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I recall sitting in a café one sunny morning … I’d had one, two, maybe three small schnapps laced with a dash of bitters. In any case, an hour later, slightly sleepy, I began to imagine a large powerfully built gentleman I thought would make a passable inspector. As the day wore on, I added various accessories: a pipe, a bowler hat, a thick overcoat with a velvet collar. And since it was cold and damp on my abandoned barge, I put a cast-iron stove in his office.
Georges Simenon – before settling down to write the first novel in September 1929
(from: Preface to Pietr the Latvian)
Ich erinnere mich, wie ich eines Morgens in der Sonne in einem Café saß … Ich hatte ein, zwei, vielleicht drei kleine Schnäpse mit einem Schuss Magenbitter getrunken. Jedenfalls begann ich eine Stunde später, leicht verschlafen, mir einen großen, kräftig gebauten Mann vorzustellen, von dem ich dachte, dass er einen passablen Kommissar abgeben würde. Im Laufe des Tages fügte ich verschiedene Accessoires hinzu: eine Pfeife, einen Bowlerhut, einen schweren Mantel mit Samtkragen. Und da es auf meinem verlassenen Kahn kalt und feucht war, stellte ich einen gusseisernen Ofen in sein Büro.
Georges Simenon – bevor er im September 1929 den ersten Roman schrieb
(aus: Vorwort zu Pietr the Latvian)
The One and Only
In April 1913, when Jules Maigret was a secretary to the Detective Chief Inspector at the Saint-Georges district police station, he got his first murder case. About four years ago Maigret had joined the police force. Now he was twenty-six years old and married since five months. After having managed to solve the case – a tricky case involving a powerful family – Maigret became an Inspector and was transferred to the Chief’s Squad at Quai des Orfèvres – to make his way at the Police Judiciaire becoming the famous Detective Chief Inspector, head of the Crime Squad.
There are 75 novels and a pack of short stories. (As you know I don’t deal with short stories …) The novels were published between 1929 and 1972: they are not chronological, but mixed up. You may even find some novels in between about cases when Maigret has already retired and … simply cannot stop investigating whatever.
So there is a life full of crime when reading novels about Maigret.
Maigret is married, happily married. His wife is also happily married. Unfortunately there are no kids. Maigret’s wife is a devoted wife always busy to care about Maigret who is obsessed with solving his crimes when there is a crime. She likes to cook and has a knack for cooking. Maigret likes to eat. Obviously she is happy with his lifestyle and his passion – and his unpredictable coming and going when hunting a murderer. Later when retired both live in the countryside managing their garden, their harvests of fruit and vegetables and enjoying their peace.
So back to Maigret.
Maigret is a legend – not only concerning crime literature, but also as a Detective Chief Inspector all over France in his novels. Maigret’s desk and his team have their residence at the famous Quai des Orfèvres in the heart of Paris. You may think Paris is big enough to deliver crime cases of interest for Maigret, but … Maigret is also busy anywhere in France or even in Belgium, the Netherlands, the USA …
It is a fact – also demonstrating his status of a legend – that Maigret solves any case. He is a loner, but relies on a team available any time to do anything. Without his team … I don’t think he’d be as successful as he is. Otherwise Maigret seems to be the only one being able to comprehend all dimensions of a murder case, to put together all these bits of information, just to observe all these people near or less near to the victim and to draw conclusions. Maigret is a master of analyzing people and understanding their background and motives.
When reading the novels you are always aware that they are not part of our present, but everything happens in those days … no mobil phones, no internet, no computers … Maigret likes to walk or take taxis. Of course there are telephones, but only few. Often there are telephones in brasseries or restaurants or cafés or … Maigret likes to spend time at these places, eat and drink – to speculate about the case.
It is always a murder case. Maybe at the beginning … there seems to be some other crime, but soon there is a corpse – and often there are more corpses. Be sure that it isn’t any murder for pleasure business behind the corpses. All people have their motives for whatever they are doing.
Maigret’s cases are described in a cool and precise way. Everything that is mentioned is important – there is no flooding of the banks. You enjoy reading while at the same time getting immersed in the story. Maigret aims at solving the case and he is very straightforward to reveal the truth – he doesn’t seem to care who might be involved or if the crime is justified by whatever. He doesn’t judge.
Although the novels are rather old by now new editions have been created during the last years meaning that the novels are as gripping as they were decades ago.