French novelist whose work sparked death penalty debate dies

Rennes, France - French writer Gilles Perrault, whose “Le Pull-Over Rouge” novel helped spark debate over capital punishment in France, has died, his family said on Thursday. He was 92. “I can confirm that he died at 92 last night on August 3 from cardiac arrest”, a source in his family told AFP. Born as Jacques Peyroles, he worked for several years as a lawyer before becoming a journalist and then a novelist, writing under the pseudonym Gilles Perrault. In 1978, he published “Le Pull-Over Rouge” (The Red Sweater), which called into question the conviction of a man, Christian Ranucci, who had been put to death by beheading two years prior for the abduction and killing of an eight-year-old girl in 1974. The book, which sold some one million copies, sparked vivid debate about the death penalty, which France eventually abolished in 1981. Perrault was twice convicted of defamation of police over the case, once during an interview and then over material in another book on the case. He spent years trying to get Ranucci’s case reopened, without success.  “It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon,” he told AFP in 2006, still hoping for an eventual re-examination. 

In another critically acclaimed work, he published in 1990 “Notre Ami Le Roi” (Our Friend the King), which shone a critical light on the 30-year reign of Morocco’s Hassan II. “The books of Gilles Perrault are markers for my generation,” said Pierre Haski, president of Reporters Without Borders.

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