When the Guillotine Fell

The Bloody Beginning and Horrifying End to France's River of Blood, 1791--1977

Jeremy Mercer

St. Martin's Press

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How long did the guillotine’s blade hang over the heads of French criminals?  Was it abandoned in the late 1800s?  Did French citizens of the early days of the twentieth century decry its brutality?  No. The blade was allowed to do its work well into our own time.  In 1974, Hamida Djandoubi brutally tortured 22 year-old Elisabeth Bousquet in an apartment in Marseille, putting cigarettes out on her body and lighting her on fire, finally strangling her to death in the Provencal countryside where he left her body to rot.  In 1977, he became the last person executed by guillotine in France in a multifaceted case as mesmerizing for its senseless violence as it is though-provoking for its depiction of a France both in love with and afraid of The Foreigner.  In a thrilling and enlightening account of a horrendous murder paired with the history of the guillotine and the history of capital punishment, Jeremy Mercer, a writer well known for his view of the underbelly of French life, considers the case of Hamida Djandoubi in the vast flow of blood that France's guillotine has produced.  In his hands, France never looked so bloody...

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When the Guillotine Fell
1October 1971THE FIRST THING PEOPLE noticed about Hamida Djandoubi was his looks. He was dead handsome: dark eyes, thick hair, and a smile that danced between playfulness and seduction. Women would actually turn and stare after him when he passed on the street. One writer even compared him to Harry Belafonte.Hamida was Tunisian by birth, the eldest of seven children. The family was raised in Carthage, the city so famously razed by the Romans, which by the mid-twentieth century had become just another poor suburb of Tunis.

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Praise for When the Guillotine Fell

Praise for Jeremy Mercer’s "Time Was Soft There":

"Ably captures a romanticized version of the bum's life."--The New Yorker

"Jeremy Mercer's tale of George Whitman and his beloved bookstore is a book of revelations, for it tells the hard-to-discover true story of George's life and of the twenty-thousand-and-one nights of this enchanted place that continues to be for its habitées as well as for its creator, a way of life."--Lawrence Ferlinghetti

"[Mercer] has fashioned a colorful de facto biography of Whitman . . . with an unblinking gaze at his own sometimes unsavory qualities in a tightly written, insightful memoir of Left Bank literary radicalism. A great read, both funny and quietly moving."--San Francisco Chronicle

"Mercer writes with flair . . . and the milieu he evokes, while a long way from that of the Lost Generation, has its own charm."--The Wall Street Journal 

"The memoir is more than an entertaining romp through Parisian literary bohemia at the turn of the millennium. Time Was Soft There will likely be the last firsthand account of an aging legend."--Newsweek


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About the Author

Jeremy Mercer

JEREMY MERCER is the author of Time Was Soft There, two crime books, and a former writer for the Ottawa Citizen. He lives in Marseille, France.

Jeremy Mercer

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Jeremy Mercer

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Available Formats and Book Details

When the Guillotine Fell
The Bloody Beginning and Horrifying End to France's River of Blood, 1791--1977
Jeremy Mercer

Hardcover

Hardcover
St. Martin's Press
June 2008
Hardcover
ISBN: 9780312357917
ISBN10: 0312357915
5 1/2 x 8 1/4 inches, 320 pages, Includes one map plus one 8-page b&w photo insert
$24.95

e-Book Agency

e-Book Agency
St. Martin's Press
June 2008
e-Book Agency
ISBN: 9781429936088
ISBN10: 1429936088
320 pages
$7.99
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