Critical Context

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

Having written more than two hundred novels under his own name and hundreds under various pseudonyms, Georges Simenon is best known as the creator of detective novels about Inspector Maigret. Nevertheless, the Maigrets, as they are often called, are far more than conventional mystery stories. Without discernible plots, they are more concerned with the motives and other facts behind the murder than with locating the murderer. In the attention they give to realistic human behavior, they are, essentially, psychological studies.

Simenon considers his psychological novels, of which The Watchmaker of Everton is one example, to be his most important work. He is indebted toHonore de Balzac for his realism and to Fyodor Dostoevski for his psychological probing. Modern schools of thought involving psychoanalysis, scientific determinism, and existentialism also are significant influences on Simenon’s fiction, which he stopped writing in 1972, when he turned to his memoirs and autobiographical reflections.

The Watchmaker of Everton is one of several novels that Simenon wrote with an American setting. He is at his best on familiar ground, that of France or another Western European country, but he usually succeeds in being universal, timeless, and placeless. He is considered by many great writers to be one of their number, but he is often criticized for the very thing for which he is also often praised, that is, for writing a large number of works at such a fast pace. Still, he has an unquestioned permanence among modern writers, and other writers are among the first to declare that fact.