Leonard Rosen's debut, All Cry Chaos, introduces Interpol agent Henri Poincaré.
What inspired you to name a character after a 19th-century mathematician?
My novel concerns the play of chaos in our lives, and the subject matter, in a way, chose the lineage of my (fictional) main character, Henri Poincaré. His great-grandfather, the real Jules Henri Poincaré, was the father of chaos theory: the first to observe that a small change in the initial conditions of certain equations can yield unpredictable results. What if chaos extended from the mathematics of planetary motion—the topic of J.H. Poincaré's inquiry in 1890—to the human level and thereby played some crucial, largely unknown role both in our personal lives and in the evolution of our species? I thought it fitting that Poincaré's heir, several generations later, would mount such an investigation.
Why make Poincaré a family man rather than a lone wolf?
The investigator as lone wolf has been done so well by so many others that I don't feel I have much to offer. I wanted to move in a different direction with a character who was more functional than dysfunctional; someone for whom—through the agency of family and friends—love is an active principle. He's no crusader, and he holds no monopoly on the truth. He investigates darkness because he mourns the world's corruption and is compelled to understand it, however painful the revelation. Perhaps the lone wolf was this man once upon a time. But the ugliness has so damaged his capacity to love that human connection is a memory.
Not all is as it seems in this novel. How do you keep all the balls in the air?
I wrote a character- and idea-driven novel that also happens to be a mystery thriller—the form best suited to the questions I wanted to investigate. The writing was its own exercise in chaos. I began with two plot lines, but the story demanded four, then seven—and somehow I had to maintain order. I revised continuously, both backward and forward—a complicated, messy business. I must add that indispensible throughout the writing process were two trusted, brutally honest readers who said, "Nope—not ready yet!"
Is your mix of international espionage, mathematic puzzles, radical politics, and matters of the spirit something that naturally ties in with your academic background?
My background helped give form to my admittedly scattered interests. I've spent years thinking about the leaps novelists make and the various moves needed to achieve a reciprocal effect on readers. It seemed a natural extension to place a character that fascinated me, along with ideas that fascinated me, into an imagined world.