Maigret: Maigret, Lognon and the Gangsters

The Maigret novels aren’t without their moments of humour, but I wouldn’t call any that I’ve read thus far comic. Maigret, Lognon and the Gangsters comes the closest, beginning with the sad sack Lognon himself, who I don’t recall appearing before Maigret at Picratt’s. Lognon goes by the nickname Inspector Hard-Done-By and is described as “the most lugubrious individual in the entire Parisian police force, a man whose bad luck was so proverbial some people claimed he was cursed.” Very much a comic figure then, and the book begins with his going missing and Maigret having to make a visit to his wife, a scene which plays out as farce.

There is, however, a dangerous subtext. Another potentially comic character Maigret meets is the café owner Pozzo (this book was published in 1952 and Waiting for Godot premiered in 1953, so Simenon wasn’t writing under the influence). Pozzo initially seems to be acting the clown and even later will look like “one of those old comic actors whose faces have become rubbery from all their contortions.” But beneath that rubbery face, and despite his costume of baggy pants and red slippers, he is a figure of threat, with eyes that remain hard and watchful. The same might be said of some of the gangsters, Americans who come with snappy names like Sweet Bill and Sloppy Joe. And the final gunfight, which is underscored by funny moments like Maigret having a pullet pass through his hat and a tiny French policeman trying to physically constrain a giant American woman.

So maybe this is a comic novel. I don’t even think anyone gets killed, though quite a few are shot and beaten up (including poor Lognon, who is removed from “his” case pretty quickly). The plot involves a bunch of gangsters arriving in Paris and behaving as very poor guests. Maigret takes their presence as a challenge – we know he loves a challenge – and makes their capture a point of national pride. I don’t have to tell you how that works out. He shows them all . . . Absolutely!

Maigret index

12 thoughts on “Maigret: Maigret, Lognon and the Gangsters

  1. Coincidentally I read all these Maigret books over the last several years and have been enjoying your recaps.
    You seemed pretty dubious at the beginning of writing these pieces and I’m glad you are sticking it out. The series takes many interesting detours.
    I also wondered what it was about the Porquerolles killer that annoyed Maigret so much (in My Friend Maigret). It seemed generational — the amorality of youth? Sad to say I’d completely forgotten his treatment of “the fairy” in Maigret at Picratt’s. I think I filter a lot of “incorrect” attitudes from decades-old stories. I also liked Simenon’s description of squeaky clean, disposable culture in 1950s Arizona (in Maigret a the Coroner’s), even though the story was kind of a mess.

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    • Yes, I think he didn’t like the killer in My Friend Maigret in part because of the generational thing, but also because the guy was such a worthless sponge. And an “artist.” He’s a conservative Frenchman of peasant stock, after all. Though he sometimes seems more tolerant.

      Boy, the story in Coroner’s was a mess. Even with the maps. But Simenon often seems in such a rush the stories often seem about to fall apart.

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    • I am dipping in and out of Simenon because the books are still quite hard to come by. There was a time when they put three of his books in one paperback but that seems to have gone by the wayside.

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  2. Just reading a non-Maigret A Man’s Head and Maigret and Monsieur Charles. I find I prefer the non-Maigret novels a lot of the time but the Maigrets are in a class of their own. A phenomenal writer.

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  3. I’ve been reading the Penguin re-issues (which have excellent translations) in e-book form.
    I finally gave up because the cost was too high for such short books. I made it to 1964 (Maigret and the Ghost — a story with Hard-Done-By!).
    The non-Maigret books tend to be more depressing but I agree that Mr. Hire’s Engagement is excellent.
    Also, The Man Who Watched the Trains Go By.

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    • I’ve been picking up most of them from a discount bookseller so they run around $5 each. Which still adds up given how many of them there are. But I have a weakness for buying books.

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