Penguin continues to put crime aficionados in their debt with their series of Georges Simeon reissues in splendid new translations, such as The Night at the Crossroads (translated by Linda Coverdale) and The Yellow Dog (trans. Linda Asher). Simenon was a writer who, more than any other crime novelist, combined a high literary reputation with popular appeal, and the eclipse his reputation briefly underwent is now, thankfully, in the past.
The author, made famous by his Inspector Maigret books, was the world’s most successful author in the 1960s, and has since inspired many writers of psychological crime, such as Patricia Highsmith. The life of the writer is itself enshrouded in mystery, behind the closed doors of one room in his Swiss Château, Simenon would surround himself with fetishes. Entering an almost trancelike state, he would write compulsively, usually completing an entire book in five, nine or eleven days.
The latest novel to appear in the new livery, Maigret and the Tall Woman (translated by David Watson), shows the psychological reach and sophisticated treatment of crime themes that made Simenon famous. On the streets of Paris, Maigret runs into a woman with whom he was once friendly and finds himself once again ineluctably caught up in her fate.
Simenon’s characters are keenly accurate portraits of the ordinary person — and how we can be driven to extraordinary behaviour. His evocations of loneliness, guilt and innocence are at once acute and unsettling.
Simenon was born on 12th February 1903, in Liège, Belgium. Aged sixteen he began to work as a reporter for a local newspaper and at nineteen he moved to Paris to embark upon a career as a novelist. He has written over four hundred books, beginning with pulp-fiction and novellas, written under various pseudonyms, later publishing the Maigret books and others in his own name. Simenon died in 1989, in Lausanne, Switzerland, where he had lived for the latter part of his life.
Maigret and the Tall Woman by Georges Simenon (trans. David Watson) is published by Penguin at £7.99, 9780241277386