top of page

As a journalist and author, Tom Sancton has written extensively for such publications as TIME, Vanity Fair, Fortune, Reader’s Digest, L’Express, Le Point, Le Monde, Le Figaro, et al. During his 22-year stint as a writer, editor, and foreign correspondent for TIME, including 10 years as Paris Bureau Chief and Senior European Correspondent, Sancton wrote or reported more than 600 articles and 60 cover stories on subjects ranging from Pope John Paul II and the collapse of the Soviet Union, to jazz trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, the endangered planet Earth, and the future of French haute cuisine. He has also authored or co-authored seven books of fiction and non-fiction. His latest work, The Last Baron, tells the tale of a famous French kidnapping that rocked one of Europe's most powerful industrial empires. 


Avenir Light is a clean and stylish font favored by designers. It's easy on the eyes and a great go to font for titles, paragraphs & more.


A riveting on-the-edge-of-your-seat tale about the notorious 1978 kidnapping of Baron Edouard “Wado” Empain, intertwined with the story of his famous grandfather, the first Baron, builder of the Paris Métro. A multigenerational saga told against the backdrops of both Belle Epoque and 1970s high-fashion Paris. 


"Atmospheric, immaculately plotted, cinematic..."The Last Baron” tantalizes, like a cross between “Day of the Jackal” and “Bel-Ami…Through everything, the author serves as our own all-seeing historical

detective—on society, on politics, on human nature. Monsieur Sancton: chapeau!" WALL STREET JOURNAL

Read the complete WSJ review

"'The Last Baron: The Paris Kidnapping That Brought Down an Empire' by Tom Sancton may begin like a James Bond movie, but the book is a multi-generational history rather than a true-crime story...The saga that Sancton tells with such panache harks back to a family dynasty that began with the making of money...'The Last Baron' is a book about the flash points in family, business, politics and diplomacy. At the same time, much of the narrative amounts to an expertly told and richly detailed police procedural. Above all, it is a wholly authentic thriller." WASHINGTON POST

Read the complete Washington Post review


"An entertaining, well-researched tale of a late-20th-century scandal.” KIRKUS REVIEWS.

Read the complete Kirkus review of The Last Baron

"A doggedly reported and briskly entertaining history.” PUBLISHER'S WEEKLY

Read the complete Publisher's Weekly review.

"An immensely readable, impeccably written, and thoroughly researched tale of a kidnapping gone wrong. Ideal for readers who enjoy biography, social, political, and cultural history." LIBRARY JOURNAL.  Read the  starred Library Journal review 

"Sancton's briskly paced narrative moves smoothly through three generations of family history, a complex crime plot, and a century's worth of social and political background." BOOKLIST

“Resourcefully reported, cleverly structured, and commandingly well written by a keen observer of French society.”—HAMPTON SIDES, New York Times bestselling author of In the Kingdom of Ice.


“Gripping from the first page, this story by Tom Sancton tells a deeply researched and propulsive story of one of France’s most notorious crimes—a tale of deception, scandal, greed, and redemption. The Last Baron is the kind of page-turner that will stay with you long after it’s over.” —DANIEL STONE, author of The Food Explorer: The True Adventures of the Globe-trotting Botanist Who Transformed What America Eats.


“The problem with The Last Baron is that it is very difficult to stop reading once you start. Somehow the book merges a taut, noirish crime caper told in 360-degree panorama with several layers of France’s political, economic, and cultural history beneath. Sancton belongs to that impressive pantheon of American writers whose work has benefited from an immersion in Paris.” 

—THOMAS BELLER, author of J.D. Salinger: The Escape Artist.


“Perfectly reported, The Last Baron rivets the reader’s attention with its you-are-there narrative of the kidnapping that seized the headlines in 1978. It also delivers keen insights into French politics and society as well as exploring a colorful family history that spanned two centuries and three continents, from the streets of Paris to the sands of Egypt and the jungles of the Congo.” 

—NICHOLAS REYNOLDS, bestselling author of Writer, Sailor, Soldier, Spy: Ernest Hemingway’s Secret Adventures, 1935-1961




Was the world’s wealthiest woman the victim of a con man or her own family members? This riveting narrative tells the real-life story behind the cause célèbre that captivated both France and the world. At its center: L’Oréal heiress Liliane Bettencourt, then the world’s richest woman, and François-Marie Banier, the brash photographer and artist who courted her and received hundreds of millions in exchange for his attentions. In 2007, Bettencourt’s ill-loved daughter sued Banier for elder abuse, touching off a monumental investigation that riveted the nation and nearly toppled the French president. The Bettencourt Affair is part courtroom drama; part upstairs-downstairs tale; part business narrative of a glamorous global company with past Nazi connections; and part character-driven story of a complex, fascinating family and the intruder who nearly tore it apart. Though Liliane Bettencourt died in 2017 at the age of 94, the aftershocks of the scandal continue to reverberate.



“This book has it all! Money, class, art, greed, intrigue, seduction, betrayal, and politics…a family battle that shook France and will fascinate readers."

—Walter Isaacson, author of Steve Jobs

“The Bettencourt Affair educates and informs even as it titilates.  Tom Sancton provides entree into the inner sanctum of French high society, a world where artists and aristocrats rub shoulders with a delightful cast of social climbers, perverts, and thieves.”

—Scott Anderson, author of Lawrence in Arabia

“Compulsively readable, with a cast of characters worthy of a Balzac novel, The Bettencourt Affair is perfect summer reading.  Forbidden family secrets, gender-bending rogues, ultrawealthy heiresses, a daughter driven by spite…Through its morass of celebrity and riches, Tom Sancton, strides in seven-league boots: narrating, interviewing, reflecting as both expert and storyteller as he paints this extraordinary comédie inhumaine-making it, at last, tragically real.”

—Nigel Hamilton, author of JFK: Reckless Youth


" an excellent straight-up reporter, and he has dug deeply into the many, many elements that complicate this story."

 —Janet Maslin, New York Times

Complete NYT review at:

“A juicy chronicle of France’s richest scandal…A well-researched, crisply written, and entertaining story of family, greed, wealth, and the complex relations among them.”

Kirkus Reviews.  Complete review at:


“Former Time Paris bureau chief Tom Sancton follows what happened when the world’s richest woman, cosmetics heiress Liliane Bettencourt, became the center of a scandal that captivated Europe. This true story of the elderly billionaire, the artist to whom she gave a fortune, and the family that claims it’s all been a big con, is proof that truth is stranger—or at least makes better poolside reading.”

 —Town & Country

“There is no comparable work on the Bettencourt scandal, only interviews and articles, making this highly recommended and pleasurable read a mix of luring tabloid fare and professionally researched courtroom and political drama.” —The Library Journal. 

Complete starred review at:

"Although this tale seems destined for HBO or Hollywood, to bill this a mere 'family drama' belies the staggering depth with which Sancton portrays his subjects, whose motivations, desires, and downfalls are 'so difficult to judge according to a moral code based on right and wrong, black and white, good and evil.' A natural for book clubs, which will drain a French cellar’s worth of wine while appreciating Sancton’s meticulous research and discussing this unbelievable cast of characters."


—Katherine Uhrich, BOOKLIST. Complete starred review at:

"An intensely reported account of power, politics, persuasion and the dark family secrets of the ultra-wealthy."

—Sherryl Connelly, New York Daily News.  Complete feature review at:




By Tom Sancton and Scott MacLeod (Dutton, 2017)


The updated 20th anniversary edition of Sancton and MacLeod’s bestselling investigation into the 1997 deaths of Princess Diana and her lover Dodi Fayed.


 “The truth about Dodi and Diana —their brief life together and how they died. The authors have investigated the question that have been continually asked, but not previously been satisfactorily answered: were the couple planning to marry? was Diana pregnant? Is there a grain of truth in the theories, rampant in the middle-east, that they were victims of a British intelligence plot? This is the first book to tell the truth.” —Amazon


Praise for Death of a Princess:


“The definitive book on those final moments, days, hours, minutes and seconds of Diana’s life.”

—Cindy Adams, New York Post

“Sancton and MacLeod…serve as textbook models of methodical reporting.”

—Lisa Schwarzbaum, Entertainment Weekly


“[The authors] have done more in-depth reporting on this than just about anyone


—Anderson Cooper, CNN


Sweet Land-Cover.jpg


By Tom Sancton (Other Press, 2006)


A highly acclaimed coming-of-age memoir about a middle class white boy’s loving apprenticeship with a group of ageing black jazz musicians in the twilight years of the Jim Crow era. 


 “A former bureau chief for Time and a certified jazz freak from adolescence onward tells his sweet coming-of-age story in pre-Katrina New Orleans when ‘the mens’ (as the black jazz masters called one another) played the music that won his heart… A clear, simple melody played, surprisingly, with very little improvisation or ornamentation, but with enormous respect and affection.” —Kirkus Reviews. [Complete starred review available at:


“Song for My Fathers struts with the energy of youth, tempered a bit by the wisdom of middle age, and the bittersweet certainty that change is inevitable. Every page of this newly minted classic of life in New Orleans is filled with grace and gratitude, a debt paid in full to the men who showed Tom Sancton the way.”—New Orleans Times-Picayune, Best Book of 2006

“This is an important inside look into an under-investigated period of New Orleans music. It tells a story with an insider’s heart, a reporter’s eye, and the pure feeling of a New Orleans musician. Enjoyable, informative and engaging.”—Wynton Marsalis

“Finally a book about New Orleans music from a totally fresh perspective. Tom Sancton was fortunate to have had a very colorful upbringing in the cradle of jazz and we're fortunate that he wrote about it so rivetingly.”—Woody Allen

A stage adaptation of Song for My Fathers featuring the Preservation Hall Jazz Band debuted at Tulane University in 2010 and has since been presented before numerous audiences. Excerpts of the show were performed at the Tyrone Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis in 2011 and at Carnegie Hall in 2012. See trailer.


By Tom Sancton (LSU Press, 2021)

This book examines the ways in which French proponents of popular government perceived the image of America as a model, a case study, and a propaganda tool as they pursued their own democratic goals at home during the years between the 1848 revolution and the Paris Commune of 1871.  Central to shaping the French perceptions were the dramatic events unfolding in the U.S. during these years: the slavery controversy, sectional frictions, the Civil War, abolition, the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, and the beginnings of Reconstruction. Alexis de Tocqueville, Victor Hugo, George Sand, Georges Clemenceau, Pierre-Joseph Proudon , Auguste Blanqui, and Léon Gambetta figure among the many French observers whose views of America are .probed A well-documented scholarly work, Sweet Land of Liberty should also have crossover appeal for anyone interested in French or American history, and particularly the U.S. Civil War. 


Almost from the moment America won its independence, French attitudes toward the U.S. have fluctuated between hope and disappointment, envy and resentment. In the 19th century, no sector of French opinion registered these swings more faithfully than the engaged left. In expertly mapping the sudden shifts of left-leaning opinion from the 1848 Revolution through the Second Empire, Tom Sancton tosses in an extra bonus for the general reader—a smart and lucid guide to the forked road of French politics during these confusing years. This is a very fine book. 

 —Lawrence Powell, author of The Accidental City: Improvising New Orleans

A remarkable book which will be of considerable interest to historians of both 19th France and America.  In 1848, the French left thought of the USA as a sister republic. In the 1850’s, French leftists saw it as a crudely materialist, slave society which reminded them of the France of Napoléon III. Lincoln’s death in 1865, and the Paris Commune of 1871, changed all that, but not for long. The book is very well written and is something of a page turner. Sancton’s account of the Trent episode in 1861 makes for a very good read.

—Patrice Higonnet, author of Sister Republics: The Origins of French and American Republicanism

History and politics don’t respect national borders, which is why American historians and believers in “American exceptionalism” both need to read this book. In Sweet Land of Liberty, Tom Sancton offers a compelling argument that 19th-century American politics and ideologies make better sense in the context of larger political currents swirling around the Atlantic World. But he also offers a timely case study in how political activists can selectively “perceive ... a foreign power in the light of [their] own [national] culture and ideology.” The narrow focus in this briskly-written book is French politics in the decades around the American Civil War; the big picture continues to be the fate of liberty and democracy in modern societies.

-—Philip M. Katz, author of From Appomattox to Montmartre: Americans and the Paris Commune



A novel by Tom Sancton (Other Press, 2007)


“A riveting cautionary tale which resonates forcefully with contemporary political events. A bombing in a Paris church lands American journalist Sam Preston in the story of a lifetime—if only he can survive. The attack leads Sam to a group of Assyrian Christians. Their colorful leader-in-exile, Rafat Ganjibar, aims to form a breakaway Assyrian Republic in the oil-rich lands of northwestern Iraq, with the help of some powerful supporters—the American Evangelical community, the Israelis, and even U.S. President Jack Ritter. Sam suspects the President and his allies are acting secretly—and illegally—to advance and fund this movement….” From Amazon description:

bottom of page