A while back, I wrote a screenplay entitled “The Zambezi Conspiracy,” which was my pipe dream/wish-fulfillment fantasy of what should have happened in Rwanda. I have one character who is a sleazy Frenchman who happens to be a priest. If you’re wondering why I conceived such a character, it’s because Rwanda was once a Belgian colony where French was the first language. Further, even as I write this, there is a priest and a couple of nuns doing time for having assisted those who committed genocide. While considering what to name this sleazy French character, I thought, “what the heck; why not name him ‘Petain’,” though I knew some readers may find that too obvious a name for a Frenchman who collaborates with doers of unspeakable evil.
A few months later, I happened to read James Webb’s novel, Lost Soldiers, which takes place in present-day Vietnam. I got a very good chuckle when I discovered that Webb had given the name of Petain to one of his characters, who also happened to be a sleazy Frenchman.