Captain Spaulding on Skull Island

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“Writing is not a profession but a vocation of unhappiness. I don’t think an artist can ever be happy.” ― Georges Simenon

Around the turn of the Millennium, I worked at Something Wicked Books, a now-defunct mystery bookstore in Evanston, Illinois. We had several of Georges Simenon’s lean, mean Inspector Maigret books on our shelves. I had never read any of Simenon’s work, never even heard of him, even though he was incredibly prolific (in 1929 alone he wrote thirty-four books).

At this whodunit haven where I was lucky enough to earn a paycheck, I was told the tale of Simenon’s writing process. The legend goes that he would start a book on the first of the month by spending two days looking over maps of where his novel would take place and choosing names for his characters from a telephone directory (he would keep track of all of these details on the back of a manila envelope). He would then write a chapter a day until he reached the end of the story (usually around eleven chapters). Once the book was completed, he would give himself a couple days off, then start the process all over again.

I found this fascinating, but I didn’t feel the urge to read any of his short novels.

Flash forward thirteen years and here I am posting about THE YELLOW DOG, the eighth of Simenon’s many Maigret mysteries. Why did I decide to read one of his books now?

Two reasons:

One – Patti Abbott chose to focus on Simenon for her Friday’s Forgotten Books feature. I like participating in Patti’s projects every now and then, so I picked up one of his works.

Two – Ariel S. Winter’s THE TWENTY-YEAR DEATH comes out in August from Hard Case Crime. This intriguing book consists of three separate crime novels that tie together to tell one story. One of the novels is written in the style of Jim Thompson (I know his work very well). One of the novels is written in the style of Raymond Chandler (I know his work pretty well). And one of the novels is written in the style of… you guessed it, Georges Simenon! In order to get the most out of reading THE TWENTY-YEAR DEATH, I thought I should read some of this underappreciated (by me) author.

So, what about THE YELLOW DOG?

Maigret gets sent to a rainy tourist town on the coast of France to investigate some strange goings-on. There are shootings, poisonings, odd disappearances, debauchery, cocaine and a mysterious yellow dog. It all turns out to be more of a why-dunnit (revenge), rather than a who or how (which, I gather, is a trademark of the Maigret books). It was short and sweet and to the point.

Read what other people had to say about Simenon’s work over at Patti’s blog.
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