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[Reviews]

Maigret All Day

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In 1929, the Belgian novelist Georges Simenon (1903–89), at the time living in Paris and making good money producing, at a rate of three or four per month, semipornographic romances and pulp thrillers under a variety of pseudo­nyms, decided he wanted to be a serious novelist, a great novelist. The way he would go about this was to first become “half-­literary,” as he put it, and so he invented a policeman, a commissaire of the Paris Police Judiciaire, by the name of Jules Maigret, around whom the author could shape novels he was willing to put his own name on. Maigret would end up becoming one of the most popular literary detectives in the history of the crime genre. Simenon wrote eighteen of these novels in the first three years of the character’s existence. He then took nearly a decade off in favor of his earliest attempts at what he deemed fully serious novels, before reviving the Maigret character in 1942. Thereafter, he would generally produce one or two Maigret novels per year, along with a similar number of his ­other books, which he came to call his “romans durs,” or “hard novels.” When he quit writing fiction, four and a half decades later, he had published 76 Maigret titles (along with a robust bouquet of short stories), and 116 romans durs, a number of which go well beyond being “literary” and rank with the best French novels of the twentieth century, among them Pedigree, The Train, The Mahé Circle, The Blue Room.

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has contributed fiction and criticism to the magazine since 1985. He is at work on a novel.

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