Thursday, February 4, 2010


Belgian writer Georges Simenon was absurdly prolific, having published close to 200 books. While the vast majority were either standard pulp fare or part of the enormous Maigret detective series, Simenon did write a slew of what he called his "psychological novels". While they mine similar territory as the best noir- utter darkness and depravity tempered by the understanding of human nature- they differ from your Jim Thompsons or David Goodis in class sensiblity. Simenon's characters are rarely freaks, drunks, or outcasts. They are quite normal middle class family men and -women who end up in whirlpools of crime and paranoia through accidental circumstances. Some of the best are a part of these NYRB editions, all with unique introductions.

The Man Who Watched Trains Go By, $12.95
"Simenon's finest work is in the romans durs, or ‘hard' novels. The romans durs are extraordinary: tough, bleak, offhandedly violent, suffused with guilt and bitterness, redolent of place (Simenon is unsurpassed as a scene setter), utterly unsentimental, frightening in the pitilessness of their gaze, yet wonderfully entertaining. They are also more philosophically profound than any of the fiction of Camus or Sartre, and far less self-conscious. This is existentialism with a backbone of tempered steel."
— John Banville, The New Republic

Dirty Snow, $12.95
"Hans Koning has described Dirty Snow as "one of the very few novels to come out of German-occupied France that gets it exactly right." In a study of the criminal mind that is comparable to Jim Thompson's The Killer Inside Me, Simenon maps a no man's land of the spirit in which human nature is driven to destruction—and redemption, perhaps, as well—by forces beyond its control. "

Red Lights, $12.95
"Perhaps Simenon's best roman dur with an American setting.... The bars of Red Lights are New York bars, the public holiday is utterly American, the language and manners of Sid, fresh out of Sing Sing, seem authentic, even the domestic dispute which precedes Nancy's departure is characteristically American. With extreme simplicity Simenon turns the car into a lifeboat and the highways of New England on a public holiday into a dangerous sea."
— Patrick Marnham, The Man Who Wasn't Maigret

Monsieur Monde Vanishes, $12.95
"Georges Simenon knew how obsession, buried for years, can come to life, and about the wreckage it leaves behind. He had a remarkable understanding of how bizarrely unaccountable people can be. And he had an almost uncanny ability to capture the look and feel of a given place and time. Monsieur Monde Vanishes is a subtle and profoundly disturbing triumph by the most popular of the twentieth century's great writers."

Tropic Moon, $12.95
"In Tropic Moon, Simenon, the master of the psychological novel, offers an incomparable picture of degeneracy and corruption in a colonial outpost. "

Three Bedrooms in Manhattan, $12.95
"Simenon was immensely admired by both Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett . . . [His novels] compare favourably with the murky grey worlds of James M. Cain, Jim Thompson and Patricia Highsmith with their ambiguous world view of innocents and criminals caught in the whirlpools of fate and struggling to make sense of their existence . . . Three Bedrooms in Manhattan is one of his most erotic and emotionally charged stories."
— Maxim Jakubowski, The Times (London)

These books, and thousands of others, can be purchased from:

Brickbat Books
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Philadelphia, PA 19147

215 592 1207

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