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Simenon and his Inspector

Le Commissaire Maigret
Police Judiciaire
36 Quai des Orfèvres

The Maigret Forum This is not a static website. It changes almost daily. The Maigret "Forum," an open bulletin board for notices, opinions, information and discussion related to Maigret and Simenon, has become the most active feature of this site. It's where new books, websites, articles and features are first announced and displayed, and includes an indexed archive of the entire past Forum... back to 1997!

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Paris Police Headquarters Museum
9/1/15 –

A little visit to Paris:
the Police Headquarters Museum

by Murielle Wenger

During my latest visit to Paris this past weekend, I had the chance to visit the Police Headquarters Museum, a must for anyone who wants to know more about Maigret's métier.

Located at 4 Rue de la Montagne Sainte-Geneviève, the museum is on the same premises as the 5th Arrondissement Police Station. To get in, you have to show your ID papers, for this building, like all official buildings, is monitored by armed police. The day of our visit, we were greeted by a charming police officer who met us at the entrance to the building. She asked to be shown the contents of our backpack, and once she had determined that it contained no knives, or anything else that could be used as a weapon, she let us into the courtyard, to reception, from which we were sent to the fourth floor.

The museum, admission free, has five sections: the history of the Paris police, crimes and punishments, Paris during the war, occupations of police headquarters, and forensics. Each of these is richly documented, with explanatory texts and various objects.

  • In the section about history, there's a wealth of information about the formation of the Paris Police, since its origins in the 17th century, when Louis XIV named Gabriel Nicolas, Lord of Reynie, Police Lieutenant, passing through all the changes of the following centuries, until the latest developments of the 2000s. I won't take you through all the details of these events, but I'll mention here certain elements which will be of particular interest to Maigret fans...

    In 1790 the Paris police stations were created, one for each of the 48 sections of the capital. The function of Chief of Police was established in 1800, and in 1811 the Sûreté, the Security Brigade, in charge of repression of crime. The brigade was entrusted to Vidoq, a former convict, who served as the model for Balzac's Vautrin. In 1871, during the Commune, the site of headquarters, on Rue de Jerusalem (near the current location of Quai des Orfèvres) was reduced to ashes. Services were then housed in the firemen's barracks on the Île de la Cité, where they remain today (a renovation project is currently underway). In 1887 a service was created which became today's Forensic Identification, under Alphonse Bertillon, inventor of the system of anthropometric measurement called the "Bertillon system", in use throughout the world. In 1893, Louis Lépine was named Chief of Police, and in 1900, he established a brigade of police patrolling on bicycles, who rode "Swallows" bicycles, after which name these patrolmen are now called. In 1907, the Director of Sûreté, Célestin Hennion, founded, at the request of Clemenceau, then President of the Council, the mobile brigades, called "Tiger Brigades", after the nickname given to this politician, who referred to himself as "the number one cop of France". In 1909, Lépine proposed the creation of a Police Headquarters Museum, whose first collections were pieces collected for the Exposition Universelle, the Paris World's Fair of 1900. In 1913, Hennion became Chief of Police, and he established the Security Branch and the Judicial Police (PJ).

    We also find in this section of the museum, information about Marcel Guillaume, one of the policemen who inspired Simenon to create Maigret. Marcel Guillaume began as a Police Inspector in the Chapelle district in 1900, then entered the Sûreté in 1909. In 1912, the Chief of Sûreté, Xavier Guichard, took him by his side, permitting him to work on the Bonnot case...

Complete article
original French


A phenomenal author and his phenomenal character

Georges Simenon was by many standards the most successful author of the 20th century, and the character he created, Inspector Jules Maigret, who made him rich and famous, ranks only after Sherlock Holmes as the world's best known fictional detective. There is nothing commonplace about the life of Georges Simenon, and he and his works have been the subject of innumerable books and articles. The Maigret stories are unlike any other detective stories — the crime and the details of unraveling it are often less central to our interest than Maigret's journey through the discovery of the cast of characters... towards an understanding of man. Simenon said he was obsessed with a search for the "naked man" — man without his cultural protective coloration, and he followed his quest as much in the Maigrets as in his "hard" novels.

Although most of Simenon's work is available in English, it was originally written in French. Simenon was born and raised in Belgium, and while Paris was "the city" for him, the home of Maigret, he was 'an international,' a world traveler who moved often and lived for many years in France, the United States, and Switzerland.

Because he wrote in French, and for the most part lived in French-speaking countries, most of the books and magazine articles about him were written in French as well. Unlike his own books however, many of these have never been available in translation. Because Simenon lived to be nearly 90, and left a legacy of hundreds of books — from which more than 50 films have been made, along with hundreds of television episodes — there is much to collect, to examine, to display and discuss.

This site takes Maigret as its theme, and Simenon as its sub-theme. There is much here about all aspects of Simenon and Maigret, but not so much about Simenon's other, non-Maigret books. There are full texts of many magazine and journal articles, including many translated into English here, as far as I am aware, for the first time. In this way non-French-speaking Maigret fans can now share, in a time-compressed form, articles about Simenon and Maigret spanning more than 70 years, as well as a forum for discussion and contribution which...

Enough. There's a lot here. Enjoy your visit. Come back again, and feel free to contribute to the Forum. Corrections, comments, and suggestions are welcome.

Steve Trussel

Bibliography: booklists etc.

    This site, first opened on August 29, 1996 as "Inspector Maigret," has spread in various directions from its beginning as primarily a bibliography of editions in English. The "new look" reflects various aspects of this development, but the bibliography remains a central feature.
Counting Maigret: statistics etc.
    For the forty-year period from 1931 through 1972, a new Inspector Maigret investigation appeared at the average rate about 2.5 per year: 75 novels and 28 short stories, 103 episodes of what has been called George Simenon's "Maigret Saga."

Texts: Maigret on-line

    Full-length texts - reviews and articles about Maigret and Simenon, as well as new translations of stories, articles, (and even a novel!) which have never appeared in English.

    Index to the texts and articles on various pages.


    Articles from the Simenon symposiums, journals, program listings, and other not-Maigret-only Simenon material.

Gallery: Maigret covers and photos

    Maigret paperback covers, postage stamps, theme music, locations... more.


    Plots of all the Maigret novels and stories.

Shopping for Maigret: books on-line

    The one-button, quick-links to the main on-line book dealers are still available, for shopping for Maigret titles.

Maigret on Screen: films and videos

    Various aspects of Maigret on film and video.

Maigret on the Web: Links

    Links to the rest of the on-line world of Maigret on the Internet.
background photo: adapted from "Two models for Maigret,
Commissaires Massu and Guillaume.
" [Ph. Keystone]
"Quai des Orfèvres on the Cité Island at night" [Jean-Pierre Ducatez]

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