As we know, Simenon hammered out his stories in a burst of inspiration lasting just a week or so, making up a lot of it as he went along. The results aren’t always believable. For instance, in this one the action gets under way when the mobsters toss a stiff out of a car into a Paris street.

A French cop, Lognon, is on a stakeout at 1am in search of a drug dealer, and he is on the spot, in the shadows, as suddenly the car comes to a stop near him and the body is lobbed out. The car speeds away. As Lognon goes off to find a phone to alert the local police station, (no mobile phones in 1952!), he notices another car stop near the body and then quickly drive away. When Lognon returns to the scene, the body has vanished.

The gangsters in the first car, having realised that there was a man in the shadows, change their minds about dumping the stiff and go back to collect the body. But they are also too late: nothing there. Worse, they discover that the witness in the shadows was a cop, so they find out where he lives and bust into his flat to see if the missing cadaver has been taken there (!).

Only the invalided Mrs. Lognon is at home, and they come up empty-handed. She, terrified, phones Inspector Maigret …

Lognon is a fairly useless fellow but he did get the first car’s numberplate, and is able to discover that the car had been hired by an American named Larner. Maigret calls up a colleague in Washington and, using information from the FBI, establishes that well-known gangsters from St Louis are operating in Paris.

Now come the warnings that he is out of his depth: 'You're a good soul, inspector, and when you're up against the second-rate criminals you get here in Paris, you're a crack policeman. But this business isn't for you. These guys play rough and they may hurt you. Just drop it! What concern is it of yours, anyway?'

Of course, this only spurs on Maigret to bring the miscreants to justice, or has he indeed met his match? And Simenon by now is in full inspirational flow, pounding the typewriter keys to produce the 60 to 80 pages per day that allowed him to write a book in a week to 10 days.

This one was published in a previous translation as “Inspector Maigret and the Killers”, and the violence of the Americans causes Maigret to take a harsher approach than normal.

#Georges Simenon

Simenon wrote in 1970: “For 30 years I have tried to make it understood that there are no criminals.” He was explaining that while truth is all important to Maigret, he isn’t always fully on the side of official “justice” and he sometimes handed over criminals to the authorities reluctantly or even not at all.

But in “Maigret, Lognon and the Gangsters” Maigret becomes more and more angry as the Americans run wild on his turf, holding him in contempt. It is this realisation that sees him change his tactics and take the kind of tough action that he normally prefers to avoid.

More blood is spilled than normal as the pace quickens and Maigret comes to his denouement with Tony Cicero, Charles Cinaglia and Sloppy Joe.

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