French detective Jules Maigret will return to British shores this autumn, with Penguin publishing all 75 books in Georges Simenon’s series over as many months.
Starting with Pietr the Latvian, the first in the series, on 7th November, one Maigret title will be published every month as a £6.99 paperback in what is one of Penguin’s most ambitious and extensive series launches ever.
As well as the Maigret novels, Penguin also has plans to re-publish a selection of Simenon’s literary works—of which there are “about 150”—including The Stain on the Snow and The Man Who Watched the Trains Go By.
“He wrote close to 400 long and short stories in his lifetime, so there’s a lot to cherry pick from,” said series editor Josephine Greywoode. The publisher was approached by Peters, Fraser & Dunlop, which manages Simenon’s estate following the Belgian author’s death in 1989.
“It’s a huge deal for Penguin UK and US,” she said, adding that a year-long marketing campaign will “try and create a trail from book to book for the readers”.
Marketing includes a booklet for booksellers introducing the author and Maigret; a Waterstones loyalty scheme with double points available; “money-can’t-buy” prizes, including places at a Maigret dinner with guests including the books’ translators and Simenon’s son John; and a launch of six of the titles simultaneously next spring.
Simenon has sold around 80 million copies worldwide, and John Banville, Julian Barnes and Paul Theroux count themselves as fans, but Greywoode said Simenon’s UK profile “is not the same as other countries . . . it’s something we’re aware of and we hope we can make a difference with this fresh and very concerted, long-term and ambitious project”.
Rather than publishing all 75 titles solely as e-books (the e-books will be published simultaneously with the paperbacks), Greywoode said: “For us, print is still a very important way of bringing books to the attention of the public. What we’ve decided to do is create a book club atmosphere around them, and for us print was essential in terms of how we publish and market these books because it does give us that physical presence and that shareability.”
“We see [Simenon] as one of the great writers of the 20th century. Every single one of these books deserves a bit of attention and is very distinct from the others . . . if we were to put out 75 altogether, we would be forcing [booksellers] in many ways to make a selection, but hopefully if we’re seeding them over a longer period of time it allows the reader and the retailer to take it one step at a time, and to really savour each book for what it is.”
The titles following Pietr the Latvian are The Late Monsieur Gallet (5th December) and The Hanged Man of Saint-Pholien (2nd January).