Xavier Lombard
Created by Eric Leclere

"The Lost Son was not written for the book establishment to sanction, censure or kill. Books are for reading, and we feel the public should be given a chance to do just that."
--Eric Leclere explains why he's giving away his book.

Speaking of British crime flicks, I just rented The Lost Son, a flawed but enjoyably nasty little slice of film about XAVIER LOMBARD, a seedy French P.I.based in London butting heads with a kiddie prostitution ring. It stars Daniel Auteuil, in his first English-speaking role, and he does the world-weary gumshoe thing pretty well --chain-smoking, in need of a shave, full of all that brooding, dark, rumpled Gallic charm.

He's a disgraced Parisian cop with a past he'd rather not talk about, living alone with his goldfish in a suitably desparate Soho flat, eking out a living snapping cheating spouses, and sometimes blackmailing them. He hits up a straying wife for a bigger fee than her husband is paying him (although he collects that, too, telling the hubby he didn't find out anything) and then justifies himself to her, by reminding her that "I just saved your marriage." His best friend is Nathalie, a French call girl he knew in Paris.

Lombard's London is a few cry from the trendy, touristy fairy-tale London that has popped up lately in films such as Notting Hill. Lombard's London is filthy, and rundown, and crawling with dirty secrets. The other settings, a bleak, desolate chunk of the British Coast, and a Mexican ranch set in the middle of a hellish nowhere, are equally well-used.

The film (actually an Anglo-French co-production) is a bit of a mess at times, overlong, and it runs out of steam near the end, losing the noirish mood completely by trying for a big Hollywood style shoot-em-up finale, but other parts are pitch-black perfect.

Although it treads some of the same ground as voyeuristic 8MM, I preferred this one. It's unpleasant as hell at times, but it feels real. When we finally come face to face with the evil here, we're supposed to be disgusted, not feel like we're geting a cheap thrill, sneaking a peek at something naughty. And the violence, when it comes, is brutal and shocking, a nice change from the cartoon-like stuff we get served up so often.

And now, it turns out that that The Lost Son is not an original screenplay at all, but is actually based on a 1999 novel by Eric Leclere, which has a rather twisted story of its own. You can read the whole sordid tale of creative differences, broken promises, backstabbing, credit disputes and other treacheries at the Alibi Books Web Site. Seems the author's more than a little pissed off at a few folks in the film and publishing worlds. But the upshot of all this is that he's offering the book free for download from the site. "Give it away and be damned!" is his motto.

If you liked the character, or the film, or even if you didn't, you might find it worth your while to check out the Film/Interview page on the site. Phrases like "intellectual rape" get bandied about, and there's a ton of snorting and thumping of chests. Even more encouraging is that Leclere hasn't let this all get to him -- the long-delayed second Lombard novel, originally titled What If They Like It?, and now known as A Place of Gardens and Lilies, is due to be published in May 2005.

Eric Leclere was born in Paris, and grew up in France, Belgium and Israel before settling in the U.K. in the 1980s. For the past ten years, he has been writing screenplays, and working as a chef, restaurant manager, motorcycle despatch rider, market stall-holder, translator, painter, decorator etc. The Lost Son is his first of what he intends to be six novels featuring Xavier Lombard. Intriguingly, although he's French, Leclere writes in English.

The film "The Lost Son" which was released in Europe in early summer '99 was based on Leclere's 1995 original screenplay written in collaboration with his wife Margaret. This early 237 page draft was picked up on completion by director/cinematographer Chris Menges and in January 1996 Leclere sold an option to the work to Scala Productions. By then, having started the novel, he had also secured a publisher (Serpent's Tail) for the story on the strength of the first three chapters. And then the fun started...






Report respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith. Thanks to Margret Brooks for the scoop.

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