Lost Moorings – Simenon. Cover by Romek Marber, 1962. Georges Simenon was one of the most prolific writers of the twentieth century, capable of writing 60 to 80 pages per day. He wrote close to 200 “serious” novels, 150 novellas and scores of pulp novels using a number of pseudonyms.
In 2005 he was nominated for the title of De Grootste Belg (The Greatest Belgian). Simenon wrote in French and, unsurprisingly, did well in the Waloon (french-speaking) version of the contest, finishing in 10th place behind Jacques Brel, Eddie Mercxx, Herge and Rene Magritte, but ahead of Adolphe Sax, Reubens and Peyo, the comic artist responsible for The Smurfs. In the Flemish version, Simenon was placed 77th, behind most of The Smurfs.
Simenon is best known for the 75 novels and 28 short stories featuring Commissaire Jules Maigret – known simply as Maigret to most people, including his wife. Maigret was a commissioner in the Parisian police and the novels were translated into all major languages and several of them were turned into films and radio plays; two television series were made in the UK.
Maigret had much in common with his more modern, Edinburgh counterpart, Ian Rankin’s John Rebus. The two men shared an unconventional approach to detecting, a laconic manner, and a fondness for alcohol. Like Rebus it was a matter of personal pride to Maigret that that he could hold his liquor. If Rory Gallagher had been around in Maigret’s time I’m sure the French detective would have listened to his music as well. On vinyl, of course.
It’s easy to get these fictional detectives mixed up. Maigret was a French “dick” created by a Belgian author. Hercules Poirot was a Belgian “dick” created by an elderly Englishwoman. The protagonist of Kingsley Amis’s Lucky Jim wasn’t a detective at all, but his creator was both an old woman and a complete dick.
Anyway, Lost Moorings isn’t one of Simenon’s Maigret novels; it contains two tenuously connected novellas; Banana Tourist (Touriste de Bananes) and Blind Path (Chemin sans Issue). The only person I can find who will admit to reading it is Mike Ward who reviews the books he reads on his daily commute from Brighton to London. He describes it as, “A sad and slightly disturbing pair of novellas”1.
So, perhaps the most interesting thing about the book is its cover, designed by Romek Marber. He arrived in England in 1946, one of the group of European émigrés who went on to influence British graphic design in the second half of the twentieth century.
Penguin’s Germano Facetti commissioned Marber to design an entire sequence of titles for Penguin Crime. His design approach – the ‘Marber Grid’ – and his rather dark visual images had an immediate impact. The Grid was so successful that Facetti applied it, first to the blue Pelicans and then to the orange covers of Penguin fiction. Its spirit is evident throughout The Perfect Library.
Note 1. You can read Mike’s full review at: http://0651frombrighton.blogspot.co.uk/2013/11/lost-moorings-georges-simenon.html