To the Dove Tail in Clerkenwell last week for a Club Simenon dinner to celebrate Penguin’s republication of the whole of Georges Simenon’s oeuvre. I’d never been to the Dove Tail before and loved it. Specialising in Belgian beers, it offered the perfect place to raise a glass to Maigret and his creator. My fellow critics, Penguin hosts and John Simenon, eschewed the scarily named Delirium Tremens on the beer list and settled for a variety of less aggressively alcoholic brews. One was a cherry beer, of which I was offered a sip; that was plenty and reminded me of an antibiotic medicine I was given in childhood for tonsillitis. Luckily I’d chosen the popular and easy-drinking Jupiter, which was delicious. In homage to Maigret, I opted for a sandwich (steak baguette), while the others chose mussels, or carbonnade from among the Belgian dishes on the menu. John Simenon read the first paragraph of The Hanged Man of Saint-Pholien to set the scene and shared memories of his father and the way he thought about his own work. To my delight, John Simenon had taken the trouble to buy one of my own novels before the dinner and had read it with a keen eye for everything I had intended to do as I wrote it. What a family!

I shall go back to the Dove Tail with the next of the republished Simenon novels for a private wallow in real pleasure.

Vengeance in Mind by N. J. Cooper is published by Simon & Schuster

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