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Ph. Keystone

Chief Inspector Marcel Guillaume


Below is the beginning of the "introducing the author" article which accompanied "A Spot by the Seine" — the Philadelphia Inquirer "Gold Seal Novel" (insert) of June 7, 1942 — more familiar today as "Maigret and the Tavern by the Seine." The article mentions "Inspector Guillaime [sic], greatest French detective of his day."

There is also a reference to him in Francis Lacassin's pamphlet, Simenon 1931, La naissance de Maigret [The Birth of Maigret] accompanying the Tout Simenon set by Presses de la Cité, which includes the photograph at left, captioned "Two models for Maigret: Chief Inspectors Massu and Guillaume." [Deux modèles de Maigret: les commissaires Massu et Guillaume]


  The most widely-known profile of any character in fiction is that of Sherlock Holmes. In offering the eighth adventure of his most famous French colleague to be translated, and printed in The Inquirer, it is felt the Maigret profile (shown at left) may intrigue.
  This character already had attracted considerable attention in France before its author, Georges Simenon, set foot in the "Police Judiciaire." When he did, it was to see his friend Xavier Guichard, director of that Department.
  As Simenon listened in astonishment, Guichard called into his telephone: "Ask Maigret to come in."
  The man who forthwith appeared was Inspector Guillaime (sic), greatest French detective of his day. This meeting launched a long friendship and the Maigret of fiction henceforth was modeled closely on the real one, although the resemblance already was so striking that Simenon had little to change...

Philadelphia Inquirer, June 7, 1942
Matthieu Rutten, in his Simenon: ses origines, sa vie, son œuvre (1986 <1977), writes (p 191), "... It was this same Xavier Guichard, 'the big boss,' who put Maigret, as inspector of police, in the service of Chief Inspector Guillaume, chief of the Special Brigade of the Parisian police judiciaire. Maigret — read Simenon — will take Chief Inspector Guillaume for a model." [Ce fut ce même Xavier Guichard, «le grand patron», qui fit passer Maigret, en qualité d'inspecteur de police, dans le service du commissaire Guillaume, chef de la Brigade spéciale de la P.J. parisienne. Maigret — lire Simenon — prendra le commissaire Guillaume pour modèle.]
Similarly, in Patrick Marnham's The Man Who Wasn't Maigret; A Portrait of Georges Simenon (1992), he writes [pp 142-143], "The question of whether or not there was an original model for Chief Inspector Maigret has received several answers... particular there was Chief Inspector Guillaume, head of the brigade spéciale of the Parisian police judiciaire. Although the character of Maigret came from Simenon's imagination, and from his past, many of Maigret's methods seem to have been based on the techniques of Chief Inspector Guillaume."
The trial of Ferdinand Paul Joseph Deblauwe took place in October 1933. Deblauwe, Simenon's old friend, was arrested by Commissaire-Divisionnaire Guillaume, Simenon's new friend. Deblauwe had nearly got away with the murder of the gigolo Carlos de Tejada by making the shooting look like a suicide. The forensic investigator who failed to exclude this possibility was Dr Paul, a friend of Simenon's and, of course, in his fictional persona, a friend of Maigret's. Deblauwe killed the gigolo in the rue de Maubeuge near the Gare du Nord in July 1931. He was eventually arrested and interrogated by Guillaume in August 1932. [p 176]

There are two Maigret cases where Guillaume is mentioned:

'Young Lesueur will take your place in the Hotels Squad, from now on, and you shall put yourself at Inspector Guillaume's disposal.' ... At last I was to enter the Special Squad.

[Ch. 7, p.122-123]
[Maigret's Memoirs, Penguin Books]

Maigret had found the case [of Honoré Cuendet, the "lazy burglar"] so intriguing, that he had persuaded his superior, Superintendent Guillaume, to ask for a medical report on the prisoner.

[Ch. 2, p.37]
[Maigret and the Lazy Burglar, Penguin Books]

and possibly, (though not too likely) a third:

"Hello, is this the Flying Squad headquarters, Nantes? Maigret speaking .... Put him on .... Guillaume? ... Of course my dear fellow ... I'm fine ... You haven't wasted much time .... Yes, I'm listening ...."

[Ch. 5, p.68]
[Maigret in Exile, Harvest/HBJ]

Willy Innocenzi, on his Simenon website, has posted the following article in Italian. He also provided the original French version, which I've translated into English here.

Guillaume and Simenon
(Adam, 1969)

Chief Inspector Guillaume's death touches me personally...

In 1963, a little after the death of the famous Chief Inspector Guillaume, Simenon sent to Michel Droit, chief literary editor of the Figaro, this homage, which appeared in the February 23, 1963 issue:

Maigret's Elder Brother

Chief Inspector Guillaume's death touches me personally. It is said that he served as the model for the character of Maigret, and that is partly true. When, after the publication of the first three or four novels of the series, Xavier Guichard, Director of the Judicial Police, wanted to put me in touch with some flesh-and-blood police officers, and at the same time expose me to the actual operation of the service, it was Chief Inspector Guillaume who was entrusted with the task.
He spoke to me about the techniques of interrogation, and at the same time introduced me to one of his senior colleagues, a great expert on the subject, Chief Inspector Massu, whom he succeeded some years later.
These two men, of equal conscientiousness and professional ability, were very precious to me. Which of the two had more influence on an already existing, but still sketchy Maigret? It would be very difficult to say, all the more so as I have known other officials of the Judicial Police, who must have influenced me, more or less unconsciously, as well.
Guillaume, Massu and I became good friends. We often met again, and I was present at the Quai des Orfèvres on the day Chief Inspector Guillaume's colleagues, with glasses of champagne in hand, surrounded their chief for a last time before his retirement. "They are crazy," Guillaume told me, touched and a little embittered. "At fifty-five, when we have learned our work well, we are thrown out..."
He still had a long and active life as a private detective, before his death at the age of ninety-two.
For me he was not only a friend, but Maigret's elder brother.

Georges Simenon


Chief Inspector Guillaume and the Nozières Case


This photo of Guillaume appeared in the August 1953 issue of Police Detective magazine, in a story "The French have a way... with murder" by Edward S. Sullivan (pp 26-29, 62-64) chronicling the case of 18-year-old Violette Nozières, accused of killing her father and attempting to kill her mother, in August, 1933, in their flat in the Rue de Madagascar, Paris. Beneath the photo was the caption:

Dogged Sleuth

Inspector Marcel Guillaume, of the French Sûreté, detected the signs of murder hidden behind the apparent suicide of a couple in a Paris flat, and brought the strange killer to justice. He is the real-life prototype of fictional Inspector Maigret.

"Inspector Marcel Guillaume — the fabulous prototype of Georges Simenon's fictional Maigret — took personal charge of the investigation of the crime."
Others of the police mentioned in the article include, Assistant Police Chief Gaston Mozer, of the Seine Prefecture; M. Lansom, juge d'instruction of the district; Dr. Paul [!], of the Institute of Forensic Medicine, who performed the autopsy; and Inspector Gripois, Guillaume's colleague. The trial was held before Judge Peyre at the Seine Assizes, and on October 13, 1934, Nozières was found guilty and sentenced to die on the guillotine, later commuted (by President Lebrun on Christmas Day) to life imprisonment.
Although not mentioned in the article, Violette Nozières was released after 12 years, and pardoned by de Gaulle in 1963. The Nozières affair was the subject of Claude Chabrol's 1978 film, Violette Nozières.
The case was mentioned in Assouline's biography of Simenon — (p. 123) "The Paris press was convinced that public opinion was as excited about the Stavisky-Prince affair as it had been by the cases of Landru and Violet Nozières." — in the chapter describing Simenon's attempt at playing real-life detective.
The Landru case, that of a mass-murderer, was the subject of a sidebar to the Police Detective article on the Nozières murder, and was also mentioned in three Maigrets — once where M says he had nothing to do with solving it, and twice where he implies he did!


Chief Inspector Guillaume and Mestorino


[Préfecture de Police/DR]
This photo of Guillaume (seated, at right) appeared in the February 19, 2003 issue of L'Express International magazine, as a sidebar to the article "Simenon, l'arbre à livres" by Michel Grisolia (pp 8-11) for the 100th anniversary of Simenon's birth.

translation of the original French sidebar:

The "true" Maigret

With his massive body and black look, Chief Inspector Guillaume (seated on the right in this unpublished photo) was the principal model for Georges Simenon's hero. The writer met this policeman, head of the criminal brigade, at the very beginning of the 1930s. At his side, the father of Maigret impregnated himself with the atmosphere of 36 quai des Orfèvres, attending cross-examinations, meetings with brigade chiefs and psychiatric evaluations at the Dépôt.
Chief Inspector Guillaume, whose notable investigations included Bonnot, Landru ("the only man who succeeded in making me lower my eyes") and Stavisky, here interrogates the jeweler [Charles] Mestorino (standing on the left), accused of having murdered another jeweler, in February 1928. Standing on the right is Inspector Février, who will become the faithful Janvier of Simenon's novels.

The Mestorino case is mentioned in three Maigrets, always in the context of long interrogations:

Maigret remembered the interrogation of Mestorino, the longest and hardest, almost a classic, no less than 26 hours. Maigret in New York, [1946-NEW]

People complained that at least three of them claimed to have solved every famous case, and people would cite the Mestorino case, which created a sensation at the time. M himself might make such a claim, as the famous 28-hour-long final interrogation required six different people. The Memoirs of Maigret, [1950-MEM]

One of the reporters remembered when Mestorino had been interrogated for 27 hours. Maigret Sets a Trap, [1955-TEN]

(more on the Mestorino interrogation below in On the retirement of Chief Inspector Maigret)


Simenon on Guillaume and Maigret!

with four photos of Guillaume

Confessions   (2nd Year – N° 10)
February 4, 1937, p 22-26

Georges Simenon decides:

On the retirement
of Chief Inspector

original French

Chief Inspector Guillaume's memoirs:

Trente-sept ans avec la pègre

[37 years with the underworld]
256 pp

Les Éditions de France
20 Avenue Rapp, VIIe


reissued November, 2007:

a short excerpt

Guillaume's great-granddaughter reports:
"My mother remembers that he was an impressive man. He used to have a miniature replica of a guillotine on his desk to cut his cigar tips. He played with it while interrogating suspects, which made them think about the consequences of their acts and finally drove them to be cooperative and willing to talk. After his retirement from the police, he set up a private eye agency."

Another Detective Guillaume

This ad on the cover of a French postage stamp booklet from 1921,
is for a private detective agency directed by L. Guillaume, ex-Inspector in the Sûreté.
In that year, Marcel Guillaume would have been 40.

(According to Chief Inspector Guillaume's great-granddaughter,
L(eon?) Guillaume was probably his cousin.)


L. Guillaume, Director, Former National Police Detective
58bis, Rue de la Chaussée d'Antin — Paris (IXe)
Téléph.: Trudaine 14-02 Adresse Tél.: Louguil-Paris
Intimate information
regarding Marriage, Infidelity, Legal Separation, Divorce
Surveillance in Factories, Offices, - on strike movements -
and at Spas, the Seaside, Vacation centers
Paris - Provinces - Overseas

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