Something perhaps a little different here on the Ramblings today, as I wanted to go on a little about a wonderful televisual experience I’ve been having over the past year!! Regular visitors will know that I’m not much of a television watcher (apart from a good documentary or – guilty pleasure – Susan Calman doing silly travelling programmes!) However, I love vintage TV (original Doctor Who was my thing growing up), and so Mr K and I do keep an eye on Talking Pictures TV. When he mentioned to me, some time back, that they were going to be re-running the whole of the Rupert Davies “Maigret” stories I couldn’t have been more excited! I love Simenon‘s Maigret, of course, and I have happy (but vague) memories of seeing the old shows on occasional re-runs. The chance to watch them all was too good to miss – but how would I find the series?

Simenon with Rupert Davies (right), and actor Jan Teulings who played Maigret in the Netherlands (Joost Evers / Anefo, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Well, I’m delighted to report I was hooked from the start and I absolutely adored it! I know old-style BBC shows do get a lot of criticism for wooden sets and the like (early Doctor Who springs to mind again); but I felt that the Maigrets stood up brilliantly, and much of that, of course, is due to the stellar cast. Davies himself is my perfect Maigret, so I needed no convincing there. The series unfortunately dispensed with one of the regular supporting cast, Janvier, who only got mentioned in passing now and then. But the great man was surrounded by an ensemble cast who were a joy – Ewen Solon as Lucas, Neville Jason as Lapointe, Victor Lucas as Torrence, and the wonderful Helen Shingler as the ever-patient Madame Maigret. Not all of the team were in every episode, but the ones where the full ensemble cast appeared were particularly excellent. The stories captured the darkness of Simenon’s originals brilliantly, and I’ve heard it reported he thought Davies ideal as his detective – and I agree!

However, there’s another element which I found particularly fascinating from watching the series, and that was the location shooting! There was a *lot* of it; obviously indoor scenes were studio shot, but each episode seemed to feature wonderful archive footage of the various actors moving around Paris and its landmarks. This was incredibly evocative, catching a Paris I’d love to visit but which is now long gone; and this added so much to the watching experience for me. Old Paris just looked fascinating, and I think the BBC of the time should be commended for their commitment to doing all that location shooting and capturing the atmosphere of the French capital for their Maigret.

The series came to the end of its rerun at the start of January, and I must admit to having felt a bit bereft. My weekly viewings of the show had made the cast seem like family and the setting seem like reality; so I was actually a bit sad to lose that weekly escape into past Paris. Additional sadness comes from the fact that none of the cast is with us any more; and that made me feel old and quite distant from that time. But I took much joy from being able to see the series again, and share in Maigret and his team’s adventures.

I spent a bit of time noodling around online after the end of the screenings, and whilst exploring a very detailed Maigret website, stumbled across mention of the death of Torrence, one of the regular crew. Curiously, on TV he was killed off in a story near the end; however, that particular title was one of the early Maigret books. References on the website mentioned a particular one of Simenon’s books which dealt with this inconsistency; and a quick rummage on the bookcase halfway up the stairs revealed that I had a copy… The title is “Maigret’s Memoirs”, published in 1950, and translated here by Jean Stewart – and a fascinating read it is!

“MM” purports, in a meta kind of way, to have been written by Maigret himself, setting out to tell the story of how he met Simenon, how the latter ‘stole’ his identity to use in his novels, and also giving much background to his character as well as his past life and his view of his work. So it’s a book by Simenon, pretending to be written by Maigret, who refers to Simenon as first an acquaintance and eventually a friend – definitely early metafiction!

Cleverly, Simenon adopts a different style to his normal writing for the ‘Maigret’ voice. The great detective reminisces about his childhood and early life, his start in the police force, how he met Madame Maigret (Louise); and he explores his thoughts about the criminals he meets and the relationships between them and police force. It makes for a fascinating read, and a creative way for Simenon to explore the raison d’etre of his books and his characters.

The reference to Torrence comes towards the end of the book, in a chapter where Louise is passing little notes to her husband with suggestions of things which need to be tidied up as Simenon may have made the odd mistake…! Here, Maigret deals with the apparent resurrection of this character by implying that Simenon gave the wrong name of the officer killed in the earlier book and that it wasn’t Torrence at all! All of this meta stuff is very entertaining, and I did enjoy the book – although I’ve had it for ages, I couldn’t tell you if I’ve read it before!

So I have been having a wonderful time with Maigret, written and filmed, lately, and if you are a fan of classic crime and have Talking Pictures TV, I do recommend you check the series out – I believe the episodes *are* being repeated, so there is a chance to catch up. The Maigret books have been a favourite for most of my life, and have been joined in my pantheon of the greats by this wonderful series which definitely does them justice in my view! Highly recommended! 😀