Release date: November 19, 2015
at Le French Book
About White Leopard
Everything is possible and nothing is certain in Bamako. A man torn between two continents finds himself in a dangerous confrontation between tradition and corruption. Solo is a former cop who ran away from a dark past in France to start his life over again in Bamako, Mali, as a 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. This is hard-boiled noir with a modern twist set in West Africa.
Admittedly the prologue snared my attention and never let go. The slow burning, yet fast paced unfolding narrative is gritty, and raw. A request for vengeance snowballs leading Solo to avenge for his own personal reasons with unleashed action and excitement. The lurid violence fitting, its towering edge in alignment with plot and players.
I was held hostage by Solo. Solo is the captor of this narrative. He’s part beast, part saint. We follow the scant tracks learning of Solo’s back story regarding his personal and professional life, enough arousing the reader for specifics, for now its mere foreplay. Solo is smooth, smart, gritty and reckless – on the precipice of life and death which translates to a death wish leaving him in a state of limbo making him lethal. As you learn of his loss, his hard exterior has fissures, in this wounded man there is a infiltratable center noticeable at poignant moments, his daily mask is ironhearted. Still grieving, Solo is a nomad drifting in the depths of his pain. He’s fascinating, an emotional wreck, he’s consuming. The supporting cast from angels to demons equally memorable, seemly in plot.
I wasn’t a fan of Solo striking Farah at all. No excuse. Even worse – Farah’s interest in him after the abuse. Wrong from beginning to end under any circumstances.
Guillaume’s law enforcement background along with his solid writing coalesces nicely. I will say the translation is excellent. Hardboiled, noir fans will appreciate Guillaume’s handiwork.
Homage to Bamako
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 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.
The main character in White Leopard, Souleymene Camara, aka Solo, embodies the issues faced by people who come from mixed backgrounds and cultures. He’s a man stuck between two continents, two cultures and two religions. All his life, he’s been asked to make a choice, to sacrifice one of his halves for the other. The other issue he faces is being a fugitive. He has a dark past. His exile in Mali follows a family trauma; it wasn’t a wholehearted choice, but more a better-than-no-choice choice. Little by little, he fell in love with the county, like I did personally, and he slowly realized that Bamako was his home. At the end of the book, he realizes that he cannot amputate a part of himself. The black and the white are mixed in him to create something else. I think that at the end, he finds a kind of peace.
The narrative is simple, linear. I wanted to write a contemporary hard-boiled mystery set in Africa, so I took the codes—an alcoholic PI, a sexy, ambiguous client, very twisted and violent bad guys, and cocaine trafficking—and transported them to Africa. I have a deep love for Mali, one of the poorest countries in the world. Outsiders go there to soak up African wisdom, bringing with them their vision of the continent and looking to support their preconceived ideas. It takes time to see what lies behind the postcard image, the stark reality of the people who live there. More than a mystery, White Leopard is a homage to the people of Bamako, a mixed crowd in overpopulated streets, who never stop smiling and being happy, despite the harsh conditions of their daily life.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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 advisor to the local police. He is now a full-time writer.
ABOUT THE TRANSLATOR
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