Thursday, February 21, 2008

Simenon and other sympathetic subjects

In Reference to Murder is almost as prolific as Georges Simenon. Thus, it was fitting that blog keeper B.V. Lawson mark the 105th birthday of Inspector Maigret's creator last week with a roundup of information including links to lists, to one of the great crime-fiction Web sites, to serious discussions, and to information about how to buy a Simenon T-shirt. I'd like to weigh in with comments about Maigret as a sympathetic investigator.

Simenon attracted the attention of fellow crime novelists at least as early as the 1930s, when Friedrich Glauser observed in The Chinaman that "detective novels seemed popular in Pfründisberg," novels by Edgar Wallace, Agatha Christie, and, yes, Simenon.

One critic wrote that "Glauser has Simenon’s ability to turn a stereotype into a person, and the moral complexity to appeal to justice over the head of police procedure." That moral complexity manifests itself in a deep sympathy for downtrodden characters. Simenon shows a similar sympathy, or at least Maigret does. (See this review for a possible explantion of Simenon's sympathy.)

And that leads to today's question: Who else falls into that tradition? Which crime-fiction authors have the deepest sympathy for their most wretched characters? Which fictional investigators?

© Peter Rozovsky 2008

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