A Man’s Head by Georges Simenon

a man's headThe trouble with Georges Simenon’s Maigret novels is that what makes them good is also whats makes them hard to write about.

I’ve created this little reading project to collect and read all 75 of Georges Simenon’s Inspector Maigret novels as Penguin republishes all of them in these shiny new editions with these cool covers.

It’s been fun so far.  That it will take nearly ten years for me to complete the project doesn’t bother me as long as it doesn’t bother Penguin who is publishing one novel per month.  As long as they keep ’em coming, I’ll keep on reading them.

Simenon was something of a human word processor, writing over 400 books in his lifetime, no one really knows for sure how many since he used several names and didn’t keep track himself.  He wrote each Maigret novel in about two weeks time, so while I wouldn’t describe them as formulaic, they do have a large degree of similarity one book to the next.  Fortunately, a high level of quality is one thing they all have in common.  They’ve all been very good so far.

Simenon was famed for eschewing literary style as much as he could in his detective fiction.  He himself said that his rewriting process included removing anything that looked like literature from his books.  The result is a spare, no-nonsense writing that is one of the major reasons why people who like Simenon like him, but what can you say about it?

A Man’s Head is good Simenon, though the title is inadvertently funny.

While the writing is as good as always what makes this particular book stand out is the key plot element. In A Man’s Head Inspector Maigret is convinced that he has gotten the wrong man, that the prisoner about to be executed for murder isn’t guilty.  With the tacit approval of his superiors, he arranges for the prisoner’s escape in order to follow him.  Maigret is convinced that if freed, the prisoner will lead them to the guilty party or parties.

It was good.

I expect the next Inspector Maigret novel will be good to.

Simenon is nothing if not consistent.

 

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7 Comments

  1. I’ve had the same challenge writing about them, but I just love them. Lesser and greater alike. It’s the psychological portraits for me. The plots are almost incidental. And these new editions are great! Like you, I just keep acquiring them. At first, I was a bit put off by the amount of time I would have to wait for all, but now realize it is for the best. The pace tempers my nutty enthusiasm for collections. 🙂

    1. I agree completely, though I do like the plots, too.

  2. MarinaSofia says:

    Oh, goodness, you are ambitious! I was planning to collect them too, but not being in England is messing up my schedule and ability to purchase them… And to buy them all in one go is a bit extravagant!

    1. They are available in America but you’ll have to order them at most stores. As far as I know you can only buy them as they come out, one per month, more or less, over the next six years if Penguin sticks to the schedule. I’m about 10 books behind right now but I still plan on getting them all.

  3. BookerTalk says:

    Thats quite an ambitious goal. Ive never read any of the novels but have loved hearing them as audio recordings via a podcast.

    1. They would make for excellent listening. His prose is the sparse stuff that would work well as commute listening.

  4. davidsimmons6 says:

    I agree completely with your “consistent” call. Don’t forget (or omit) the 28 Maigret short stories after the novels!

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