Following on from New York Times bestseller Midnight in Peking, Paul French released City of Devils, a delve into the murky underworld of Old Shanghai. There were plenty of wrong'uns about, and a whole lot of bad blood between them. In this 'Gangs of Old Shanghai' series, French presents us with a who's who of old time organized crime, and quite the rogues gallery it is too.
The Broadway Mansions Gang
Base: Broadway Mansions, North Soochow Road (Bei Suzhou Lu)
The Shanghai Foreign Correspondents Club had a whole floor of the Art Deco-style Broadway Mansions overlooking Suzhou Creek. Elly ‘the Swiss’ Widler also had a pad there, and it is thought he introduced a group of enterprising young White Russian boys – who liked to train in a local boxing gym by day, and a game of cards at night – to the landlord.
They took a floor, and set up high stakes card games that ran 24/7, manning the landings and stairways to make sure the take never got boosted by some chancer looking to get rich quick. It never did. Many foreign journalists passed by, tried their luck, and kissed their monthly paycheck goodbye.
The Broadway Mansions card games were not for amateurs; serious money, serious players, seriously long-running. And leaving a bad debt with the Russian boys at Broadway Mansions was not the way to enjoy a long and healthy life.
[Images courtesy of Paul French]