On Leave by Daniel Anselme

Three army conscripts spend a few days’ leave in Paris in the winter of 1956, seeking some respite from their part in France’s dirty war in Algeria. Over this short time, the trio – middle-class intellectual Lachaume, Communist sympathiser Vallette and Jack-the-lad Lasteyrie – discover that they are not really welcome back to dip into the lives they…

Bonjour Tristesse by Francoise Sagan

I have a great regard for teenagers. Several decades ago, I was one. But you wouldn’t want a teenager’s finger on the nuclear button. This story is why: Bonjour Tristesse takes place in the 1950s on the French Riviera, where Cecile and her father Raymond have taken a summer villa. Raymond is a handsome, feckless arse who…

Raffles: The Amateur Cracksman by E.W. Hornung

Ignorance is a many-sided toy, with bulky edges that stick awkwardly into your skin, giving you a nagging feeling that something is wrong when you put it in your pocket. That may be why, when you scurry along…oh heavens, this metaphor started badly and is getting worse. What I’m trying to say, which must be obvious to the…

The President’s Hat by Antoine Laurain

 President Francois Mitterrand’s hat is missing. It is Paris, November 1986. Accountant Daniel Mercer has – there’s no polite word for this – stolen it, after sitting next to Mitterrand in a swanky restaurant. ‘All brasseries have brilliant white tablecloths that hurt the eyes, like snow on the ski slopes.’ This one certainly does, the sort…