1. In the style of Peter Foord...
I'd like to begin this article as a sort of posthumous homage to Peter Foord, by writing a few lines somewhat in his fashion... Had you noticed that he began his "Maigret of the month" articles by establishing the novel in the context of Simenon's life at the time of writing? Of course, I can't compete with his great erudition, but I'd like to say once more how much we'll miss his articles. To write the following few notes, I used the text "Simenon, une vie, une œuvre" [Simenon, a life, a work], the new chronology established by Michel Carly for the volume "Tout Simenon 27" from Omnibus.
On March 11, 1952, Simenon, his wife Denyse, son Johnny and the faithful Boule departed from New York aboard the Liberté, for a triumphal voyage to Europe. From March to April, it was Paris, with the official reception, April 18, at the Quai des Orfèvres. In May, Simenon was warmly welcomed in his birth city of Liege, and on May 10, in Brussels, he was made a member of the Royal Academy of French Language and Literature of Belgium. Then he returned to the U.S., to Lakeville, Connecticut, where he wrote, from June 12 - 20, Maigret's Revolver.
2. "Through to the end, this was an investigation unlike any other."
This sentence, taken from Ch. 8 of the novel, matches my own opinion... the somewhat "strange" aspect of the novel not exactly in line with the "classical" Maigrets. I find the atmosphere closer to that of Simenon's "hard novels", with the pathetic character of Baron Lagrange, and Simenon's severe portrait of Jeanne Debul, this woman without scruples who blackmails men from whom she's extracted secrets.
Moreover, the investigation led by Maigret in this novel is also atypical, in the sense that the Chief Inspector doesn't confine himself to Paris, with three of the nine chapters taking place in London. It's a relatively rare case that Maigret goes in pursuit of a suspect beyond the border... only in Maigret and the 100 Gibbets, and At the Gai-Moulin, and we must wait for Maigret and the Millionaires to see him on the trail of another woman outside of France.
3. "Concerning a baby, calf's head mock turtle style, and a boulevard…"
Some information about some subjects alluded to in the novel
* Ch. 1, "Baby Cadum" to whom Lagrange is compared In 1907, an American manufacturer, Michael Winburn, was cured of persistent eczema by a salve prepared by the pharmacist Louis Nathan, produced by in his laboratory in Courbevoie. Winburn was director of a chemical products firm and an advertising agency, and he decided to go into business with Nathan. The Cadum trademark was registered, the name coming from "cade", one of the ingredients, a Provencal word for a southern juniper. In 1912, Winburn entrusted the painter Arsène-Marie Le Feuvre with the design for the Cadum product advertising. The image of the baby, clean and innocent, was chosen to represent hygiene and the way to achieve it... Cadum Soap. Le Feuvre designed a poster presenting a baby on a sheet, in front of a bathtub, with at his feet the soap and sponge to wash him: "Cadum Soap for the bath". From then on, the happy smiling baby was the symbol of the brand. A great publicity campaign was launched, and the infant's angelic face was painted on walls, posted throughout the city, in the newspapers, and decorated the walls of drug stores. Here's what it looked like:
* Ch. 9, Dr. Pardon (in fact, it's in this novel that he appears for the first time) proposes to Maigret to try "veal's head en tortue (mock turtle style)". You can find the recipe for this dish, requiring lengthy preparations of which Mme Maigret knew the secret, in Courtine's nice little book, "Simenon and Maigret sit down to eat". You'll also find there the recipe for brandade de morue, cassoulet and the other dishes from the novel…
* In Ch. 1, Dr. Pardon lives on Boulevard Voltaire (though in other novels, Simenon has him living on Rue Popincourt). Here, in a detail of a photo of a building on Boulevard Voltaire, taken during my visit to Paris in April, doesn't it seem like "the balcony railings printing in inky black their wrought-iron arabasques." (Ch 1)?
4. Reminiscences… again and always…
As usual, here is my customary little "game" of searching for reminiscences and reminders, where we play at recovering traces in the novel to another story, like playing hop-scotch around the corpus…
* Ch. 1, the revolver had been given to Maigret at the time of his trip to the US, alluded to in CHE.
* Ch. 4: the residents of the building on Boulevard Richard-Wallace: at the risk of repeating myself, it seems that Maigret often visits the concierges when "dissecting" the little world of the building: cf BRA and PAT.
* Ch. 6: the inevitable episode of the pickpocket, which has so marked Maigret that he has recalled it many times, as for example in MEM.
* the relationship with Alain Lagrange (Ch. 7 and 8) and Maigret's "nostalgia for fatherhood", a theme which recurs frequently, cf Paulus in MEU and Lecoeur in BAN.
* Ch. 8: Maigret says, "I also lost my mother when I was very young, and I was raised by my father". Simenon had wanted to give his character a past, to give him a certain psychological "depth" after having recounted his past in FIA and MEM, he recalls it here in a small stroke, simple revealing...
* Ch. 7: The story of the cat which Maigret tells to Alain to "tame" him, makes me think of the story of the squirrel Maigret tells in waiting for Pigoud in VIN.
5. Humor, always…
And we'll finish with some pieces of Simenon's humor, which, with regards to his Chief Inspector, is filled with amused affection:
* Ch. 5: Maigret with Georgette, Jeanne Debul's maid:
"You're not how I'd imagined," she declared, finally.
"How did you imagine me?"
"I don't know. You're better."
* Ch. 7: Maigret, who'd had to stand around waiting in the hotel without finding time to eat, on the phone with Lucas:
"You've already eaten?"
"Very well, Boss."
* a little further, in the same chapter, Maigret is still a "prisoner" in the hotel lobby...
"He didn't have the right to take a taxi either, nor the right to go for a walk, no rights but to stay there like an imbecile."