Armand Sabatier ~ Sidekick or Assassin?

English: Rancocas ( Helis Stock ) Farm is an A...

English: Rancocas ( Helis Stock ) Farm is an American thoroughbred horse racing stud farm and racing stable located on Monmouth Road (County Road 537) in Springfield Township, Burlington County, New Jersey, Jobstown, New Jersey. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


As the winter snows threaten, I need to draw my interviews at Du Noroît Stud to a close. Arranging the final interviews has been a challenge – as head groom, Odette Fedon has a schedule that seems like 24/7, while I was beginning to feel that Armand Sabatier was as evasive as a wolf. Is that why he’s called Loup, French for wolf? However, he has finally agreed to talk on the understanding that he has the right to remain silent. (Although there are ways to unravel the mystery, here.)

Bonjour Armand. Many thanks for agreeing to talk about yourself. First, what was your life like growing up in France?

My childhood will always be a precious memory, even if life was hard for mes parents with four children. Our farm in the Cevennes provided more than enough to feed us well: l’agneau – the lamb, vegetables, and les châtaignes – chestnuts that my mother even used for bread. The region is beautiful, especially in the autumn with the trees. But it’s all no more. Just memories.

What went wrong? Did your parents lose the farm?

Non, but to see us educated they had to take other work and rent out the farm, as it wouldn’t sell. Now they live in Montpelier, je pense. My older brother, Laurent lives there but the rest of us… moved away.


L’Aigoual, near Cabrillac – Le lac du Salagou


This is all before ‘Spiral of Hooves’ begins? What made you leave?

Back in my teens I dreamt of helping the environment by finding safer ways of doing things in the Cevennes. I managed to get a degree in Biodiversity, Ecology, Evolution at the University of Montpelier, but then I… changed… careers.

A change of direction? In what way? Positive one, I hope.

Merde, je souffre. It hurts to remember. Just know that I failed badly, and betrayed the trust of my closest friends. The price was too high. Even now the guilt is too much… but I had to run. I still pay for mon erreur.

You came here to escape? Or to build a new future?

Especially in the Fall, this area reminds me of the home I abandoned. And my past is… buried. Gilles has given me a chance of… something better. Here my degree was a means to move on.

Is that why your new friends see you as a bookworm?

You misunderstand. The books and my qualifications are the future. Here I can forget… and move on.

But Roman Boissard believes that “the scruffy academic is a born criminal” because of your evasive manner. He wants your “contract terminated”. Yet, the others trust you. Are you concerned?

Non, Gilles always supports his friends. As he says, we are a team and when we move to his stud in England, we will be out of Roman’s way. Life will be better.

Fenburgh Stud, the one he found with Odette Fedon? So she’ll go as well and I can interview her there. Perhaps she won’t be so busy.

Exactement, she works too hard… as does Lina. I worry about them, but there is little I can do.

But you gave Lina a dog for protection. And although she sees Gilles as the hero, she sees you ‘Loup’ as his sidekick. By the way, why the nickname?

[Armand closes his eyes] Was it because I was stealthy? Perhaps. I forget. It’s just a name, but I like the idea of being a sidekick, un assistant.  Peut-être, like Gilles’s Watson, as at university where I tried to help. Or maybe I’ll be like Sam in your favourite book. Although at what cost? Does somebody have to die again? Is this a murder mystery? I suspect that I will find out, too late as usual.

What sort of danger do you fear? Are you suggesting that you might be the one committing the crime? Or perhaps you’re a victim? Apologies if that is dragging up the past you want to forget.

[Armand shakes, then breathes slowly.] Too late, it already haunts me. I have learnt to count death as an unwelcome but ever present companion. The dead lurk in the shadows… as if I’m to blame for them all. Yet death can confront us at the end of a gun, crossing the street or riding a horse.

Marcel Pagnol (1895-1974) was a French novelis...

Marcel Pagnol (1895-1974) was a French novelist, playwright, and filmmaker. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


I assure you that Armand Sabatier will be remembered, even if death comes back. Sorry, but it is an essential part of you. However, I will change the subject and ask who is your favourite author?

Merçi, and I will accept my fate, even if I have to reluctantly use force again.  As for the author, my apologies it’s not Tolkien. It has to be someone French – you know French authors have won more Literature Nobel Prizes than those of any other nation. It’s tempting to quote one of those, but instead I will choose Marcel Pagnol. He wasn’t just a writer, but excelled in almost every genre – memoir, novel, play and film. Peut-être, you know him from ‘L’Eau des Collines’, the series based on his 1952 film ‘Manon des Sources’, which was remade by Claude Berri in 1986. Je suis désolé, I am sorry I’m getting all academic.

Except that is how everyone sees you. Don’t apologise. Just tell me, what are your three most prized possessions?

A photo of Cabrillac, where I grew up – customs wouldn’t allow me to bring a dried leaf into Canada. And I have two pieces of jewellery to remind me… [Armand lowers his head, tears forming in his eyes].

My apologies for dragging the past up, again. Merçi Armand, this has been a fascinating and insightful interview.

Non, merçi pour tout, it is not good to hide my guilt, especially when death still stalks me. Better to face what I will become. Maybe England will be an opportunity to absolve myself of my failure.


Cover credit: Danielle Sands

Cover credit: Danielle Sands

‘Spiral of Hooves’ is a murder mystery set against the competitive horse world. For further information click here.

Other interviews: 

Carly Tanner ~ Leading Lady & Athlete

Gilles Boissard – heroic playboy?

Lina Jardero ~ Scientist & Adviser?

Major Roman Boissard ~ Entrepreneur or Thorn?


Forthcoming interviews:             

Odette Fedon, Head groom at Du Noroît Stud

Peter Tanner, Architect & Trainer (England)

blood in the snow

blood in the snow (Photo credit: Anosmia)


Major Roman Boissard ~ Entrepreneur or Thorn?

English: Flag of Canadian Army

English: Flag of Canadian Army (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve been apprehensive about interviewing Roman Boissard about his role in ‘Spiral of Hooves’ ever since he objected to my interview with Du Noroît Stud’s nutritionist, Lina Jardero. However, it is important to establish whether he is the interfering nuisance that his son, Gilles makes out, or whether the family equestrian business is his creation and dependent on him.

Monsieur Roman Boissard, many thanks for making time to see me…

Major Boissard to you. And you are late. Your appointment was last week, Clarke. I presume that you were never in the army otherwise you would show more respect. Army discipline would sort out your sloppy ideas.

Of course, Major. Can I ask what you did in the Canadian Army?

All I can divulge is that I was posted on covert operations with front-line combat regiments. Essential work that must remain confidential. Move on to the next question, I am a busy man.

Did you establish the family equestrian enterprise, Boissard Équestre with your son?

Tabernac, I formed Boissard Équestre on my own, without any help from my useless playboy son or those who exploit him… most of them foreigners that don’t understand us.

Who are your closest friends?

My business partners, like Patrick Harfang. We play golf together at our country club near Bromont. I trust them more than my son. Patrick is a sharp businessman, who can turn any failing business round and make it far more profitable than it ever was.

So you would consider this Patrick Harfang as like part of “your tribe”?

Of course. I can always trust his advice. It’s sound. The reverse of my wastrel son, Gilles.

What would you have to do to get kicked out of this club?

A ridiculous scenario and one that would be unmotivated.

Before the novel began, what were your hopes for the future? What changed that?

My dream was for Boissard Équestre to produce first-class horses for the Canadian Equestrian Team. But everything that I have tried to achieve has been opposed by my son and his under-qualified team. What use is a University degree when it ignores the scientific advances of prominent businesses? Lina Jardero is a total fraud.

But Gilles has said, “Papa is merely a nuisance”. The implication being that you are at fault?

Calisse, if I wanted I could make his life messy, but there are sensible options, if he would only listen to me. I am a reasonable man.

53/365: Over the hills and far away

53/365: Over the hills and far away (Photo credit: Rrrodrigo)

So what do you think is going to happen next? Can you reach an agreement with your son?

If he knows where his real loyalties lie. And those loyalties are not to his so-called friends. Who are they anyway? A salope groom that merely wants his money, a failed scientist that risks the horses with her experiments, and a scruffy academic that is a born criminal.

You are suggesting that Armand Sabatier is dangerous, so you don’t trust him?

He tries to take advantage of us with his pitiful moods. He’s too shifty and evasive, pretending to help everyone. Maybe I should have his contract terminated. I’m not even sure that he’s allowed to work in Canada.

By termination, you don’t mean murder? Your son suggested that you might kill someone, but not Armand, surely?

If I want him off the stud, I have easier ways to remove him. Now, if you want a suspect and if it isn’t my son, then the Frenchman would be ideal. However, I don’t think he has the brains to use anything other than a computer. A born failure, as an academic and probably as a criminal.

What was your most shattering, and most recent encounters with death?

In the military I saw my share of death, and it needs to end there. As I’ve said, I’m a reasonable man for whom killing is only a last resort and in combat. Life is sacred.

I accept that you have been misrepresented by others. In that respect, what’s your greatest talent?

As an entrepreneur, to always find the most cost effective but also most cutting-edge ways forward. That is why I was very keen to proceed with the trials of genetically-modified feed. And despite the critics close to home, the breeding stock look excellent and the financial projection is positive. The business has great prospects. As a family-man, to provide for my family, even Gilles.

Gilles sees himself in the hero role, ignoring the fact that a protagonist can always be female. What about yourself, are you heroic?

I have the military training to be a hero, but I fear that my age might be against me. Writers, like you, want young dynamic heroes and I suspect that means my son. Or are you suggesting that your novel features some trendy heroine protagonist? You can’t mean Jardero or that useless groom Fedon? That would be laughable – it will never sell.

Harrison Ford at the Pacific Design Center in ...

Harrison Ford at the Pacific Design Center in West Hollywood (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I think I have an age advantage over you, Major Boissard. Even if I lack the military discipline. Are you applying for the protagonist position?

Dare you ask? I have all the qualifications, even if others want to condemn me. If my favourite actor, Harrison Ford can still be the hero then I accept the promotion.

Thank you, Major Boissard for the valuable insight into your true personality. I have other candidates for the position, but I will assess your credentials with due consideration.

As long as you are not seriously considering my son. Tabernac, that would be a major mistake, even if he has his leeches.


Forthcoming interviews:             

Odette Fedon, Head groom at Du Noroît Stud

Armand Sabatier, Du Noroît Stud EIA researcher


Other ‘Spiral of Hooves’ interviews:

Carly Tanner ~ Leading Lady & Athlete

Gilles Boissard – heroic playboy?

Lina Jardero ~ Scientist & Adviser?       

Studs o' Death

Studs o’ Death (Photo credit: Anthony DeLorenzo)


Gilles Boissard ~ heroic playboy?

English: McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, ...

English: McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Trying to find a suitable opportunity over the last thirteen years to interview Gilles Boissard has not been easy since he is a busy man. But he has taken time out from his hectic lifestyle to grant us this glimpse at his major role in ‘Spiral of Hooves’, or rather into what he knows as the tale opens.

First let me say, Monsieur Boissard that this is a belated pleasure.

Call me Gilles, Monsieur Boissard is my father, Roman. But we can ignore him.

Very well, but I need to ask what your life was like growing up in Canada?

Difficult in the sense that my father believed that he had all the answers having served in the Canadian Army. Fortunately my grandfather was wiser and ensured that I had what I required from a proper education to the means to ensure life was pleasurable.

So your family has money and….

Of course. The Boissards are a highly-respected family in the Province of Québec, with a very successful pharmaceutical business. We hold the patent on a number of medical advances, you know. Of course, I have concentrated on building up our equestrian enterprises, Boissard Équestre, despite my father’s interference.

I believe that you have had some success as a horseman.

Among various sports that I have devoted my time to including downhill racing in the winter. It’s been hard to excel at more than one sport but I can claim to have succeeded. Horses, of course, are my primary focus and I am always looking for new breeding stock. Recently I spent some months in Europe where I competed successfully at the same time.

Before the story in ‘Spiral of Hooves’ began, what were your hopes for the future?

I was committed to making Boissard Équestre a crucial part of Canadian eventing, primarily as breeders of medal-winning horses. It would have been satisfying to be a member of the Canadian team, and we had the horses.

What changed that?

Roman, as usual. He formed a crazy idea to involve Boissard Équestre in genetically modified feed trials, which failed miserably. Calisse, he nearly destroyed the business. But we are putting that behind us and the future is brighter.

We? Do you mean you and your friends?

Of course. We are a team. Our nutritionist, Lina Jardero and I were good friends at McGill University and I can rely on her advice, and on others. We try to help Armand Sabatier, who we met while at university as he’s a total book-worm, poor guy. But he means well, unlike Roman. My father wants to destroy everything.

English: McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, ...

English: McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So you hate him. Would you want him dead?

Criss, that’s a personal question. Let’s just say that I might have dreamed of it but I could never commit patricide. That’s not me. I’ll just stick to ignoring him.

Then how would you describe your personality?

Personable, good-hearted and generous. I am always ready to help my friends, and love giving people gifts when they deserve it.

And how would you describe your looks?

The women always tell me I’m tall, dark and handsome and who am I to argue.

So does that mean that there isn’t one special love? Would I be wrong to call you a playboy?

Playboy with serious ambitions, but why not enjoy life at the same time as buying horses. You know what they say about women and horses. And if there is someone special it’s remaining a secret – unless you’re implying I’m fated to meet some gorgeous woman in the first few chapters.

What’s your greatest ability?

As if that wasn’t obvious, spotting great talent whether it be equine or human and female. A great female rider on a superb horse would be the ultimate prize.

Do you see yourself as heroic?

Of course. Does that mean I am the hero of my own story? I deserve to be. Who’s the heroine? Bet she falls for my charm and I stop the villain, probably Roman. He’s more than qualified. What else can he do properly?

I’m guessing that Roman’s your bête noire. What do you like about other people?

Papa is merely a nuisance. With a few notable exceptions, people know what their role in life is and don’t try to step outside the confines of their situation. As such they can be fantastic company, especially when they appreciate the finest food and drink.

What do you think is going to happen next?

I meet the woman of my dreams and find the horse that can win me medals. I fear though that Roman will ruin everything as usual. He knows I’ve bought a stud in England and will try everything to stop us. Probably murder one of the team to spite me. Then I save the day.


Other ‘Spiral of Hooves’ interview: Carly Tanner ~ Leading Lady & Athlete