Monday, 1 August 2022

Simenon: The Man, The Books, The Films - by Barry Forshaw

Very few authors of books about the crime genre feature as extensively in the Bibliography of The Life of Crime as Barry Forshaw. Barry is an impressively prolific writer and he has now come up with another snappy book, published by No Exit Press about the Belgian maestro of crime. No, not Poirot, but Georges Simenon. The title is Simenon: The Man, The Books, The Films, and it represents a crisp and user-friendly introduction to the subject.

I noticed that I'm quoted in the endorsements of one of Barry's previous books, saying that Barry's constructive approach comes as a welcome breath of fresh air. I'm glad I said that, because it sums up a key merit of his writing - the positive tone. In addition, he is concise, and that too is a bonus because verbose lit.crit., however well-informed, can become tedious.

From start to finish, Barry's experience as a journalist informs his approach as well as his straightforward and readable writing style. To take just one example, the section 'Adapting Maigret' is essentially an extended quotation from an interview with Alison Joseph, who is at home with radio writing as she is with penning detective novels. Barry has also built upon a bibliography developed by the late David Carter almost twenty years ago.

One of Barry's strengths is his knowledge of films and he itemises many films based on Simenon novels that I'm unfamiliar with. Of the British TV series, it's clear that he prefers the portrayals of Maigret by Rupert Davies and Michael Gambon to Rowan Atkinson's recent interpretation. I don't know if there's ever been a Simenon encyclopaedia, but if not, this little book is an excellent, scaled-down alternative.


Peregrine said...

Hi, does the book go into detail re the different uk titles given to the novels? I have nearly all the Routledge and Hamlish Hamilton’s, and I know that Penguin with their recent reissues, have used different titles with some.

Martin Edwards said...

Quite a number of different UK titles are mentioned. Whether the book includes every title that has been used, I don't know. It is a valuable first point of reference, accessibly written, but not an academic tome or an encyclopaedia.