Tuesday, January 4, 2022

Short Story Wednesday: More Short Stories by George Simenon

This week I finished reading all of the stories in Maigret's Christmas, a collection of stories by Georges Simenon. The book is 405 pages long and only consists of nine stories, so some of them are very long (for a short story).

However the four stories I read this week are comparatively short: 

  • "The Most Obstinate Customer in the World" (36 pages)
  • "Death of a Nobody" (34 pages)
  • "Sale by Auction" (15 pages)
  • "The Man in the Street" (14 pages)

Of those stories listed above, my favorite story is "The Man in the Street", the shortest story in the book. 

The story begins with these two paragraphs:

The four men were packed close together in the taxi. Paris was in the grip of frost. At half-past seven in the morning, the city looked leaden, and the wind drove powdery rime against the ground.

The thinnest of the four men, on a folding seat, had a cigarette stuck to his lower lip and handcuffs on his wrists. The biggest of them, a heavy-jawed man in a thick overcoat and a bowler hat, was smoking a pipe and watching the railings of the Bois du Boulogne race past.

The man in the bowler hat smoking a pipe is, of course, Maigret. He is taking the man in handcuffs to take part in a reconstruction of a crime in a park. A man was shot through the heart as he walked home through the park at night. The reconstruction has been written up in the newspaper in hopes of enticing the real killer to come and watch.

Several onlookers at the scene are followed and two of those are questioned. Only one man continues to evade the police who are following him. This leads to a cat-and-mouse game where the man is followed for days through the streets of Paris. Maigret personally handles much of the tailing, hoping to force the man to lead the police back to his home.


I have previously read and discussed:

"Maigret's Christmas", the first story in the book. It is lengthy for a short story, 60 pages in this collection. It was first published in France in 1951. 

"Seven Small Crosses in a Notebook", which is also about 60 pages.

The last story in the book, "Maigret in Retirement", which was 105 pages long. It has been published alone, as Maigret is Angry.

I have pointed out my favorite stories in this book. Only a few of the nine stories are related to Christmas. However, all of the stories in this book are well worth reading.


Publisher:   Harcourt, Inc., 1976
Length:       405 pages
Format:      Trade paperback
Setting:      France
Genre:        Mystery
Source:      Purchased at the Planned Parenthood Book Sale, 2021.


Cath said...

I'm rather surprised at how long this book is but now you've said that several stories are quite long I understand. This is one I plan to read at some stage.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I have never read a Simenon story that wasn't at least good. Most are very good, I think. Considering his numbers that is quite a feat.

George said...

I ordered this book after reading your excellent review! I thought I owned it, but when I looked at my Maigrets I didn't see it.

Margot Kinberg said...

I've always liked Simenon's descriptions, Tracy. I've always felt they really placed me in the setting, and this one does, too. Thanks for the reminder, and I'm glad you enjoyed this.

Todd Mason said...

I've yet to own a Simenon book, I think, which is odd, since I've enjoyed the stories in anthologies I've owned or simply read...and the tv adaptations I've seen. Shall rectify!

Sam Sattler said...

I still haven't read much of Simenon's work, but every time you review something of his I feel the itch to grab one of his novels. So I one step closer today. :-)

Rick Robinson said...

I believe I read that final story recently, in Death Threats and Other Stories. I like his work, but can only read it a little at a time.

TracyK said...

Rick, I was wondering if any of his short stories in this book had been repeated in later anthologies.

I spread my reading of this short story book over three months. I have so many short story books that I have just dipped into and not finished. That bothers me.

TracyK said...

Cath, I think the rest of the stories (not listed here) were all 40 pages or more. I like longer stories but it took a while to get through. And I did feel the need to take pauses. I am sure you will enjoy the stories.

TracyK said...

Patti, At least based on this book, I agree with you. As far as the non-Maigret novels, I haven't much experience with those but I am looking forward to trying some of them.

TracyK said...

George, there is another book published more recently with two stories that are in this book plus one shorter story, titled A Maigret Christmas and Other Stories. I think you will enjoy this book. And you will be able to read it much faster than I did.

TracyK said...

Margot, I enjoy Simenon's descriptions also. I think that is why I like anything I read by him. Very atmospheric.

TracyK said...

Todd, I seem to remember reading a lot of the Maigret books when I was younger, and a couple of his standalone books, but I don't remember much about them. For years I have buying them when I run into them at sales, but it is only recently that I have read any of them. I do like the shortness of the novels.

TracyK said...

Sam, as I noted in my previous comment, the novels are so short, I should read them more frequently. I will admit the first one I read last year, which was set in Belgium rather than in France, was challenging to me, I could not keep up with the characters. But the next novel I tried and these longer short stories were all very good.

col2910 said...

I've seen a few posts recently regarding short stories from Simenon which has me wanting to pick soemthing up by him. There's a recently re-issued collection which I've got my eye on. Let's face I'm running short of books!

TracyK said...

Well, you do enjoy short stories, Col, so you probably would like these.

CLM said...

I am in a monthly discussion group with a group of lawyers and the judge we clerked for (he is in his late 80s but has always been an avid reader, mostly of nonfiction). This month, we read a New Yorker article by Robert Caro about his LBJ research. It was so interesting that I started reading the first book which I have owned for years but never opened. However, it was the unexpected mention of Maigret that I thought you would appreciate:

"Two of fiction’s greatest interviewers—Georges Simenon’s Inspector Maigret and John le CarrĂ©’s George Smiley—have little devices they use to keep themselves from talking and to let silence do its work."

Here is a link to the article: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2019/01/28/the-secrets-of-lyndon-johnsons-archives

TracyK said...

Constance, I did go check out the article, and that part about interviewing techniques was very interesting. Maigret certainly does use his pipe a lot, but I will have to pay more attention to his interviews.

I continued on reading more of the article, and overall the article and its author are very interesting. Thanks for sending that.