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 Spider Club Gang
Boss: Dr. Albert von Miorini
Base: West End Gardens, Yu Yuen Road (Yuyuan Lu)
Viennese physician Albert Miorini (he probably invented the ‘von,’ like so many Germans and Austrians trying to jump the social ladder) presented himself as the most cultured of men, and was seen frequenting musical concerts, theater shows and cello soirees. But the Spider Club Gang were actually a nasty bunch – performing illegal abortions, peddling opium and running an illegal gambling den in a posh villa in West End Gardens.
The Spider Club provided women, dope and pornographic film shows to rich Shanghailanders. Miorini himself was suspected to have murdered a drug dealing associate with an injection – but the Shanghai Municipal Police couldn’t prove it. He lived with Ruby Edwards, an English procuress who provided young girls to Miorini’s moneyed society clients.
By 1943, Miorini had amassed a fortune in gold bars (the only way to protect your wealth during the war), but died on the operating table during a routine operation performed by a surgeon (believed to be mistress Ruby Edwards’ lover). Afterwards, the gold bars – and Ruby Edwards – were never seen again in Shanghai.
[Images courtesy of Paul French]