It’s the birthday of Belgian mystery writer Georges Simenon

Born in Liège (1903). He wrote over 500 novels and short stories, many of them featuring a compassionate detective named Jules Maigret, who enjoyed fine wine, his wife, and solving cases by pondering human nature, rather than using violence. Simenon said he got the idea for his detective while on a boating trip in The Netherland Canals. He said he imagined “a large, powerfully built gentleman I thought would make a passable inspector. As the day wore on, I added other features: a pipe, a bowler hat, a thick overcoat with a velvet collar, and, as it was cold and damp, I put a cast-iron stove in his office.”

Before Simenon hit it big with the Maigret novels, he wrote pulp fiction under 17 pen names and worked as a police reporter and rubbed elbows with prostitutes, murderers, and thieves, which helped make his novels more exciting. He once said, “We are all potentially characters in a novel – with the difference that characters in a novel really get to live their lives to the full.”

Simenon could write 80 pages a day and sometimes finish the draft of a novel in 10 days, a rigid schedule that required him to have doctor’s checkups before the start of each new work. He found characters names by thumbing through telephone directories from around the world and often wrote out detailed maps of the towns and cities in his books. William Faulkner was a big fan of Simenon, saying, “He makes me think of Chekhov.”

Georges Simenon’s Maigret books include Maigret and the Yellow Dog (1931), Maigret’s Dead Man (1948), Maigret’s Memoirs (1951), and Maigret Takes the Waters (1968).

On writing, he said: “Writing is considered a profession, and I don’t think it is a profession. I think that everyone who does not need to be a writer, who thinks he can do something else, ought to do something else. Writing is not a profession but a vocation of unhappiness. I don’t think an artist can ever be happy.”
From The Writer’s Almanac.

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