One intoxicating autumn afternoon in Paris a few years back, I found myself among a group of foreign art-world visitors at an Élysée Palace reception. For me, it was simply a stopover on my way to the Dordogne. The plan, to work on my as yet untitled novel about a French detective. His name Inspector Paul Mazarelle.
Although this visit was brief, not to mention impromptu, it proved memorable. The Salle de Fête--its chairs and flowers gold and wine-red--was festive, lively, and quite crowded when Jacques Chirac, the President of the Républic made his appearance. A tall poised good-looking man with the voice and gestures of a trained actor, he welcomed his audience, inviting his guests to enjoy their stay. He’d attended ÉNA and been polished by one of France’s most elite graduate schools. He assumed he was charming, and he was right.
I had no idea at the time that he would soon be making a cameo in my new novel. There in the face of a sudden political emergency, he’d appear grim, tight-lipped, seething--a seemingly different man.