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Book of the week: Smoking Kills by Antoine Laurain

A little preparation is needed before you open this book of the week. Antoine Laurain, the author, gives you a trick: close your eyes, and listen the particular noise of a lighter... Now you can start to read this novel.

Now there you are. Paris. When head-hunter Fabrice Valentine faces a smoking ban at work, he decides to undertake a course of hypnotherapy to rid himself of the habit. At first the treatment works, but his stress levels begin to rise when he is passed over for an important promotion and he finds himself lighting up again – but with none of his previous enjoyment.

Until he discovers something terrible: he accidentally causes a man’s death, and needing a cigarette to calm his nerves, he enjoys it more than any other previous smoke. How far would you go to enjoy a cigarette? What if he now needs to kill every time he wants to properly appreciate his next Benson and Hedges? In the first pages of the book, the narrator reflects:

At the beginning of his career, the smoker is generally intent on killing no one but himself. But forces beyond my control forced me to become a killer of others. And not through passive smoking. When it came to murder, I played an active role. A very active role.

The tone is set for this witty black comedy, translated by Louise Rogers Lalaurie, and published by Gallic Books.


Novelist, journalist, screenwriter, director, collector of antique keys, Antoine Laurain began his career directing short films and writing screenplays. His passion for art led him to take a job assisting an antiques dealer in Paris. The experience provided the inspiration for his first novel, which was awarded the Prix Drouot in 2007.

Published on the eve of the French presidential elections of 2012, Antoine Laurain's fourth, fairytale-like novel The President's Hat was acclaimed by critics, readers and booksellers, who awarded it the Prix Landerneau Découvertes. He is also the author of The Red Notebook(2015), one of Gallic Books’ bestsellers both in the UK and the USA.

Louise Rogers Lalaurie is British translator from French specialising in literary and genre fiction, art and heritage, and travel. Her published (or soon-to-be-published) work includes ten novels, numerous short stories and shorter fiction extracts, and over 30 non-fiction titles: art monographs, exhibition catalogues, decorative arts, interiors and lifestyle books, travel guides.

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