In the Footsteps of
By Joe Richards
The following text is based on a number of visits to Paris between September 2001 and June 2003. As it's under three hours from my door in Belgium to the City of Light, one might think I'd be a constant visitor, but Maigret is just one of my hobbies and of course I also have family and work commitments as well.
The photos which supplement this text can be accessed directly here, and by clicking on the links throughout the text.
Maigret at work - Quai des Orfèvres
Maigret at home - Blvd Richard-Lenoir
Maigret and the Fortuneteller
Maigret and the Loner
Maigret and the Saturday Caller
Maigret and the Apparition
Place Constantin Pecquer
"Mlle Berthe and Her Lover"
"Maigret and the Unlucky/Surly Inspector"
Other Montmartre Stories
Before we descend into the Metro for our trip to Montmartre, we'll first have a look at the Quai des Orfèvres, the place Dauphine, and the blvd Richard-Lenoir. The Quai is on the Ile de la Cité, on the south bank. The building is very large and houses the police and the courts.
Place Dauphine was the setting for the Brasserie Dauphine, which never existed with that name. There are today several bars and cafés there now. As it was sometimes mentioned that M could watch the Seine from the Brasserie. it would have to have been on the right side of the place when seen with the Palais de Justice behind you.
The blvd Richard-Lenoir was named for François Richard (1765-1839), an important manufacturer of textiles. Upon the death of his associate Joseph Lenoir-Dufresne in 1806, Richard became François Richard-Lenoir. Is it a coincidence that the nearby rue Popincourt is the center of the wholesale garment district today? If you happen to walk down rue Popincourt and see all the clothes in the shop windows, keep in mind that this is only for the trade, and there are no sales to individual customers.
[a map of the blvd Richard-Lenoir area is here]
The only time that M's house number was mentioned (M's Special Murder), it was both wrong and contradicted in the same story. The address of 132 blvd Richard-Lenoir was given. Later on we find the following:
"They started (from the Bastille) down the blvd Richard-Lenoir, a stone's throw from M's home, but turned right down the rue de la Roquette."
132 blvd Richard-Lenoir is rather more than a stone's throw from the rue de la Roquette, to say the least. In M Takes a Room we have the following:
(M) "Where are you living?"
(suspect) "Where I still live now on the blvd Richard-Lenoir." He smiled for a second time, if you could call it a smile. "A few houses along from you on the corner of the rue du Chemin Vert."
This could be taken to mean that M lived on the corner and the suspect lived a few houses along or the inverse might be equally true. Given that there's enough said in many other stories to support the idea that M lived at the corner of blvd Richard-Lenoir and rue du Chemin Vert, we'll leave it there. The house numbers of the buildings at this intersection are 31 (sw), 33 (nw), 42 (se), and 44 (ne). So which was the house that M and his wife lived in? The following from M and the Informer sheds some light:
(Mme M:) "I'm going down to buy some ham."
He watched her out of the window as she walked toward rue Servan. He was glad to have a wife like her and smiled with satisfaction. How long had Inspector Louis been married before his wife had been run over by a bus? Only a few years since he had been thirty at the time. He had been looking out the window as M was doing at that moment, and the accident occurred under his very eyes. M touched wood, an unusual thing for him to do, and stayed at the window until he saw his wife cross the blvd again and come into the building."
M. must have been sitting at that window for a good bit of a while, as it's nine blocks from blvd Richard-Lenoir to rue Servan along the rue du Chemin Vert! The fact that Mme M had to cross blvd Richard-Lenoir to get to rue Servan indicates that they lived at either number 31 or number 33. Had they lived in number 42 or number 44 there would have been no need to cross blvd Richard-Lenoir to get to rue Servan. It also indicates their apartment was on the corner of the building. If not, he would have lost sight of her as soon as she crossed the street. 31 doesn't have a squared off corner at the intersection, so it would be perfect in this respect, giving M a better view of rue du Chemin Vert in the direction of rue Servan.
The view from M's front windows changed with the story. In M's Special Murder the business across the street was called Lhoste et Pépin. In M's Little Joke it was Catoire et Potut. In M's Christmas it was Entrepôt Légal, Fils et Cie. In this story it was mentioned that someone from the house opposite came to see him and this house was just to the left of Fils et Cie. The only way for this to happen with M living on the west side of the blvd was for Fils et Cie to be number 40 and the house to be number 42. According to this, M had to live in number 31. Had M lived in number 33, the house opposite would have been 44. 44 is separated from 42 by the rue du Chemin Vert, so the opposite house could not have been just to the left of Entrepôt Légal, Fils et Cie.
There are, however, a couple of problems with the choice of 31. For starters, it doesn't have six floors. In one of the stories it was mentioned they had a maid's room on the sixth. Only the fourth floor has a balcony for the apartments there and this is two floors higher up than the Maigrets lived. In M Loses his Temper we have the following:
"Lucas stopped the car in front of the apartment house where M lived, and, looking up, the Chief Superintendent saw his wife leaning on the balcony rail. She gave him a little wave. He waved back and went into the building."I wonder if this was absent-mindedness on Simenon's part. As with the maid's room, the balcony was only mentioned in one story. Also, Mme M wasn't expecting her husband home at any set time, so standing idly on the balcony and watching the world go by seems to be somewhat out of character for her. She never seemed happy doing nothing.
Number 42, right across the street from 31, has eight floors, if I remember correctly. This means that it too also fails the maid's room test, as those rooms are always in the attic. On the other side of the coin, it does have balconies on all floors except the ground (of course) and the first. Both buildings have more than two flats per floor, important as M bought the other flat on his landing in one book. Unless the second flat was bought to rent out, something never mentioned, I can't imagine the two of them living in two separate flats side by side. The only alternative would have been a massive and expensive renovation that would have knocked some walls down (maybe not possible as M didn't own the building) and converting the second kitchen into something else. As with the maid's room and the balcony, this was a one-off affair not mentioned in any other story. Number 42 is certainly big enough to have several stairways and therefore several landings on each floor, so this is plausible. 31 is smaller but a second stairway can't be ruled out.
Number 44 is a hotel and both it and number 33 have bars at street level, something never mentioned in any of the stories. The biggest problem with number 42 is that it is a building of some standing, a place that simply have been too expensive for a young policeman to move into at the start of his career when he was a simple foot patrolman. For me, that puts things back to number 31. 31 is also the reverse of the number 13, as in 13 blvd des Batignoles (which we'll meet later), tram line 13 in The Lock at Charenton, 13 Guilty Men, 13 Enigmas, 13 Mysteries, and perhaps even more uses of this number in the non-Maigret stories.
In M's Christmas, Mme M went to a bakery on the corner of rue du Chemin Vert and rue Amelot to get croissants for breakfast on Christmas morning. (This bakery does not exist today. Did it? I can't say for sure. When I visited, one of the four buildings on that intersection had been gutted for renovation. All that was left were the exterior walls. I have no idea what the businesses formerly on the ground floor may have been. A bakery can not be ruled out.) Too bad Mme M didn't think to buy her ham on rue Amelot as well. She could have done so at the little charcuterie (pork butcher) that you can find there today, all that remains of the many small food shops where she and her neighbors used to shop in days gone by. There are many places on rue Amelot where you can eat and drink today. This includes a club called the Tabarin where jazz great Django Reinhardt played back in the 1930's. I wonder if Reinhardt and Simenon knew each other? Given that Reinhardt was an illiterate Gypsy who also could not even read music, maybe not. I'm sure however that Simenon knew who Reinhardt was and maybe even saw him play in one or another of the many nightclubs in Paris.
From another story we know that Mme M sometimes shopped in a little grocery at the corner of the rue du Chemin Vert and rue Popincourt. This exists today, in spite of what I put on the Forum about it earlier. The first time I passed there the shutters were down and I couldn't see what was inside. The next time everything was open and it was a small fresh fruit and vegetable market. Diagonally across from this was the bar that served as the model for Chez Jules in M and the Killer.
All we know about blvd Richard-Lenoir itself from the many stories that it appears in comes from this little quote from M's Special Murder:
"But the blvd Richard-Lenoir was broad (actually 60 meters or 200 feet wide) and even had a little strip of grass growing down the middle. It was true this grass grew above the Metro..."
Perhaps I can give you a better picture. It's actually two parallel one way streets separated by a central reservation that is about 15 meters/50 feet wide. Down both sides of the reservation is a line of trees and benches. In the center is an open space. From time to time you'll come upon a playground, fountain, footbridge, or something similar.
The street follows the original course of the St. Martin canal, which is now underground. There is a vault at each end of the underground section. The southern one is just below the Bastille. The northern one is at the end of blvd Jules Ferry (the northern extension of blvd Richard-Lenoir). The above ground part of the canal near the vault is where M and the Headless Corpse played out.
Directly under the reservation is a Metro line and you'll see the ventilators every so often. There are two Metro stations (both on line 5) on the part of the street that we are interested in. One is called Richard-Lenoir. This station was said to be right at M's door in Mme M's Own Case but it's not the closest to rue du Chemin Vert. The other is Breguet Sabin, which is not far from number 31. The name of this station was taken from nearby small streets.
OK, down we go into the Metro at the Breguet Sabin station for a ride on line 5. We'll go up as far as the Gare du Nord, the place in Paris that M hated the most, and change to line 4. We take this up to Marcadet-Poissonniers and change again to line 12. We'll get off at the second station, Lamarck-Caulaincourt. If you're actually going to do something like this yourself, get a Paris Visite card at any Metro station. This gives unlimited use of all Metro trains, buses, trams, and suburban trains in the Paris area. You have to buy at least three zones and may buy up to eight. Three is plenty for anywhere in this article. If you want to visit the house of Louis Thouret (from M and the Man on the Bench) in Juvisy, you'll need all eight. Please note that I haven't yet tried this one and I don't know if his street actually exists. The card can be bought for one or several days. (note: The fares and the zones for the Paris Visite card seem to have recently changed. The basic card is still the first three zones. Juvisy is now at the end of zone four and there are now only five zones.)
Since we're buying something, this is a good place for a word about money. All the references to French francs in the stories were correct in their day but obsolete now. There is no more French money anymore. That doesn't mean that everything's free now. France uses the Euro and this money can be used in (at the moment) 11 other European countries. All countries that border France except Switzerland use it as do a number of others. The only holdouts in the European Union are England, Denmark, and Sweden. The Euro makes travel in Europe much easier and a bit cheaper as you don't pay to change money each time you cross a border.
[a map of the Montmartre area is here]
We will start with M and the Fortuneteller. The fortuneteller lived and was murdered in her apt. located at 67 bis, rue Caulaincourt. "Bis" means 'continued' or 'alternate'. In the USA we might use 67½ to say the same thing. In this case, the first house on the block is number 65, on the left when seen from the middle. The next house is 67. This would be followed by 67 bis had it existed, then 69, 71, and so on. "Bis" or just plain "B" was used in many of the addresses in the different M's. Most of the time there was no 'bis' at that place in reality as is the case here. Once in a while the 'bis' was correct. As 67 bis doesn't exist, my default setting is 67. 67 rue Caulaincourt. Keep that address in mind as we'll return to it several more times.
Although rue Caulaincourt doesn't have a central reservation, it is lined with trees and benches on both sides. It also climbs a grade with number 1 being at the bottom and there's a curve in it a little lower down from 67. It's a very pleasant street and I wouldn't at all mind living on it. It's an important street in the district but it's off the tourist track. There's a very nice bakery at number 63. Between it and number 65 is the square Caulaincourt. It's not large and at the end of it is the Hotel Caulaincourt, popular with backpackers. There's a nice view there over a steeply descending staircase. Across from 67 is a bus stop named square Caulaincourt. There are many bars, shops, and places to eat all along the street. At the front of 67 on the ground floor is a shop for women's clothing called Nicole St. Gilles on the left. On the right is a news agent. The two are separated by the entrance to the apartments. The building has at least six floors not counting the ground level. The houses with odd numbers are on the west and north sides of the street as it curves around. If you want to eat in the area, restaurants are open for lunch and then close until 7 p.m. for dinner.
Now the scene has been set so we'll move along. One of the people in the story, Joseph Mascouvin, lived at 21, place des Vosges, well known for its four fountains, mentioned in most of the stories that concerned the location. This was one of Simenon's former addresses and M himself lived there in M's Memoirs. I've had a look and no one with the name of Simenon, Maigret, or Mascouvin lives there now. Mascouvin worked for an up-market realtor/estate agent named Proud et Drouin on the blvd Bonne Nouvelle. Please keep in mind the "Prou" (PROUd et Drouin) as we'll see this again. The exact address of P&D wasn't mentioned, but their name was on the windows of their third floor offices. In Europe, the ground floor is zero rather than one as in the USA. American readers should always add one to the floor numbers given to properly visualize where they are. The floor numbers I use are the ones in the original stories. At any rate, I walked the length of the blvd Bonne Nouvelle and looked at all the third floor windows on both sides. None of them mentioned P&D or any other realtor. My best guess would be number 9 as it's both old and up-market.
At the corner of the place de la Republique and the blvd Voltaire, the Café des Sports was mentioned as was Nestor, a waiter who worked there. Nestor was also the name of a Great Dane (Simenon had at least one of these huge dogs) in M and the Bum. It's also the name of my girlfriend's old yellow Labrador. Whenever I take Nestor out for one of his walks, I always think of M and the Yellow Dog! Anyway, at that corner today is a restaurant called Pizza Pino (part of a chain) and opposite is the Taverne de Maître Kanter. As the pizza place is fairly new, I'll dismiss it. Another reason I chose Maître Kanter as the model is the first three letters of "Maitre" are the same as those of "Maigret". I'd have made the same choice if I'd been Simenon. The Maître Kanter looks like it's been there since before the book was written (over 60 years), so another reason to choose it. The fact is that small businesses come and go all the time in Paris as elsewhere. It's possible that some of the businesses that Simenon wrote about did in fact exist at the time but are there no longer. Although the name may have changed (and maybe more than once), it's quite possible that what's now the Maître Kanter actually was the Café des Sports or something else back around 1940.
This story, like several other M's, has a Mlle Berthe. This one is the foster sister of Mascouvin. She works in a travel agency on the blvd de la Madaleine which isn't there today and lived near the place des Ternes. Remember the name Berthe and the fact that she was a dressmaker before working at the travel agent.
In this story the local police station was on the rue Damremont. There's not one there now, if ever there was. The nearest one to Damremont is on rue Marcadet, not far away. This is of some importance as in other stories that played in the same streets the local station is at the corner of rue Caulaincourt and rue du Mont-Cenis or on the rue Lambert.
Another person in the story is Octave Le Clouagen. He lived at blvd des Batignoles, 13. This was described as a large gray building and may have been but now it's yellowish. A bar across the street was mentioned but it's name and address were not. It's the "le Moncey' and it's at number 14. As on the blvd Richard-Lenoir, blvd des Batignoles is a wide street with a tree lined central reservation. This is used for parking rather than for parks and the effect is quite different.
The Picpus Moving Company of 101 rue Picpus was mentioned. The building there is a modernized block of flats. The proof of this is the difference in style between the roof and the facade. It's doubtful that any moving/removals company ever existed here as that would imply warehouses for storage and space for the trucks and vans. As I photographed this building, one of the occupants happened to come out. She asked me why I was taking pictures of her home. I explained as best I could in bad French that it was mentioned in one of M's investigations in a Simenon book. She seemed amused by this and I've sent her a copy of "Signé Picpus" along with a short note telling her to visit this site and click on this link.
A certain Mr. Blaise was in this story. The first time he was mentioned he was "H. Blaise". The rest of the time he was Emil Blaise. He lived on the rue Notre Dame de Lorette, 25. M was having him watched from the Café Old Pouilly. There's something like that quite close to number 25 today called 'A la Place St. Georges'. It's so close to number 25 that it's the ground floor of the same building. A few doors down at number 17 bis was a bar mentioned in M's Boyhood Friend. The bar is actually at number 19, and 17 bis doesn't exist.
The next story is M and the Loner. The murder took place near the market of les Halles but most of the action was in our little corner of Montmartre. M was asked to come to the police station on the rue des Prouvaires. Here again is the name Prou, as in PROUvaires and in PROUd et Drouin. The district station today is on rue Lescot. The murder took place in the Vieux Four (Old Oven) passage, just off the rue de la Grande Truanderie. The passage doesn't exist today, but was it once part of what is now number 3, rue de la Grande Truanderie? Or was that doorway the way into the passage way back when? Perhaps that door inspired Simenon to create a street where none ever existed. I'm fairly positive that Simenon didn't pull these addresses and settings for the Maigrets out of thin air. I'm sure he'd been to these places and maybe even took notes. Although exact matches are sometimes hard to find in today's Paris, the inspirations are not.
A butcher's shop and a hairdressers' school/barber college were said to exist on the rue St. Denis, but there's no sign of them now. M's police car was parked on the corner of rue Rambuteau and rue St. Denis in the center of the district. This is part of a large pedestrian zone now. Nearby on rue Cygne was a bakery, but no trace of this nowadays. On the rue Coquillierie, a few streets away there was a charcuterie mentioned. This exists now at number 38, so we've found a little something.
The victim, Marcel Vivien, had lived at rue Caulaincourt, number...67. His wife, a dressmaker, continued to live there many years later. Their adult daughter lived at rue Marcadet 12 since her marriage. Today this end of Marcadet is not one of the better parts of Paris.
Vivien was a highly skilled cabinet maker who specialized in restoring antiques. His workshop was at rue Lepic, 65 bis.. He would have gone to work each day by turning right from his door and walking to the square Caulaincourt. From there he would have crossed the rue Caulaincourt and continued to the short flight of stairs that led up to ave Junot. He would then turn right again and proceed up to number 23. This is both a house and a passageway that leads to a flight of stairs that becomes 65 rue Lepic at the other end and at the bottom of the stairs. This little trip would have taken less than ten minutes. There's no 65 bis and there's no 65 except for the flight of stairs. There are a few houses behind gates bordering the passageway, but it's always the back sides that you see even though some of them have bell pushes. The fronts of these house are facing parallel passages to this one. None of them have house numbers showing. This small area is all that is now left of a district called Le Maquis. It was a lot of small streets with small houses that at one time attracted many artists and writers with low rents. Most of it was demolished when the ave Junot was built in the early 1900's.
A brasserie, Chez Manière was mentioned. It also shows up in a few other of the M's. It was supposedly famous throughout France. It was located beside the steps that lead up from the place Constantin Pecquer to the place Dalida and it had a terrace. Too bad it's not there today! The brasserie (just a restaurant in the French texts) would have had to have been to the left of the stairs as there's not enough room on the right for the terrace. Today there's a heating supply there. We will return to the place Constantin Pecquer later on for a more detailed description.
There was another brasserie mentioned, the Cyrano. This was on the place Blanche, next to the Moulin Rouge cabaret. It's not there today. I think this place was also mentioned in another story.
Vivien would sometimes eat at the Bonne Fourchette restaurant on the rue Dancourt. Today there are no less than five restaurants on that short street serving a variety of cuisines. None of them are called the Bonne Fourchette.
A second restaurant was also mentioned. This was the Chez Pharamond. You may enjoy a meal there today at the rue de la Grande Truanderie, 24. It's been there since 1832 and it's one of the better ones in Paris. You may need reservations. Dress well and expect to pay dearly. This isn't too far from the place des Vosges, so Simenon may well have eaten there from time to time.
In the book there was a branch of the Credit Lyonnais bank almost opposite 65 bis, rue Lepic. There's no bank there now, but 72 bis (the bis is real) looks the part with bars on the windows of the two lowest floors. It's not directly across from 65 but it's close.
Two hotels were mentioned by name, the Hotel du Morvan and the Hotel Jonard. The Morvan was on rue Clignancourt. Today you'll find the Grand Hotel Clignancourt at number 4 and a Comfort Inn at number 10. Which one was it? The Jonard was on the place des Abbesses and there's a hotel there today. It's called the Hotel Regyn's. Oddly enough there's a branch of the Credit Lyonnais on the ground floor. Was it there forty years ago?
Which one was it? My guess is the Comfort Inn because this didn't exist with that name when the book was written. I'm sure there was already a hotel on that spot and the Comfort Inn chain bought it at some point and possibly rehabbed it as well. The name of the other hotel on the street, the Grand Hotel du Clignancourt, sounds rather well established and could well have been there under the same name for several decades.
Vivien's mistress, Nina Lassave, lived in an apt.on the rue Rochechoart, near Pigalle. Her place was between a bakery and a pharmacy. The best I can come up with for this is number 5. It's quite close to the place Pigalle and between a travel agent and a pharmacy. She worked in a lingerie shop in rue Lepic which doesn't exist now.
Louis Mahossier, the murderer, lived on rue Turbigo near les Halles. He worked for the decorating firm of Lesage et Gelot, which was at blvd des Batignoles, 25 just a few doors down from Octave Le Clouagen at number 13. This is a large block of flats with a large bar on the street level. It's on the corner of the rue Turin. Mahossier took over L&G when it folded and made a going concern of it. He relocated to the rue Trudaine, opposite the Lycée Rollin. This means anywhere between numbers 19 and 35. This is more or less the southern edge of Montmartre. All of these buildings are all flats and offices with some shops and eating places at ground level. You won't find any decorators there today. The Lycée (or College) Rollin became the Lycée Jacques Recour soon after WW2. In Mme M's Own Case, she visited her dentist at either number 15 or 17 on the same street, just opposite the place d'Anvers (Antwerp Square).
Mahossier's lawyer, Maitre Loiseau, had his office at 38, blvd Beaumarchais. There's a doctor and a camera shop there now and some flats. This is also just a few minutes walk from M's place.
M and the Saturday Caller is the next story under consideration. Leonard Planchon (the victim), his wife, and their young daughter lived together at the top of rue Tholozé next to the steps. The side of the street and the number were not given. They had a single family home surrounded by a yard and a workshop. Planchon, like Mahossier in the last story, was an interior decorator. If you visit there today you'll find number 33 on the left and number 32 on the right assuming you're standing at the bottom of the steps and facing them. Neither of these are single family dwellings and both were built long before the story was written. There are no other single family houses on rue Tholozé and none with front yards/gardens. Climbing the steps brings you to rue Lepic between 86 bis (a real bis) on the left and 88 on the right. There's also a number 34 rue Tholozé but this is more of a side entrance to 88 rue Lepic. You will also be opposite the Moulin de la Gallette. Just to the left is 65 bis rue Lepic and to the left is 71. 71 is also about where one of the five murders in M Sets a Trap took place. It will turn up again later in another story. Please note that the number was not actually mentioned in this story. Walking along the rue Tholozé today will not lead you to any decorators. Also missing is the Bal des Copains, a dance hall mentioned in the story. Another of the murders from M Sets a Trap supposedly took place near an unnamed dance hall on rue Tholozé.
During one of M's visits to the house, Planchon's former wife said that he could "check with the concierge" to verify something she had said. Given this was a private house on its own grounds, would there have been a concierge to check with? The same thing happened in M and the Loner. M interviewed the concierge of 65 bis rue Lepic. Given that 65 was just a flight of stairs, it's not likely there would have been a concierge to question.
One of Planchon's workers had recently painted a kitchen on the rue Caulaincourt, so now we have a connection to that street in this story. Given the short distance involved, this is quite believable. Mahossier in M and the Loner also painted a kitchen but in another street.
A Hotel Beauséjour on rue Lepic was mentioned. In Pietr-le-Letton the same hotel was at 3, rue (and not blvd) des Batignoles. If I remember correctly, Simenon himself lived on this street for a short time just after arriving in Paris and perhaps even at number 3. I seem to remember that it figured in another story where M got the goods on someone by using a piece of wood taken from a broomstick to manipulate a telephone. Anyway, there's no hotel on that street now. Another hotel with that name was located at the corner of the rue de Birague and the rue St. Antoine, but I forget which story. Yet another Hotel Beauséjour existed in Dieppe where the M's supposedly stayed during a vacation. I don't remember which book this was in, but it was not "Storm in the Channel." In that story they stayed in a boarding house, the Pension Otard rather than a hotel. Getting back to rue Lepic, there is in fact a Hotel Beauséjour there today at number 1. The place seems rather run down and a séjour there would appear to be anything but beau! In spite of this it was very nice to find an exact location from one of the stories.
Something else mentioned in Pietr-le-Letton was the number 71, rue Lepic. That number was noticed a little earlier. The building there now looks too new to have been there 70 years ago.
The bar Au Bon Coin/The Good Corner was said to be on the rue Germain-Plion, 200 meters from the place des Abbesses. There's no trace of it or any other bar on that short street today.
The murderer's name was Roger Prou. This is the same PROU that's in PROUd et Drouin and the rue des PROUvaires which I find quite interesting. Prou's father restored antiques in his workshop (address not given) for a living. This is the same job that Marcel Vivien had in M and the Loner. Here's another example of Simenon using the same little ideas over and over again in his stories, sometimes many years apart. Certain names, places, and occupations pop up again and again.
Now we come to M and the Apparition. In this story Inspector Lognon was watching a house on the ave Junot. during the course of this he was shot and taken to the Bichat hospital, which actually in Montmartre. Lognon lived on the place Constantin Pecquer in a red brick house with yellow bricks around the windows. Of the houses on rue Caulaincourt that overlook the place Constantin Pecquer, the one that best fits is number 93. None of the other houses facing place Constantin Pecquer on any of the streets have any yellow bricks anywhere on them. The rest of the facade is yellow plaster but perhaps the building was remodeled during the past forty years to cover up the red bricks.
The house that Lognon was watching was that of Norris Jonker, a wealthy art collector. Given the description in the story, the house on ave Junot today that best fits the description is number 26, a large private house. Another possibility is number 18 but I rule this out because of what is not across the street from it. A house with a balcony running all around the top floor (or at least most of it) nicely fits both numbers 23 and 37 with the last being almost exactly opposite number 26. This is where Marinette Augier lived on the fourth floor. She worked in a beauty salon on the ave Matignon which isn't there today. Lognon was using Marinette's apt. to keep watch over number 26. In the house next to hers, number 35, lived old Mr. Maclet who spent hours and hours watching the world go by outside of his windows. Needless to say, number 26 was well within his field of view. Remember that none of these house numbers were actually written into the story. I'm trying here to match up what was written years ago to what is on the ground in the same place today.
Marinette Augier's brother worked for Fraternal Insurance on the rue Le Peletier. I didn't find a company with that name, but the rue Le Peletier is the heart of the insurance district with a large number of companies having offices there.
The police got a lead from a Mr. Langeron who lived in a block of flats at the top of the ave. Could this be number 12? It's the tallest on the street. Also, the entire front face of the top floor is glassed in, as are small portions of both sides similar to how the third floor of Jonker's house was described. Number 26, as and where built, would not have the panoramic views over Paris as related in the story because it's too low and too far down the avenue (ave Junot is on a slope with number 1 at the top); The view from number 12 would have been much better. Even then I don't think the top of number 12 would be the perfect vantage point because it's not much taller than the buildings directly across from it. Were it two or three stories higher it would be one of the most sought after addresses in Paris on an already elegant street. Anyway, I think Simenon moved number 26, which already had large picture windows on two sides, up the street and grafted the top of number 12 onto it or else grafted it onto the top of number 12. As the sources of his inspiration are not at all hard to see, it doesn't take too much imagination to come to this conclusion.
The town hall and police station of Montmartre were listed as being at the corner of rue Caulaincourt and rue du Mont Cenis. This is only half right. It's really located at the corner of rue du Mont Cenis and the rue Ordener, several blocks away. Simenon had a friend living on rue du Mont Cenis who helped him get settled in Paris.
Earlier on I promised more information about the place Constantin Pecquer so here it is. We start with the description from this same story: "In the middle of the square stood a stone sculpture of a man and a woman. The woman was swathed in drapery, but for one exposed breast. On the side where it had been lashed by the rain, the figure was black." This is a very nice description, but it doesn't quite match what you'll find there today. The place Constantin Pecquer is composed of two distinct parts. One is an open triangular expanse of asphalt. This starts opposite number 75, rue Caulaincourt. There are a few benches and a statue of Eugene Carriere. Carriere was an Impressionist painter who lived from 1849 to 1906. He ended his days in Montmartre but I don't know exactly where he lived. Continuing up the rue Caulaincourt we come to a trapezoid-shaped park that's fenced and gated. Like most gated parks in Paris it closes at eight p.m. even though it stays light until after ten in the summer. Inside are trees, benches, open space, and a fountain with a statue of a man and a woman similar to the one discussed earlier. The main differences are the statue is at the back of the park (away from rue Caulaincourt) rather than in the center and it's not black on any side (why would the rain lash only one side of it?) although one can see some green mildew. Also, the woman is fully clothed with nothing being exposed. The fountain consists of a shallow rectangular basin just in front of the couple's statue. At the base is engraved "A. Steinlen 1859-1923". Stienlen was a Swiss artist who migrated to Paris. He was very much a political artist and much of his work expressed socialist ideas. He also did a number of other works and was well known for his posters. Until I looked these two people up, I had no idea of who they were and why their statues were on the place Constantin Pecquer. There is no information to be found anywhere nearby such as on a historical marker. Getting back to the fountain, I've never seen it working on any of my visits. Just behind it is a fence and a small street. On the other side are the stairs that lead up to the place Dalida. To the left of the stairs is the site of Chez Manière as was discussed earlier. Part of the action in M in Montmartre took place in a little house just to the right of place Dalida that had a small yard/garden out front. Lognon phoned M from Chez Manière. When M arrived, Lognon stood guard outside while M searched the house. All of this would have been visible from Lognon's apt. at 93, rue Caulaincourt.
Oddly enough, the place Constantin Pecquer does not have a statue of its namesake on it. He was an economist (and I read The Economist each week) whose socialist ideas influenced Karl Marx. The internet reference to him mentioned a contemporary named Proudhon (PROUdhon) which may or may not tie in with the three other PROU's that we have already met. Pecquer published in the journal La Reform by Ledru-Rollin. The Lycée Rollin was mentioned in M and the Loner. Pecquer came from Douai in the north of France, a town mentioned in The Patience of M and the rue Douai was mentioned in at least two other stories. Armand Augustin Louis de Caulaincourt fares no better as far as statues are concerned. He was from an old noble family. He served as a diplomat, general, advisor to Napoleon, and a writer not to mention a duke and a marquis. For as many times as the rue Caulaincourt and the place Constantin Pecquer were mentioned in the Maigret stories, one might expect to find a statue of Maigret himself there. Sadly that is not the case. It would be nice if the 18th arrondissement would put up some markers and a handout map for a Maigret walking tour around Montmartre but maybe that's too much to ask.
We are now finished with the full length books that play out in this neighborhood. There are still two short stories to cover where all or most of the action took place in these same streets. After that we'll look at some other stories that had a connection to this area. That's followed by a review of a few other stories that somehow fit in or that I want to draw special attention to. After that comes a summary or a conclusion, so sit back and enjoy as we still have a certain amount of ground to cover.
The first short story is "Mlle Berthe and Her Lover." This is the story where Lucas was killed just before M retired. I have it the collection M's Pipe. Strangely enough it follows "At the Etoile du Nord" in which M and Lucas worked together on M's last case which ended on his last day as a policeman.
It goes without saying that there's a Mlle Berthe in this story. Here she is the great niece of Lucas. Berthe lives at (where else?) 67 bis, rue Caulaincourt. This is between a bakery (at number 63 if you remember) and an Auvergnat's bar, an institution featured in several other stories but not on this street. Berthe lives on the sixth floor of her building. Mme Vivien, her neighbor, lives on the fourth.
Berthe meets M for the first time at the Café du Madrid on the Carrefour/Intersection Montmarte. This is where the rue Montmartre, rue Faubourg de Montmartre, blvd Montmartre, and blvd Poissoniere all come together. If having three streets named Montmartre all meet in the same place sounds confusing, it is. Just remember this is also the site of the Grands Boulevards Metro station and you'll be all right. Three of the four corners there have cafés or bars on them but none of them are named Madrid today. Her lover lived in an unspecified hotel on the rue Lepic, maybe the Beauséjour. Perhaps in those days it was a better place than it is now.
M took a room (this sounds odd but remember that he was living in Meung at that time) at the Hotel Concarneau. Concarneau was mentioned in several M's. Simenon had lived there for a few months around 1931 or 1932. The town is a seaside resort in Brittany. The hotel was directly across from 67 bis. It took a certain amount of difficulty for M to get a room on the sixth that faced the street for some unexplained reason. Once installed, M could look directly into Berthe's flat. For all that he told her that his room was on the fifth rather than the sixth for whatever reason. There's no hotel there now but there are two close by, the Hotel Caulaincourt on square Caulaincourt and the Hotel Roma at the corner of rue Caulaincourt and rue Lamarck. Three doors down from his hotel was a bar called the Zanzi-Bar. There are no bars on that side (even numbers) today in that block. The closest one is at number 65, next to 67.
A letterbox on the place Constantin Pecquer was mentioned and there is one there today but I doubt it's the same one as that was a long time ago. Also mentioned was a bus stop, which is in fact just across the street from 67 or at the door of the Hotel Concarneau. A metro station was also indicated on the rue Caulaincourt but this never existed. The closest station is Lamarck-Caulaincourt. In those days it was just Lamarck. The entrance is on rue Lamarck. It is a deep station by Paris standards, one of the few with an elevator/lift. Once you come to the surface you must go up some stairs that lead to 95 rue Caulaincourt, opposite the place Constantin Pecquer. (There is just a very small sign at the top of the stairs that points to the station. You cannot see it from number 67.)
Now we change to "M and the Unlucky/Surly Inspector," which was Lognon. Most of the action takes place on rue Lamarck near where it joins rue Caulaincourt. That's to say more or less across the street from the Metro station we were just discussing. The victim lived at 66 bis, rue Lamarck. This time the bis is for real and it's just a few steps from the rue Caulaincourt. Here's a little something to think about. 65 bis rue Lepic. 66 bis rue Lamarck. 67 bis rue Caulaincourt. Three consecutive numbers all a few minutes walk apart. Two of the three bises were false with only the one in the middle being correct. I wonder if there's any significance to this?
M and Lognon lunched at Chez Manière during this story. A police call-box was mentioned at the corner of rue Lamarck and rue Caulaincourt was mentioned but there's no sign of it there now. The local police station was on rue Damremont, as in M and the Fortuneteller.
Now comes the part that deals with all of the leftovers, so to speak. These are the people and places we find in other investigations that are somehow connected to the area that we've been dealing with. The difference is that in these stories they are sidelights rather than highlights.
In M and the Informer, the victim's body was dumped in the ave Junot after he was killed somewhere else. The exact location wasn't specified.
In M Sets a Trap, the murderer's mother lived on the corner of rue Caulaincourt and rue Joseph de Maistre'. She was on the forth floor above a butcher. M was also driven along rue Caulaincourt and several other local streets looking for the killer.
In M and the Wine Merchant we find yet another Mlle Berthe. We also meet Anne-Marie, otherwise known as the Grasshopper. She lives on the rue Caulaincourt near the place Constantin Pecquer but the house number wasn't given. There was another Grasshopper in M in Montmartre. The two were exact opposites. Anne-Marie was a very tall woman but the other was a very short man. The wine merchant owned Vins Des Moines. The main offices were on the ave de l'Opera and the warehouses were on the quai de Charenton. I didn't go out to Charenton, but there's no sign of Vins Des Moines anywhere near the Opera today.
In M in Montmartre you might expect to find a few connections to our little plot of real estate. There are a couple of references. Most of the action took place at Picratt's Night Club on rue Pigalle. There was a bakery on the left and a wine shop on the right. None of these were found today. As just mentioned, there was a Grasshopper. He was the doorman of Picratt's. It also had an Anne-Marie, who was also nicknamed the Grasshopper in the Wine Merchant. In this story she was a stripper and also the murder victim. Just to make things interesting, a dressmaker on rue Caulaincourt was mentioned. She was opposite the place Constantin Pecquer but the exact address was not given. For whatever reason there was no Mlle Berthe in this book.
In M has Scruples, Dr. Pardon lives on rue Picpus, rather more than a five minute walk from M's flat. He usually lived on ave Voltaire or on rue Popincourt. Both of these are a short walk up the rue du Chemin Vert from the boulevard Richard-Lenoir. There's also a Mlle Berthe. This one is a receptionist. the address of 55B blvd Rochechouart was given. This is actually just plain 55 and it the Hotel-Restaurant Carlton's today. An inspector Dieudonné was also working on this case. In M and the Headless Corpse, the murderer was also Dieudonné, Dieudonné Pape. The translation of that name is and I'm not making this up "Godgiven Pope". Quite a name for a killer!
In M and the Killer, we find Dr. Pardon back home again on blvd Voltaire. A company named Mylene Products also figured in the story. It was on the blvd Matignon. It's not there now and most likely never was. (There really is a company called Mylene and they really do make cosmetics. They are in Belgium rather than in Paris and you can find them (only in Dutch, French, and German) at www.mylene.be.) Mylene was the name of one of Simenon's daughter-in-laws. The Café des Amis was noted on the place de la Bastille. Although there's no shortage of places to eat and drink in the vicinity, none of the ones there today bear that name.
In M's Mistake, there's a big one. Chez Leon was said to exist at the corner of blvd Rochechouart and the rue Briquet. These two streets don't cross each other and are not in the same neighborhood. To my knowledge this is the only time that something like this happened in any M story that played in Paris. The correct street name is rue Briquet and it's on the opposite side of the square d'Anvers from the rue Trudaine. Also, the blvd de la Chapelle became the rue de la Chapelle, which doesn't exist. There are, however, a number of Leon de Bruxelles/Leon of Brussels restaurants in today's Paris. They serve Belgian specialties. One of them is on the place de la Bastille, near M's home. It is at 3, blvd Beaumarchais, just a few doors down from the real Chez Leon located at number 11 on the same street.
In M and the Spinster, the gang of Poles are staying in the Hotel des Arcades at the corner of rue de la Birague and rue St. Antoine. This is just off the place des Vosges and there's no hotel there now. As mentioned earlier, this was also called the Hotel Beauséjour and, in 'Stan the Killer', the Hotel des Acacias. Also in this story, M was visited by an American cop...in 1942, during the Occupation!
Here's a summary list of all of the stories where rue Caulaincourt was mentioned, in the order written.
Here's a summary list of the different Mlle Berthes. In many cases all we know about them is their occupations. Some of them didn't even get speaking parts in their stories.
Oddly enough, there was never a mention of the rue Berthe in Montmartre. It's near the rue Lepic, so it's not far from our neighborhood. You can see it on the map of Montmartre.
That ends our little tour of the part of Paris that Maigret seems to have spent the most time in during his investigations. Even though the tour is finished, the story is not. I still have several pages of written notes to cover, so let's get started with the commentary.
I want to point out a few things at this juncture. First, the number of times the area of Montmartre that I've been concentrating on has turned up in M mysteries over the years. It's really amazing that a fair percentage of the Paris stories played out in this district. Adding in other stories that also played in Montmartre but not on these streets makes the percentage even higher. I know that Montmartre is the most colorful part of Paris, but is it the murder capital of the city? Another thing that pops up over and over again is the repeated use of the nonexistent bises in addresses or why exact addresses weren't given even when correct street names were used. An example would be something like this: ...the house was on the rue Colmar between a dressmakers' shop and a bakery... . This one is something I just made up to use as an illustration, don't waste any time looking for it in any of the M books. I have an idea about this and I'll return to it shortly. Also note how certain personal names were reused in different stories just as street names were. Names like Prou/Proud/Prouvaires, Mlle Berthe (and almost always Mlle, rather than Mme), Anne-Marie, Dieudonné, M. Charles, Chez Leon, the Grasshopper... Does this show a lack of imagination on Simenon's part, laziness (he kept a collection of phone books to get names from but did he actually use them?), or did he just fail to keep track of what he had done in the past? I don't know the answer and maybe it's a little of all three. I do know that from time to time he got into some considerable legal trouble because he did too good a job describing certain people and places no matter what he called them in the stories. I think this accounts for him frequently using little tricks like vague addresses and nonexistent bises, imaginary houses, and a flight of stairs as an address. I must say that I think the frequent repetition of streets, names, and occupations somewhat detracts from Simenon's work. This view has nothing to do with the stories themselves. For me the low point was the use of both Anne-Marie and the Grasshopper together in two different stories. It's true that they were totally different people in each story but nonetheless it was too much. It made me feel that Simenon's writing at times was mass produced and achieved by recycling a large number of common elements over a large number of stories. This is in spite of the fact that the elements concerned were for the most part small details that had nothing to do with the plots., which were usually excellent. Also, this has nothing to do with the use of certain characters such as Lucas, Torrence, Lapointe, Moers, Dr. Paul, Lognon, Comeliau, and even Dr. Pardon. I think that using these people over time gave a certain continuity to the stories that would have been lacking otherwise. The only complaint I can make about the stories (and then only about a few) is the fact that M as the Chief of Homicide was having to occupy his time every so often with jewel thieves, postal robberies, and a few other matters that had nothing to do with murder. I realize that this was sometimes done to create some tension in the stories as a magistrate might be howling at M to solve a difficult case, but the judge should have been howling at one of the other divisional inspectors.
Something that gives a clue to why Simenon so often used this little area as a setting for a M story has to do with his first wife. Her name was Regine Renchon but she went by Tigy after getting married. She was a painter. From time to time she used to show and hopefully sell some of her works in the open air at the place Constantin Pecquer along with other unknown artists of those days. If I remember correctly, these shows were always on Sundays. For the moment, I don't know if this tradition continues there today. Georges used to go with her to these shows and by doing so became familiar with the neighborhood. Given Simenon's personal habits and mores, perhaps he also became familiar with some of the more attractive inhabitants of the district. To support this, his wife was not physically good looking, even in her younger years. Just maybe there really was a Mlle Berthe who lived at number 67 rue Caulaincourt and Simenon had an affair with her. It's not even five minutes on foot from the place Constantin Pecquer to the entrance to number 67. There must have been some reason that Berthe and 67/67 bis were mentioned so many times. To my knowledge, this was the only exact address in Paris used in more than one story. It's also possible that this Berthe was a dressmaker, a profession that came up again and again in a number of different stories. Go back to the review in this article of M and the Loner and you'll find a dressmaker living in this house. The same again in "Mlle Berthe and her Lover." Two dressmakers in the same house plus a fortuneteller who was also a murder victim. There's a little too much going on here for me to believe this was pure chance or whatever. Does the following quote from M and the Apparition tell you anything? It refers to Lognon. M and Lapointe were speaking to the concierge of Marinette Augier's apt house on ave J. The actual number wasn't given but it should have been 37. I realize that this is taken out of context, but you'll soon see that it doesn't matter.
(M) "When did you get to know him (Lognon) better?"
Why do I have the feeling that Simenon was painting his own picture with this passage? Given that Simenon employed many elements from his own life into his stories, was this him telling the world of his own entries into number 67 to visit Berthe? It certainly seems to fit everything I've learned about him. Had Simenon done previously what he had Lognon do in this story? Remember that Lognon's flat overlooked the place Constantin Pecquer. That means they both started in about the same place. The direction and destination were slightly different but the time needed for either walk was about the same. So was the purpose of the walk, at least up to this point in the story as far as Lognon is concerned. Was the real lover of Mlle Berthe named Georges rather than Albert? Wasn't Simenon putting this episode into a Maigret story pretty much the same as saying that the had done the same thing himself? And who was this young lady that she had such a huge influence on him? Was Berthe actually Berthe or was she a code name for Josephine Baker? Did you notice the 'B' in each of those names? To be honest, I don't really know. I don't have any facts to back this up with but it all goes together. Perhaps this was M's final mystery and perhaps we have just solved it. I'm open to any ideas from other readers about this conclusion.