary, the characters were too fascinating and their crimes too stunning . . .

 

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General Contact Information

W.W. Norton LogoMedia Inquiries
Erin Lovett, Publicity Director
EMAIL | 212-790-4388

Literary Agent
Faith Hamlin
Sanford J. Greenburger Associates
EMAIL | 212.206.5663

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Explore Holly's Journal

New York Times Declares City of Light “True Crime Book for the Beach”

If mystery novels appeal to the credulous child in me, true crime stories speak to my inner voyeur. In reading this current batch of books, I’ve walked alongside a prisoner on her way to her execution, learned how to poison a wineglass and watched a king’s mistress do away with her rival. And that’s only from the first book on my list: CITY OF LIGHT, CITY OF POISON:...

The New Yorker Reviews City of Light!

CITY OF LIGHT, CITY OF POISON, by Holly Tucker (Norton). In 1667, Louis XIV, hoping to reduce crime in Paris, created a law-enforcement position—the lieutenant general of police—with sweeping powers of surveillance and detention. Tucker’s history focusses on the first incumbent, Nicolas de la Reynie, who built up a network of informants and discovered more than he’d...

WXXI Connections Interviews Holly about City of Light, City of Poison

Torture. Sweeping police powers. Unlawful detention. Scandal at the highest level. We're talking about... Paris, roughly 340 years ago. In a remarkable new book, professor Holly Tucker tells the story of l'Affaire de les Poisons -- the Affair of the Poisons, which rocked France and put a target on King Louis XIV himself. Louis responded by appointing Paris' first police...

Historical Novel Society Spellbound by City of Light, City of Poison

Paris in the late 17th century was not a place for the faint of heart. Despite the frightening ease with which you could be imprisoned without trial on the king’s command, the infamous lettre de cachet, crime, particularly at night, was rampant in the city. Paris was such a city of darkness in fact that it was in danger of becoming “an embarrassment” to the Sun King. In...

Bookwitty Declares City of Light, City of Poison Engrossing & Appalling

Holly Tucker’s City of Light, City of Poison is a riveting tale of power, passion and toxic lovers set in seventeenth century Paris. Tucker’s account of what became known as The Affair of the Poisons may read like a novel but is built from her meticulous study of historical documents and includes scintillating excerpts from court documents, memoirs, letters and records...
City of Light, City of Poison Cover

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