Georges Simenon was, during his lifetime, the bestselling writer alive. He created Chief Inspector Maigret, one of the most-loved and sanest characters in modern fiction, but was himself an alcoholic, a fantasist, a man possessed by the demon of sexual jealousy, a crime writer whose own life was haunted by the possibility of crime. His stated ideal was family life, but he conducted a quarrel with his widowed mother that lasted for 50 years, and his own family life ended in catastrophe with the suicide of his daughter. He married twice and seduced hundreds of women, including Josephine Baker. Simenon's writing life was in itself quite a story. He wrote 193 novels under his own name and 200 under 17 pseudonyms. His sales were over 500 million in 55 languages. His admirers ranged from Celine and Colette to T.S.Eliot, Somerset Maugham, Fellini and George Steiner. The author, in this first portrait since Simenon's death, sets out to explain the connections between his childhood and his lifelong fascination with crime, and traces the relationship between the facts of his life and the tormented fiction he wrote.
The author has interviewed many of the people who knew him, and has drawn upon Simenon's letters, papers and copious writings to produce this biography. Patrick Marnham's books include "Fantastic Invasion: Dispatches from Contemporary Africa", "So far from God: A Journey to Central America" and "Trail of Havoc: In the Steps of Lord Lucan".