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Speaking of Maigret...

references to Maigret and Simenon in literature

contributions welcome

Pierre Assouline   Andrea Camilleri   Truman Capote   Charles Exbrayat   Nicolas Freeling   Alan Furst   Graham Greene   Ernest Hemingway   Reginald Hill   Jim Lerher   Herbert Lieberman   James Melville   Igor Stravinsky  

author title year reference contributor
Dov Alfon A Long Night in Paris 2019 "Dîtes moi, patron, vous avez l'international au téléphone ici?” The bartender blinked and poured himself a glass from the bottle. A good sign. “I haven't been asked that question in a long time," he said. “You're trying to play Commissaire Maigret? You’re too young and too skinny.”

“No, just forgot my mobile,” Abadi said, trying to bring the conversation back on track.

Maigret used to sit right there, on the same stool you’re sitting on,” the bartender said. “The actor who played him, that is. Jean Gabin. Every now and then Marlene Dietrich would join him. They knew they could keep to themselves here and no-one would talk.”

“I always say that discretion is the better part of valour,” Abadi said. He even meant it, which was quite dishonest for a spy.
Jérôme Devémy
Pierre Assouline Lutetia 2005 Si je ne les avais pas déjà interrogés à la PJ au cours ma première vie, je les avais certainement croisés dans Pietr-le-Letton ou tout autre roman de la veine cosmopolite de Simenon.

If I hadn't already interrogated them at the PJ in the course my first life, I had certainly come across them in Pietr-Le-Letton or any other novel in Simenon's cosmopolitan vein.

Jérôme Devémy
Andrea Camilleri The Terra-cotta Dog
(Inspector Mantalbano)
2002 "He took his two courses, a bottle of wine, and some bread to the table, turned on the television, and sat down to dinner. He loved to eat alone, relishing every bite in silence. ... It occurred to him that in matters of taste he was closer to Maigret than to Pepe Carvalho, the protagonist of Montalbán's novels, who stuffed himself with dishes that would have set a shark's belly on fire."
(p.42, Penguin edition)
Truman Capote Breakfast at Tiffany's 1958 "I'd been to a movie, come home, and gone to bed with a bourbon nightcap and the newest Simenon: so much my idea of comfort that I....."
(in the first part of the book)
Jérôme Devémy
Colin Cotterill The Coroner's Lunch
(Dr. Siri Paiborn Mystery)
2004 "During his stay in Paris decades before, he’d taken delight in the weekly serializations of one Monsieur Sim in the L’Oeuvre newspaper. They followed the investigations of an inspector of the Paris police force who was able to solve the most complicated of mysteries with the aid of nothing more lethal than a pipe of tobacco.

By the time he got to Vietnam, Siri was more than pleased to learn that Monsieur Sim had restored his name to its full Simenon, and that Inspector Maigret mysteries were now appearing as books. The French in Saigon had shelves of them, and a number found their way north to be read by those communist cadres who’d spent their formative years in France.

Siri had been able to solve most of the mysteries long before the detective had a handle on them — and he didn’t even smoke... "

Jérôme Devémy
Colin Cotterill Disco for The Departed
(Dr. Siri Paiborn Mystery)
2011 "We could go back to Vientian, tell everyone Inspector Maigret and his faithful lieutenant have solved yet another dastardly crime, and know deep down that we haven't..."
(p.202 - Soho Press)
Jim Nolan
Charles Exbrayat Tout le monde l'aimait 1969 A police inspector is dispatched from Bordeaux to a small town to investigate the murder of a prominent and widely respected citizen, the wife of the Procureur de la République. The inspector, Commissaire Grémilly, is a typical Exbrayat character - opinionated, waggish, and eccentric. The local juge d'instruction who interviews him shortly after his arrival conceives an immediate antipathy:
— Ce policier ne me plaît pas. Il a trop lu Simenon et doit se prendre pour Maigret.

["I don't care much for this chap. He's read too many Simenons. Now he thinks he's Maigret."]

John H.
Nicolas Freeling
Tsing Boum
(Inspector van der Valk)

1967 (It has just been established that van der Valk hates airports.)
"Airports always made him wish he were in Cuba.
In consequence he walked about Orly with a heavy forbidding step like Commissaire Maigret, looked at all the restaurant menus with a pouched and glaucous eye, had a meal that was all he had feared, found a corner so gloomy that even Americans in plastic overshoes slunk away from it ..."
(page 83 (of the paperback version))

"It was comic that a supposedly reasonable, logical person like a policeman - and he was a Dutch policeman, feet firmly planted on the ground - should get superstitious. But like Commissaire Maigret, repeating the same drink throughout a whole book, van der Valk sometimes felt 'obligations'. Hostages to fortune."

(page 94 (of the paperback version))
Michael Newman
Nicolas Freeling
another van der Valk novel   There is another reference to Maigret in one of the books, but I can't quite place it.
Roddy Campbell
Alan Furst
The World at Night 1996 Looks like there is a mistake as "The Nightclub" ("L'Âne rouge") is a Simenon, but not a Maigret:

"Sunday night, late - one thirty in the morning when he looked at his watch. He was reading, wearing an old shirt an slacks. Restless, not ready to sleep. Blackout curtains drawn, light of a single lamp, a very battered Maigret novel, The Nightclub, he'd bought at a stall on the Seine."

(in the chapter called "16 April 1941")
Jérôme Devémy
Alan Furst
The Spies of Warsaw 2008
The main protagonist, Mercier, puts down Stendahl's The Red and the Black, "but by page fourteen he gave up and brought out what he really wanted to read, a Simenon roman policier, 'The bar on the Seine', [La Guinguette à Deux Sous], which he'd found in the French section of a Warsaw bookstore."
(page 169. Both books are mentioned again on page 177, "But, finally, it was Simenon - all too soon finished - and, indubitably, Stendahl...")
Jim Nolan
Alan Furst
Spies Of The Balkans 2010
(page 196) "He tried to return to Inspector Maigret, waiting on his night table, but memories of the real Paris intruded... (page 197) "While he'd slept, Maigret had disappeard. No, there we was, under the blanket." (page 216) "A restless reader, he'd put Inspector Maigret aside in favor of a novel by the Greek writer Kostykas..."
Jim Nolan
Graham Greene The Comedians 1979 The sea captain is described as reading a Maigret novel, which the narrator of the book suggests shows that he has a human side:

"At least I had not woken him from sleep. He was propped up in his berth wearing a white cotton nightshirt, and he had put on very thick reading-glasses which made his eyes look like broken chips of quartz. He held a book tilted below the reading-lamp, and I saw it was one of Simenon's novels, and this encouraged me a little – it seemed to be a sign that he had human interests."

(p. 212 of the Penguin Classics edition)

The captain turned to us. As though he had at last abandoned the hope of Maigret for the night he put his book down.

(p. 214)
Andrew Lee-Hart

Jérôme Devémy

Graham Greene The Quiet American 1956

"I'm not Lecoq, or even Maigret, and there's a war on."

(p. 28 of the Penguin Classics edition)

"Do you remember what you said to me - about finding clues on its paws, analysing the dirt, and so on?"
"And you said you weren't Maigret or Lecoq."
"I've not done so badly after all," he said.

(p. 138)
Ernest Hemingway True at First Light 1954-56 "...We were getting a little far down into the book bag but there were still some hidden values mixed in with the required reading and there were twenty volumes of Simenon in French that I had not read. If you are to be rained in while camped in Africa there is nothing better than Simenon and with him I did not care how long it rained. You draw perhaps three good Simenons out of each five but an addict can read the bad ones when it rains and I would start them, mark them bad, or good; there is no intermediate grade with Simenon and then having classified a half dozen and cut the pages, I would read happily, transferring all my problems to Maigret, bearing with him in his encounters with idiocy and the Quai des Orfieves, and very happy in his sagacious and true understanding of the French, a thing only a man of his nationality could achive, since Frenchmen are barred by some obscure law from understanding themselves sous peine des travaux forcés à la perpétuité....." Brasserie Dauphine
Ernest Hemingway A Moveable Feast 1964 "...I never found anything as good for that empty time of day or night until the first fine Simenon books came out.
I think Miss Stein would have liked the good Simenons — the first one I read was either L'Ecluse Numéro 1, or La Maison du Canal — but I am not sure because when I knew Miss Stein she did not like to read French although she loved to speak it. Janet Flanner gave me the first two Simenons I ever read. She loved to read French and she had read Simenon when he was a crime reporter."
Frieda Schlusmans
Reginald Hill one of the "Dalziel and Pascoe" crime books   One of Superintendent Dalziel's colleagues describes the rather large detective as "the Yorkshire Maigret". They certainly both like their drink, but in Dalzeil's case it is good Yorkshire bitter. David
Jim Lerher A Bus of My Own 1992 After a heart attack about 10 years ago, as he tried to learn to relax (under medical orders) one of his best discoveries was Maigret. He says he never travels now without a Maigret for one more reading in the motel room.
Herbert Lieberman The Green Train 1992 These extracts are from the French pocket edition, [translated back into English]:

Chapter 1 : (page 13)

"Stern washed; feeling shaky he reached for the little bag where he kept his travel tickets, medicine, and his papers, to which he'd added a good half-dozen Maigrets – accumulated at various airport kiosks to read on the trip."

Chapter 4: (page 117)

"Some, like Stern, attempted to read. But not even Chief Inspector Maigret could assuage his discomfort. Stern set himself to following the good Chief Inspector through the tortuous maze of little streets and alleys of the 18th arroundissement, on the trail of a psychopathic killer, but..."

Chapter 4: (page 128)

"At 10:00 pm, Stern , wedged into the seat of his compartment, feet in the air, was plunged into one of his Maigrets. He felt a great tenderness for the Chief Inspector from the Quai des Orfèvres. A sort of affinity drew them together. He imagined himself happily drinking a beer or a little Calvados with Maigret at the Brasserie Dauphine, around 11:00 at night, just before the Chief Inspector returned to his walk-up apartment on the Boulevard Richard Lenoir..."

Chapter 8: (page 343)

"He couldn't recover his good mood. Even his charm, Maigret, hadn't been enough to distract him..."

I guess the book he refers to in the 18th arrondissement is pretty easy to identify. The Green Train was written in 1986. Lieberman was born in 1933 and is still alive from what I gather from the web. He must like Maigret to speak about him like this in his own book.

Jérôme Devémy
James Melville The Wages of Zen
(Superintendent Tetsuo Otani)
1979 "Otani had stood gloomily beside the tall Englishman and the official Foreign Ministry interpreter staring down at the empty shell of the man he had seen in the flickering candlelight of the Buddha hall at Chisho-ji only a few days previously, reflecting how much easier things seemed to be for Inspector Van der Valk or Maigret."
(from Chapter 4, p.48 of the 1979 Fawcett edition.)

"Otani was more than a little displeased at being so dependent on his assistants for information. Maigret and Van der Valk seemed to be able to do it all by themsleves."

(from Ch. 14, p.165.)

Jérôme Devémy
  Kimono for a Corpse
(Superintendent Tetsuo Otani)
1987 "[Otani] was a particular admirer of Simenon, and in lighter moments much enjoyed Emma Lathen and the late Rex Stout, envying Nero Wolfe his sybaritic life-style but finding that pushing his lips out and in did nothing to help his own though processes."

(St. Martins's Press, Ch. 15, p.118-19)

  The Reluctant Ronin
(Superintendent Tetsuo Otani)
1988 "There beside a stack of old circulars from the National Police Agency, an ancient dictionary and a Japanese translation of Monsieur Monde Vanishes by Georges Simenon was a neat pile of newspapers with that day's Mainichi Shimbun on top."

(Fawcett, Ch. 13, p.98)

  The Bogus Buddha
(Superintendent Tetsuo Otani)
1990 "Even Professor Leclerc's started making sour remarks about Inspector Hara. Referring to him as Inspector Maigret and suggesting he might make better progress if he tried smoking a pipe."

(Scribners, Ch. 16, p.140)

Igor Stravinsky Lillian Libman's And music at the close:
Stravinsky's last years: A personal memoir (covering 1959-71)
1972 p 83: (in Stravinsky's room, probably in LA)

Dictionaries of practical size – Russian-English, French, German – were always in evidence, and consulted constantly; detective stories ran a close second. Of the latter, Miss Christie's brain-twisters ranked high on the popularity scale at the time (the only period, I believe, when he was unfaithful to the immortal Simenon)...

P 187:

Stravinsky read one Simenon on our train to Washington for that concert [his Abraham and Isaac], and another on the return trip.

p 260: (in a hotel)

One night, as I sat up in bed very late ... writing some release or other, he tapped on the connecting door and entered. He explained that he had seen my light and begged pardon for having disturbed me, but could he use my reading lamp, which seemed brighter than his? Then he sat down in an armchair, opened the Simenon he was carrying, read for half an hour (while I pretended to continue working), and finally closed the book, waved good night, and left. I felt as if I had just had a visit from someone who was afraid of the dark.

P 294:

One part of our audience was reading Simenon in bed on the second floor...

David Derrick


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