Why Exile Makes for a Good Protagonist

Top French writer Laurent Guillaume

Laurent Guillaume, author of White Leopard, was a cop and became a writer. He shares some thoughts about his protagonist and his book.

How did you come up with your protagonist?
For the character of Solo, I raised the question of mixed race. Blacks consider Solo white, and whites consider him black. I find this to be a particularly interesting issue for a novel because it carries narrative tension. Solo is exiled from a life in which he lost everything, and he is unconsciously looking for a second chance, a second self. He thinks he should die, that that would be best, but unconsciously he hangs onto life because deep down he is more of an optimist than he lets show.

What sets him apart?
Solo’s mixed background gives him a particular complexity. He is torn between two worlds (Africa and Europe), two cultures (French and Malian), and two religions (Christianity and Islam). His past as a “fallen” cop on the run, pursued by his former colleagues also sets him apart.

What three words would you use to describe yourself?
Stormy, loyal and sentimental.

Can you describe your protagonist, Solo, in five words?
Hot-tempered, ironic, alcoholic, nosy, depressive, vindictive, sentimental.

What actor do see playing him?
Denzel Washington

Do you see Solo coming back?
It is probable that Solo will become a recurring character. It is important for me that the character evolve and grow. I find it annoying when the protagonist is always the same fifteen years later. The scars on Solo’s soul are there, but they will begin to heal. I don’t want a hero that just keeps digging a deeper hole. I like to be more light hearted than that—sometimes.