24 April 2009

Forgotten Book: MAIGRET and THE ENIGMATIC LETT, Georges Simenon

A contribution to a special edition of Pattinase's Friday's Forgotten Books

First published in 1931, my copy was published in 1963, and judging by my handwritten name in the front, I read it soon after that.

Original title: PIETR-IE-LETTON. Also published as The Strange Case of Peter the Lett , and The Case of Peter the Lett.

This was the first of the Maigret novels, one of a dozen(!) published in 1931.

Synopsis from the back of the book:
    PIETR-IE-LETTON was among the very earliest Simenons. It must be the most tortuous puzzle of indentities ever handled by Maigret.

    Pietr the Lett had for many years been clocked across the frontiers by Interpol: he had the personality of a chameleon. Apart from his extraordinary resemblance to the twisted corpse they found in the toilet of the Pole Star express when she drew into the Gare du Nord, he passed as Mr Oswald Oppenheim, immaculate friend of the Mortimer-Levingstons, multi-millionaires; he seemed to be Olaf Swaan, the Norwegian merchant officer of Fecamp; and he was Fedor Yurovich, a down-and-out Russian drunk from the Paris ghetto, to the life. Maigret needed the obstinate nose of a basset-hound to run down this dangerous international crook. He nearly lost his life once and, when they killed his old friend Inspector Torrence, nearly lost his head as well. But he was in at the kill.
I've paid tribute to Simenon before. This novel pre-dates that novel in my reading by at least a decade.
Perhaps what I should pay tribute to is the role of Penguin books in making Simenon novels available to Australian readers. According to the cover, I paid 2/6 for this copy. Now, for the young ones, that was the equivalent of 25 cents. Unreal isn't it?
I remember haunting, of all places, the bookshelves in David Jones, looking for the new green Penguins, and the Fontana paperbacks (Agatha Christies)

There is an interesting list of Penguin Maigrets here.

By the way, can you identify the sleuths in the cartoon below? Answers here.


Dorte H said...

Good post.

But what I enjoyed most was probably the cover, and this remark: "my copy was published in 1963, and judging by my handwritten name in the front, I read it soon after that."

I have read a few Simenons; some of them are quite good but there is also one or two I never got through. Some plots just age better than others, I think.

Vanda Symon said...

I love this cartoon. Might have to print it off and stick it on my wall.

Kerrie said...

You are right, some Simenon has weathered better than others. It was a very minimalistic style Dorte

Kerrie said...

Some of those caricatures are great aren't they? They seem to capture the essence of the character, although I think Miss Marple looks a bit plump. Not sure what the olive wreath is meant to be, or is it a funeral wreath (as in murder mystery)?


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