Simanaitis Says

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DR. JOHN H. Watson’s literary agent, Arthur Conan Doyle, would have envied Frenchman Georges Simenon. Doyle’s client Watson chronicled a total of 60 Sherlock Holmes adventures: 56 episodic tales and four of novel length. Georges Simenon apparently worked directly with Jules Amedée François Maigret, commissaire of the Paris Brigade Criminelle. Maigret’s detective work gave literary agent Simenon a total of 103 adventures: 25 episodes and 78 of novel length.

Here are tidbits about Maigret (as he wished to be known, only by his last name) gleaned from Julian Symons’ book Great Detectives: Seven Original Investigations.

Great Detectives: Seven Original Investigations, by Julian Symons, illustrated by Tom Adams, Harry N. Abrams, 1981.

Symons’ book offers revelations about Sherlock Holmes, Maigret, Philip Marlowe, Miss Marple, Hercule Poirot, Ellery Queen, and Nero Wolfe. In it, he shares the charming conceit of Sherlockians that Holmes and these others are real, not simply literary inventions. With erudite respect for previous writings, Symons provides biographical enhancements in tales exemplary of these detectives. Here, in Parts 1 and 2 today and tomorrow, are tidbits concerning Maigret. They’re gleaned from Symons’ Great Detectives, together with my usual Internet sleuthing.

In Physique, More Mycroftian than Sherlockian. As described in Wikipedia, Maigret is “a large powerful built gentleman… a pipe, a bowler hat, a thick overcoat.”

Maigret statue by Pieter d’Hont in Delfzijl, Netherlands. The unveiling was made by Simenon himself on 3 September 1966, at the place where he had written the first Maigret novel, and was attended by Maigret actors from various countries. Image from Wikipedia.

The Bowler Hat. “It’s that devil Simenon,” Maigret says, “He’s got things all wrong again.”

“What is it this time?” Madame Maigret asks, “Not the bowler hat?”

Symons explains, “Simenon had spotted a bowler hat in Maigret’s office cupboard, and had put it in several stories. It was an old hat, and for years now he had been wearing a trilby like other people.”

This anomaly is not unlike Sherlock Holmes and “his” meerschaum pipe. As shown in illustrations by Sidney Paget (who certainly knew Holmes well), his pipes were invariably straight stemmed. It was Sherlockian actor William Gillette who popularized the meerschaum, the shape of which left his visage free for emoting.

Maigret sits in his Paris office, “a proper room for a Superintendent,” notes Symons, “with its bookcase-cupboard on one wall, a desk twice the size of his old one, and the impressive-looking safe by Monard, in which he kept a bottle of Calvados for a cold day.” Illustration by Tom Adams from Great Detectives.

Doctor? Or Detective? Maigret recalls his youth: “I was a medical student then at the Collège de Nantes, gave up after he [Maigret’s father] died. That seems a time of crisis. I don’t know why. I might have been a doctor, like Pardon. Instead, I became a policeman. Well, I always wanted to be a guide to the lost, and a policeman can be that as well as a doctor.”

Tomorrow in Part 2, Symons describes a case in which Maigret encounters the Pole, a Mona Lisa, and a mysterious fellow investigator. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2020

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