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Inspector Maigret to join Poirot on world stage

By Paul Majendie

LONDON (Reuters) - Detectives of the world unite.

The corporate muscle behind Agatha Christie's razor-sharp Belgian detective Hercule Poirot is hoping to work the same magic on France's canniest sleuth, Inspector Maigret.

The two are now in the same stable with Thursday's announcement from the intellectual property group Chorion that it has acquired a controlling interest in George Simenon's literary rights.

"Maigret is a great fit with Agatha Christie's brands, principally Poirot," said Chorion Chairman John Conlan. "We are delighted to be able to add Georges Simenon to our portfolio of famous authors."

Conlan said Chorion, which also has the rights to Enid Blyton's Noddy children's books, had big plans for Maigret. "We believe that this large literary estate still has significant untapped potential.

"The Maigret series of books is well-known but currently largely unexploited in the UK, the USA and throughout the English-speaking world, where we are confident we can develop substantial publishing, TV and video opportunities."

After the announcement that Chorion has acquired an 85 percent interest for 5.6 million pounds, Simenon's son John said he was delighted.

"My family has decided to conclude this transaction with Chorion because of the impressive management skills and entrepreneurial flair they have demonstrated in re-invigorating the Agatha Christie brand."

Georges Simenon, who died in 1989, was a prolific writer of more than 400 novels. Only 75 featured the pipe-smoking Maigret.

The Maigret novels have sold 853 million copies and Chorion estimated that Simenon sales have topped 1.4 billion worldwide. Only "Queen of Crime" Agatha Christie sold more books in the 20th century, it said.

His greatest creation was the benign Jules Maigret, a hero in the same popularity league as Sherlock Holmes and Poirot.

Maigret, shambling and thick set, operates intuitively, without any discernible method. He comes finally not to a judgment but to an understanding of the criminal's mind, and his arrests are often made more in sadness than in triumph.

"I'm a bit like a sponge. When I'm not writing I absorb life like water. When I write I squeeze the sponge a little and out it comes, not water but ink," Simenon told one interviewer.

Simenon's own life hit the headlines when he claimed in 1977 to have had sex with 10,000 women.

Later, in a memoir published when he was nearly 80, he wrote that he had been unfaithful to his first wife almost every day of their life together.

After his autobiographical "Memoires Intimes" (Intimate Memoirs) in 1981, he concluded that he had nothing more to say.

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