The lovely Elisabeth Storrs has tagged me in a blog hop of main characters. Elisabeth writes pithy novels of Ancient Rome, a subject I knew little of before I read them. Effortlessly, Elisabeth contrasts the Etruscan civilisation with the Roman. The Wedding Shroud and The Golden Dice have been published, along with a very entertaining smaller work, Dying for Rome – Lucretia’s Tale. She is currently working on a third in the series, Call to Juno, due in 2015. For more information of Elisabeth and her work, please visit her site, www.elisabethstorrs.com
So, my answers to the probing questions.
1) What is the name of your character? Is he/she fictional or an historic person?
Monsieur Antoine Claude is based on a real person who lived in France from 1807 to 1880. He had a long career in the Paris police force, peaking as the Paris Chief of Police. Whilst he wrote and extremely long memoir, (though some say it was forged) it contains very little personal detail, just the facts of his cases. I found some personal information about him from the Musée des Collections Historiques de la Préfecture de Police in Paris, and some from his birth and death certificates which were VERY hard to find.
2) When and where is the story set?
The story is set in France in 1869-70. Most of action takes place in and around Haussmann’s freshly renovated Paris, but there are some scenes in small villages in Alsace and some in Nord-Pas-de-Calais. For France, these years were turbulent. The Second Empire had produced great prosperity and change. But after the 1866 Austro-Prussian war, forces within France pushed for complete liberty, the Emperor’s power threatened. Many claim this case that Monsieur Claude investigates was the first thunderclap in the fall of the Second Empire, demonstrating the social disquiet of the nation in spite of the government’s assurances that all was all right. Soon after the case was closed, France descended in to the Franco-Prussian war, L’année terrible and the Paris commune.
3) What should we know about him/her?
Claude is very certain of his policing process. He’s not overly ambitious but he is proud and sure of his aptitude and his desire and ability to arrive at the truth of a case. His policing career began in his youth when he solved a robbery before it was even committed, simply from his negative impression of the thief’s hand. But in this case of my novel, he is older, near the end of his career. When he hits obstacles in the investigation, he feels echoes of old cases where he’d experienced interference from higher levels in the police force. This leaves him open to employing unorthodox procedures, open to influences he wouldn’t normally countenance.
4) What is the main conflict? What messes up his/her life?
Claude investigates the mass-murder of a woman and five of her children. As is his usual practice, he gathers evidence and works to compile a composite. With brilliant deductions, aided by a trusted sixth sense, he arrests a young man, Troppmann. The whole of France is pleased the culprit of these horrendous crimes is behind bars but Claude is unsure. Whilst he believes that Troppmann was involved, the facts of the crime logically concluded that it had to involve other people. But Troppmann is difficult, taciturn and repeatedly changes his story, lying to incorporate new pieces of evidence. But then Claude’s superior intervenes, barring him from continuing the investigation and declaring that someone had to be brought to the guillotine to quell the social unrest and appease the population. At this point, Claude decides to fight to reveal the truth, potentially damaging his professional reputation and standing within the police force.
5) What is the personal goal of the character?
Claude realises if he can solve this case correctly, expose all the layers of corruption and Machiavellian political machinations surrounding it, he will save the young man from the guillotine and clear the stains to his reputation in past cases. But there is great risk as he suspects this case may lead all the way to the involvement of the emperor, Napoleon III.
6) Is there a working title for this novel, and can we read more about it?
At the point it is called The Cast of Troppmann’s Hand.
7) When can we expect the book to be published?
Sometime in 2014.
So, who am I tagging to answer the same questions?
Patricia O’Sullivan – Patricia’s writing is very varied. Her first three novels deal with Sephardic Jews and Native Americans in combination, a mix I’d never considered before reading her work. Please visit her blog. www.patricia-osullivan.com