BBC Radio 4, 30 July 2016, 10.30am.
Radio 4 have a comedy-documentary series called Punt PI, in which Steve Punt (The Now Show, The Mary Whitehouse Experience) investigates historical mysteries. In this week's episode, he's asking if Émile Zola was murdered. The story is that in the early autumn of 1902, Zola and his wife went to bed with the fire on in their bedroom. In the small hours, both started to feel sick, though Zola was convinced it was nothing serious. In the morning, the servants had to force the door and found Alexandrine unconscious in the bed and Émile dead on the floor.
Most people have considered it a tragic accident, the result of a poorly cleaned chimney which fed carbon monoxide into the room. But Zola had many enemies, particularly as a result of his intervention in the Dreyfus Affair, and when in the early 1950s, Libération reported that a chimney sweep had made a deathbed confession to the murder of Émile Zola, speculation rose and his been high ever since.
Of course, it's probably impossible to know if he was murdered or not, though to my mind it's certainly not inconceivable.
I was interviewed down the line at the BBC's Paris studio - ironically, although Steve Punt visits Paris for much of the programme, he interviewed me in Paris while he was still in London. As is usual with these things, I cycled away from the recording feeling I'd said nothing of interest and sounded like an idiot, but the bits they used of me in the programme make me sound reasonably intelligent.
It's a fun, enjoyable programme and you can listen to it below:
(In case anyone's listening to this because they're writing an essay or something: near the beginning, he says that Zola's 20-volume Rougon Macquart novel series concerned the French Second Republic - in fact it was the Second Empire.)
UPDATE: Pleasingly, the programme - and my segment of it - was featured on Pick of the Week on Sunday 31 July 2016. You can listen to that HERE for a month.