Simon Cann shares with us …
About the Character Leathan Wilkey and the Setting in Clementina
I came to write the Leathan Wilkey series knowing I wanted to incorporate certain elements, but not having a clear idea of the story I wanted to tell. The first element that I knew was the protagonist: Leathan Wilkey.
Leathan left London in a hurry when he upset an organized crime gang—an international people smuggling gang. And this led to the second element that I knew: Leathan had made a decision to hide in plain sight. Rather than go somewhere secluded and be an obvious outsider, Leathan headed for a dense, busy city—in this case Paris—where he could be a needle in a huge stack of needles (perhaps the densest stack of needles in Europe).
However, to maintain anonymity, Leathan needs to live without anything that would make him traceable. In other words, he needs to dispense with many of those day to day things that we take for granted: credit cards and a bank account, a known phone number, and a permanent place to live.
Living without those things we take for granted means that Leathan exists through a network where he trades favors—he doesn’t work for money; he works in a system that is little more than primitive bartering. That said, cash is always useful…but then he needs places and people where he can store this cash.
The consequence of living with a system of bartering is that Leathan needs to interact with people he knows, trusts, and with whom he can barter. The need to interact with people in this way means that he needs to be far more cautious—one damaged relationship could lead to a call to the people smugglers alerting them to his location.
Knowing Leathan was in Paris, I wanted him to exist in the places where people don’t look.
The front cover of the book is a great example of a place where people don’t look. The main image is a photograph of Pont de Bir-Hakeim, a bridge over the river Seine. The bridge is a striking piece of architecture built on two levels. The main level is for vehicles and pedestrians. The second, raised level is the rail viaduct carrying the Paris Metro.
While the architecture is impressive, few people notice the bridge because they’re staring at the prominent landmark behind it: the Eiffel Tower. By the way, if you’re ever in Paris and want to see the Eiffel Tower, head to Pont de Bir-Hakeim—it’s a great place to see the Tower from and there are no crowds.
Once I had Leathan in Paris living this rather disconnected life, but needing work and with a strong support network, the stories began to flow.