Celebrating Georges Simenon

Yesterday I had the pleasure of attending a reception for bloggers to celebrate the legacy of Georges Simenon. It was hosted by the team that manage the Simenon estate in the UK, the venue was the Groucho Club, and this time I got to talk to everybody!

I was to have met Victoria there, but sadly trains didn’t work out and she was unable to come, however it was lovely to catch up with Sakura, and to meet a whole lot of new-to-me bloggers including: Sarah of Crimepieces; Andy of Euro But Not Trash; Charlie of The Worm Hole; Elizabeth of Fictionbitch and her author blog; and Ayo of Shotsmag.

DSC_0042The main attraction, however, was the chance of meeting Georges’s son, John (left, please excuse the fuzzy photo), who is heading up the renaissance of interest in his father’s work. It was a thrill to hear him talk lovingly of his father – who was always there for him – putting family above writing. John also talked about his father’s writing process – and very much like Maigret, he spent a long time letting everything come together in his mind before polishing his typewriter and writing.

John also had some exciting news for us – they are making a couple of new Maigret films for ITV – but you’ll never guess who will play the pipe-smoking detective – none other than Rowan Atkinson. Filming starts in the autumn for spring 2016. Interesting casting indeed! John confessed that he preferred Rupert Davies to Michael Gambon in previous UK TV series.

He was very laid back and lovely to talk to. I mentioned that I’d read one of the romans durs in preparation for the event: Three Bedrooms in Manhattan, and asked how autobiographical it was (review to follow), and he told me that it was basically a novelisation of how his mother and father met. Sweet!

We also discussed the wonderful new Penguin editions – their aim is to republish all of Simenon’s work, both Maigret and the romans durs, in new translations – they’re coming out at a couple per month. The Simenon estate really want the world to re-engage with his work – and I must say I’m very happy to do so. Having read probably half the Maigrets in my teens, I’ve started to read them again and found them very enjoyable. You can get a taster from Lizzy Siddals’ piece for Shiny New Books last year on the new Maigret reprints. I’m particularly looking forward to reading more of the romans durs though, I read Dirty Snow a few years ago, and it is so dark in comparison with the Maigrets – loved it – my review here.

It was a lovely afternoon. Thank you to John, Simenon.com and the estate team, and Penguin who supplied lots of Maigrets for us to take away.

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The game’s afoot once again…

The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz

The vogue for new writers keeping others’ literary characters alive has never been stronger. I would wager that no one character has continued to be written more about than Sherlock Holmes, although James Bond must be getting close.

Most of the non-Fleming Bond novels are, however, officially commissioned by the Fleming estate. This is not the case with Holmes, but that doesn’t mean that they are necessarily bad at all – Laurie R King’s Mary Russell books in which an ageing Holmes takes on a new female apprentice (my review of the first one here) are rather fab, but unauthorised.

house of silkWhich leads me to Anthony Horowitz’s novel The House of Silk which is fully sanctioned by the ‘Conan Doyle Estate Ltd’ – viz the red seal on the front cover of the hardback edition.

Horowitz will be mostly known to many as a writer of adventure novels for older children – The Alex Rider and Power of Five series are popular and, so I’m told, brilliant fun. He is also, however, the creator of two long-running TV detective series – The Midsomer Murders and the WWII-set Foyle’s War, and has long said that Sherlock Holmes has been his inspiration, so upon reflection – an ideal choice for continuing the Holmesian canon…

This was our November read for book group, and we discussed it last Monday over our Christmas curry outing. Despite a table laden with spicy delights, we did manage to talk a little about the book!

I won’t dwell on the plot suffice to say it is suitably complex, but clues are there, and you do get a sense of certain characters having a bad side to them. All the features you’d expect are present from the Baker Street Irregulars gang of urchins, to the peasouper fogs, opium dens, bent coppers, lots of nasty Victorian gents and murder.

The novel is narrated by Doctor Watson, as are all the Holmes stories.  After Holmes’ death at his home on the Downs, (not the Reichenbach Falls), Watson is recounting some of the stories he has not been able to tell so far, and had been kept in a vault for one hundred years – a neat little device to explain the new stories. (Yes, stories – apparently Horowitz is writing another.)

The book was easy to read, page-turning and thoroughly enjoyable, and everybody in our group liked it.  Indeed, it awakened an enthusiasm in several of us to read some of the originals (again). We would have liked a bit more Victorian detail in the locations, but that was a small quibble.

One thing we did discuss was whom we all envisaged our Holmes to be – you can’t help read a book whose lead character has been filmed so many times without a vision of one of these incarnations popping into your head. For some it was the ‘original’ Basil Rathbone, for others Jeremy Brett, for me Benedict Cumberbatch has superceded any other actor who may have played Sherlock in my mind; no-one went for Robert Downey-Jr.

So great fun and a good addition to the Holmes canon. (8.5/10)

Source: Own copy. To explore further on Amazon UK, please click below:
The House of Silk: The New Sherlock Holmes Novel (Sherlock Holmes Novel 1)by Anthony Horowitz (2011), Orion paperback, 416 pages