Cops and Writers

Laurent Guillaume is a multiple-award-winning French writer and former police officer. In law enforcement, he worked anti-gang, narcotics, financial crimes, and served in Mali as an advisor to the local police. His first novel to be translated into English is a hard-boiled PI story set in West Africa: White Leopard. Here he tells us about how his life as a cop mixes with his life as a writer.

Does being a cop help to write a mystery novel?
It is both an asset and toxic. My novels necessarily borrow from reality, so being a cop is an advantage. But I also think it is a trap. In a mystery, the writer's main preoccupation has to be the plot.

>>>Be drawn in before you can spot what lies ahead<<<

In your novels, politicians are never very clean.
I think the quest for power has a negative impact on everyone who goes after it. Politics has the power to corrupt on many levels because it lives off of everything that is toxic in our society: money, dissimulation, and lies. One has to overcome so many obstacles to attain power that it becomes a kind of Grail, and overcomes its original raison d’être: public good. But there are politicians who are driven by a real sense of democracy, by honest political conviction and humanism. I like to believe that even the worst people can at certain times and under certain circumstances prove to have some purity. The opposite is true as well. It is just a matter of proportion.

You seem to leave the reader to judge. Is this done on purpose?
I don't like the idea of telling a reader how to think or what to like or not like about my novels. I don't judge, I tell a story. Moral judgments are for philosophers. All of my characters are made of shadow and light, like in life. You are free to love them or hate them for what they are. But I don't want them to leave you indifferent. Indifference is the harshest criticism.

Tell us a little something about the genre you chose for this book.
White Leopard
is what I would call a “hard-boiled African” thriller. I went back to the codes of the 1930s-1940s hard-boiled detective novel (tough, alcoholic PI; the femme fatale who brings him a complicated, perilous case; etc.) and then I transposed them to contemporary Africa. And it worked.

>>>If you long for Philip Marlowe's return, this one is just for you<<<

What inspired you to write this book? Is it based on real events or your own experience?
When I worked at the French Embassy in Mali, I was in charge of police cooperation, particularly with regards to drug trafficking and organized crime. At the time, I worked on a case called “Air Cocaine” as a consultant for the Malian authorities. It didn’t take long to find some material for a good mystery in there. For that matter, a better part of the novel is based on real events.

This Month on Goodreads

This month we have four Goodreads giveaways running. Don't miss out.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

White Leopard by Laurent Guillaume

White Leopard

by Laurent Guillaume

Giveaway ends September 28, 2016.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Lafayette Sword by Eric Giacometti

The Lafayette Sword

by Eric Giacometti

Giveaway ends September 28, 2016.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Rare Earth Exchange by Bernard Besson

The Rare Earth Exchange

by Bernard Besson

Giveaway ends September 28, 2016.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Red-Handed in Romanae-Conti by Jean-Pierre Alaux

Red-Handed in Romanae-Conti

by Jean-Pierre Alaux

Giveaway ends October 31, 2016.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

Bastille Day Special — Authentic, Exciting Books Set in France

How are you celebrating the storming of the Bastille? I’d say the French national holiday calls for something French. So, if you can’t actually go to France for the parade on the Champs-Elysée or attend the dances and festivities traditionally held at fire stations across the country, you can pick up a book from Le French Book and be transported to France.

Here is our reading list for Bastille Day, with some deep discounts on these books set in France (mostly, at least), by French authors, translated for you. 

PARIS ART

  • The Collector by Anne-Laure Thièblemont (http://amzn.to/29xyd2A), a captivating dive into the little-known world of Paris art specialists and counterfeiters. After a father she never knew died, Marion Spicer finds herself facing the merciless microcosm of Paris art auctions and galleries, with its sharks, schemes, fences, traps, scams and attacks—a world where people will kill for a love of beauty. 

PARIS SUSPENSE

  • The Paris Lawyer by Sylvie Granotier (http://amzn.to/2a4Is0e), psychological suspense in the French capital. An ambitious rookie lawyer in Paris catches a case that sparks a determined search for the truth in her own life.

DARKNESS IN THE CITY OF LIGHT

Paris, the French capital, the City of Light, and the perfect setting for crime, and an actual character in Frédérique Molay’s award-winning Paris Homicide series.

  • The 7th Woman (http://amzn.to/29sRoj5) launches the series and gives the city a whole new dimension, with “ratcheting tension” and suspense. Terror stalks Paris. Will the team of elite crime fighters prevail?

FRENCH SPIES NOT FRENCH FRIES

  • The Rare Earth Exchange by Bernard Besson (http://amzn.to/29xKDaU), a chilling financial espionage novel and an unsettling look at a post-Panama Papers world. A team of freelance operatives gets caught up in a web of corruption and cyberterrorism in a struggle to control rare minerals key to today’s technology. “As subtle as a chess game, and as explosive as today's headlines.”

FRENCH COUNTRYSIDE AND GOURMET ATTITUDE

Jean-Pierre Alaux and Noël Balen’s Winemaker Detective series (http://amzn.to/29xAkUh) is a celebration of France combining enticing mysteries, mouthwatering accounts of food and wine along with authentic descriptions of French countryside. A vacation with quirky characters and winetasting, British-like mysteries with a French flair.

  • The Winemaker Detective: An Omnibus (http://amzn.to/29xAYkr) is a fine introduction to this series, with three titles in one. 
  • Late Harvest Havoc (http://amzn.to/29AJKBu). Disaster strikes the vineyards in Alsace. Vintners are tense and old grudges surface. The Winemaker Detective's reputation is on the line as he must find the cause before the late harvest starts.
  • Tainted Tokay (http://amzn.to/29Ktgtc). The Winemaker Detective encounters deceit and deception in Old World Europe. 

EUROPEAN ACTION AND ADVENTURE

The Consortium thriller series (http://amzn.to/29DR9Be) by David Khara offers a roller-coaster ride that dips into the history of World War II, then races through a modern-day loop-to-loop of action and humor. What impact could the folly of World War II—death camps, medical manipulation and chemical warfare—still have today?

  • The Bleiberg Project
  • The Shiro Project
  • The Morgenstern Project

 

  • Shadow Ritual (http://amzn.to/29xAvPx) by Eric Giacometti and Jacques Ravenne. The series has sold over 2 million copies worldwide. Douglas Preston calls it “Phenomenal.” Shadow Ritual has ritual murders, ancient enemies and a powerful secret, making an electrifying thriller about the rise of extremism. 

AN ENTIRELY DIFFERENT FRENCH FLAVOR

  • White Leopard by Laurent Guillaume (http://amzn.to/29xAIC0). In addition to a starred Publishers Weekly review, Craig Johnson (of Longmire fame) called this “the real deal.” White Leopard is African noir with a renegade PI. An ordinary case turns out to be not so ordinary. The drug mule gets her throat slit. The French lawyer is too beautiful and too well-informed. The cocaine is too plentiful. The reader travels down the roads of Mali in the protagonist’s desperate search for truth.

Big Thrill Interviews Laurent Guillaume

A while back, Big Thrill Magazine ran a really interesting interview with Laurent Guillaume by thriller writer Steven P. Vincent. Here are some highlights. Please do visit Big Thrill to read the full interview.

  • Can you tell our readers a bit more about WHITE LEOPARD?

 In 2009, a Boeing 747 unloaded some mysterious cargo in northern Mali and got stuck in the sand trying to take off again. The plane had just delivered several tons of cocaine that was headed to Europe and the Middle East. Investigating this case, we uncovered an extremely well organized network of Colombian and Spanish drug traffickers that settled scores with dollars or a chainsaw, depending on how much opposition they got. I had wanted to write a novel about the drug trade in Africa for a long time... 

  • What struck me about WHITE LEOPARD was your vivid description of Mali. Can you tell us about writing in a place you’re familiar with, but not actually from?

... It takes time to see what lies beneath the postcard, to see the stark reality of the people who live there. I hope that I managed to do this, although I’m sure I missed things. More than a mystery,  WHITE LEOPARD pays homage to the people of Bamako, a mixed crowd in overpopulated streets, who never stop smiling and feeling happy, despite the harsh conditions of their daily life.

  • You’ve written about things you’re familiar with–Mali and police work. Was there anything in WHITE LEOPARD that challenged you a little more?

The hardest part for me was to project myself into the mind of a protagonist of mixed racial background. In addition, I wrote in the first person, which was something new for me. This type of writing created a kind of intimacy with Solo, to an extent that I had not imagined possible...

  • Our readers are always interested in the writing process. You write full time, so what does your average day look like? How do you approach writing a novel?

...I get up at seven in the morning, eat a hearty breakfast and work out for a good hour. Back at home, I sit down in front of my computer and answer my email. Then I do some research, and when I feel ready, I open up Word and start writing. I generally write until four in the afternoon, when I read to relax and find a change of pace...

  • I’m curious about the process of working with a translator. Is it a smooth process or does it require some hard work to make it work and, ultimately, ensure a better book?

... As far as my understanding of English allows, Sophie did an excellent job. I’m not surprised, because throughout the process, she showed great rigor and a real interest in the topic of the novel: West Africa. I’m very happy with the result.

Le French Book in Mystery Scene Magazine

Check out the current issue of Mystery Scene Magazine, and you'll find:

 Mystery Scene Magazine
  • Page 33 - Back in Bamako, and article by Laurent Guillaume, author of White Leopard.
  • Page 39 - A half-page about Le French Book, by our favorite designer Jeroen ten Berge.
  • Page 60 - A review of Jean-Pierre Alaux and Noël Balen's The Winemaker Detective: An Omnibus by Robin Agnew
  • Page 63 - A review of Laurent Guillaume's White Leopard by Kevin Burton Smith.



Laurent Guillaume Interview on the Writer's Forensic Blog

My good friend Doug Lyle's fantastic Writer's Forensic Blog ran an interesting interview of Laurent Guillaume, who talks about being a cop and being a writer. He answers the following questions.

  • Does being a cop help to write a mystery novel?
  • In your novels, politicians are never very clean.
  • You seem to leave the reader to judge. Is this done on purpose?
  • Tell us a little something about the genre you chose for this book.
  • What inspired you to write this book? Is it based on real events or your own experience?

Read the full interview here.

 Laurent Guillaume in Bamako, Mali.&nbsp;©Sutikno GINDROZ

Laurent Guillaume in Bamako, Mali. ©Sutikno GINDROZ

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.