08-26-2012 07:40 PM
This week, our featured classic American mystery author is Rex Stout, creator of Nero Wolfe and his narrator and assistant, Archie Goodwin.
Rex Stout quote: "I still can't decide which is more fun - reading or writing."
"Compose yourself, Archie. Why taunt me? Why upbraid me? I am merely a genius, not a god."
--Nero Wolfe humbly confesses, in Fer-de-Lance.
08-26-2012 07:43 PM
Rex Stout and his Nero Wolfe books are so popular, there are countless websites featuring the author and his detective. I'll post the links to some of the most interesting ones, along with items featured at those links.
At first glance, Rex Stout's NERO WOLFE might seem out of place among the hard-bitten, world-weary, pavement-pounding P.I.s to which this site is usually devoted. Massively overweight, a cranky, agoraphobic and sedentary gourmet who virtually never leaves his Manhattan brownstone, Wolfe is in nearly every sense an armchair detective. And yet, Stout provided a real shot in the arm to the then-fledgling genre when he published his first Nero wolfe novel in 1934.
Wolfe and his investigator/bodyguard/secretary ARCHIE GOODWIN are just as much "eyes" as their predecessors Holmesand Watson – but with a big helping of the American P.I. genes that defined the sub-genre.
Over Wolfe's 40-year literary lifespan (with several additional adventures written by Robert Goldsborough in the 1980s), the fat genius and his sharp-eyed, smart-mouthed assistant bring down murderers, blackmailers, wartime traitors, and even (on one memorable occasion) leave J. Edgar Hoover out in the snow. These are men who make a good living at a difficult and dangerous business, not minor lords, plucky spinsters or churchmen who just happened to be at the garden party when the butler was stabbed.
Rex Stout was born in Indiana in 1886 to Quaker parents and raised in Kansas and by most accounts was quite the precocious child, reading the Bible cover to cover (twice!) before he was four, and becoming state spelling champion at the age of thirteen. After a brief time at Kansas University, he joined the navy, and served on President Roosevelt's yacht from 1906 to 1908. He worked as a bookkeeper, a salesman, a hotel manager and a store clerk, while trying to crack the burgeoning pulp market, cranking out tales of science fiction, romance and adventure. Ever practical, Stout teamed up with his brother, and established a business whose success would enable him to continue with his writing.
The first of his forty-seven Nero Wolfe books, Fer-de-Lance was published in 1934, to much popular and critical acclaim, and by the start of World War II, Stout was a full-time writer. He was also a tireless promoter of the war effort, banking on his popularity by giving speeches, hosting radio shows and chairing the Writers War Board. After the war he actively worked for groups including Friends for Democracy, Society for the Prevention of World War III and Writers Board for World Government. Not surprisingly McCarthy's HUAC committee came sniffing around, but Stout managed to avoid appearing before them. Stout also served several terms as an officer of theAuthors' League of America and one term as president of the Mystery Writers of America. In 1958 he was honored with the MWA Grand Master Award.
One thing which does set the Wolfe books apart from many others in the P.I. genre is their somewhat bouncy tone; the stories usually have reasonably happy endings. In fact, Stout's last Nero Wolfe novel, A Family Affair, written at the height of the Watergate scandal, is probably the darkest of the Wolfe stories. Stout seems to have been mightily ticked off at Nixon and his cronies.
Besides books featuring private eyes Dol Bonner, Alphabet Hicks and Tecumseh Fox, Stout wrote several non-series books, including Under the Andes (1914), How Like a God (1929), and the political thriller The President Vanishes (1934).
08-26-2012 09:39 PM
08-26-2012 09:40 PM
The House on 35th Street
Nero Wolfe & Archie Goodwin at Home
Rex Stout published his first Nero Wolfe story, Fer-De-Lance, in 1934, establishing his hero as a brilliant, enormously fat, eccentric detective who raises orchids, keeps a gourmet table (complete with live-in chef), and rarely leaves home. Home is "an old brownstone" at 918 W. 35th Street, Manhattan -- an address that has become as real and almost as famous as Sherlock Holmes' 221B Baker Street in London.
In the almost 40 years that Stout described the house (in some forty-eight stories) in ever increasing detail, both the details of the house and its occupants shifted about a bit in size and location -- in his first book Archie's room is on the second floor, across from Wolfe, and Fritz "slept above across from the plant rooms," and there is an outside elevator leading up to the plant rooms (which both Stout and I subsequently ignored). Nevertheless, in a few years, Stout settled into a general image of how life was lived at 918 W. 35th Street. Fritz moved to the basement, Wolfe remained on the second floor across from the "North Room," Archie moved to the third floor adjacent to the "South Room" where we may suppose the orchids had been, and Horstmann moved to the roof with ten thousand orchids!
Oh, once in a while, things popped up as they were needed -- a fireplace suddenly (and rather inconveniently for the draftsman) appeared in the front parlor: Wolfe was angry at a new dictionary; in a rage, he tore it to pieces and burned it. Oh... where? Uh, in the fireplace in the front parlor. Okay. Hadn't noticed that before. And a chair pops up across from the coat rack, a pool table is established in the basement, a window is needed for an escape, this and that. Rex Stout maintained a mental image of Archie seated to Wolfe's right, while his consistent descriptions call for Archie to be at the far end of the room (with a mirror in front of his desk so he can see the room behind him) and the bookshelves and globe at the other end so that if Wolfe's desk faces the door to the office (as is common), Archie hasto be at Wolfe's left. But Stout calls for the famous waterfall portrait with a peephole to be behind Wolfe, ergo, Wolfe isnot seated facing the door, and Archie can be place eight feet away and at right angles as called for in the Master's text. Small details can also be a problem. Stout has the light switch on the left inside of the door to the office as you enter, but that would have the door hinged on the wrong side, swinging into the room and furniture, rather than as I have drawn it, swinging into a wall. Also, as Stout kept adding needed touches -- a cabinet for fingerprint equipment, keys, and rubber gloves, with drawers to hold manuscripts, a safe, filing cabinets, a bathroom (!), and room enough for two rows of chairs in front of Wolfe's desk plus a large couch -- we end up needing a lot of room and Archie ends up where I have placed him. Ain't no other way. So this is it.
A word about the occupants:
Nero Wolfe who owns the house was born in Yugoslavia, immigrated to the United States, and somehow ended up as a licensed detective in New York City. He is overweight ("a seventh of a ton"), erudite, opinionated, dislikes and distrusts women, automobiles, and airplanes, and hates to work. Hence, Archie Goodwin, his chief investigator, right arm, leg man, muscle, and goad who is also, not too incidently, his Dr. Watson and Boswell. The stories are all in the first person, narrated by Archie.
Fritz Brenner, the chef,
"... prefers the basement. His den is as big as the office and front room combined, but over the years it has got pretty cluttered -- tables with stacks of magazines, busts of Escoffier and Brillat-Savarin on stands, framed menus on the walls, a king-size bed, five chairs, shelves of books (he has 289 cookbooks), a head of a wild boar he shot in the Vosges, a TV and stereo cabinet, two large cases of ancient cooking vessels, one of which he thinks was used by Julius Caesar's chef, and so on. Wolfe was in the biggest chair by a table...." (The Doorbell Rang, 1965, p.70)
Meals are serious affairs (no business talk) and lovingly described. I knew an Argentinean who was a member of a group that met regularly to prepare and consume a Fritz Brenner dinner!
Theodore Horstmann is neither very developed as a character nor very lovable. He takes care of the orchids and is grumpy.
And this is the house they live in....
There are seven steps leading up to the front door of Nero Wolfe's home at 618 W.35th Street in Manhattan. The "Front Room" as Archie refers to it is on the left, followed by the door to Wolfe's office. To the right are stairs going up and down, then an elevator, then the door of the dining room, and, at the end of the hall, an alcove from which you can enter the kitchen (on the right) or look through a peephole into the office (on the left).
08-26-2012 09:42 PM
The office of
Licensed Private Detective
918 W. 35th Street
New York City, NY
Please call for an appointment
Nero Wolfe, Principal
Archie Goodwin, Confidential Assistant
Fees and termsMr. Wolfe's fees are, by most standards, exorbitant. However, they are based on a successful conclusion of the case. Retainers are encouraged.
Associated agenciesThe Panzer Agency
Durkin and Associates
|Working with us
Mr. Wolfe maintains very strict office hours and does not visit clients. Please communicate with Mr. Archie Goodwin for an appointment at our office.
Mr. Wolfe does not communicate via email. Please direct all inquiries to Mr. Goodwin.
|Hiring Mr. Goodwin
Mr. Goodwin occasionally receives messages from attractive young women requesting his "personal" assistance. While he appreciates the thoughts, they really should request an appointment with Mr. Wolfe.
|Mr. Goodwin's books
There are a few people who enjoy Mr. Goodwin's books (under the pseudonym Rex Stout) and have createdWeb sites.
To contact us, please email Archie Goodwin - please make sure "inquiry" appears in the subject line.
08-26-2012 09:45 PM
Archie Goodwin meets Flora Gallant in part one of Rex Stout’s “Frame-Up for Murder,” illustrated by Austin Briggs for The Saturday Evening Post(June 21, 1958)
Source Archie Goodwin (fictional detective)From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
08-26-2012 09:47 PM
Rex Todhunter Stout (December 1, 1886 – October 27, 1975) was an American writer noted for his detective fiction. Stout is best known as the creator of the larger-than-life fictional detective Nero Wolfe, described by reviewer Will Cuppy as "that Falstaff of detectives." Wolfe's assistant Archie Goodwin recorded the cases of the detective genius from 1934 (Fer-de-Lance) to 1975 (A Family Affair).
Rex Stout in 1931
Photograph by Arnold Genthe
His father was a teacher who encouraged his son to read, and Rex had read the entire Bible twice by the time he was four years old. He was the state spelling bee champion at age 13. Stout attended Topeka High School, Kansas, and the University of Kansas, Lawrence. His sister, Ruth Stout, also authored several books on no-work gardening and some social commentaries.
He served from 1906 to 1908 in the U.S. Navy (as a yeoman on President Teddy Roosevelt's official yacht) and then spent about the next four years working at about thirty different jobs (in six states), including cigar store clerk, while he sold poems, stories, and articles to various magazines.
It was not his writing but his invention of a school banking system in about 1916 that gave him enough money to travel in Europe extensively. About 400 U.S. schools adopted his system for keeping track of the money school children saved in accounts at school, and he was paid royalties.
In 1916, Stout married Fay Kennedy of Topeka, Kansas. They divorced in 1932 and Stout married in the same year Pola Weinbach Hoffmann, a designer who had studied with Josef Hoffmann in Vienna, Austria.
Rex Stout began his literary career in the 1910s writing for the pulps, publishing romance, adventure, and some borderline detective stories. His first stories appeared among others in All-Story Magazine. He sold articles and stories to a variety of magazines, and became a full-time writer in 1927. Stout lost the money he had made as a businessman in 1929.
In Paris in 1929 he wrote his first book, How Like a God, an unusual psychological story written in the second person. During the course of his early writing career Stout tackled a variety of literary forms, including the short story, the novel, and science fiction, among them a pioneering political thriller, The President Vanishes (1934).
After he returned to the U.S. Stout turned to writing detective fiction. The first work was Fer-de-Lance, which introduced Nero Wolfe and his assistant Archie Goodwin. The novel was published by Farrar & Rinehart in October 1934, and in abridged form as "Point of Death" in The American Magazine (November 1934). In 1937, Stout created Dol Bonner, a female private detective who would reappear in his Nero Wolfe stories and who is an early and significant example of the woman PI as fictional protagonist, in a novel called The Hand in the Glove. After 1938 Stout focused solely on the mystery field. Stout continued writing the Nero Wolfe series for the rest of his life, publishing at least one adventure per year through 1966 (with the exception of 1943, when he was busy with activities related to World War II). Though Stout's rate of production declined somewhat after 1966, he still published four further Nero Wolfe novels and a cookbook prior to his death in 1975, aged 88.
During WWII Stout cut back on his detective writing, joined the Fight for Freedom organization, and wrote propaganda. He hosted three weekly radio shows, and coordinated the volunteer services of American writers to help the war effort. After the war Stout returned to writing Nero Wolfe novels, and took up the role of gentleman farmer on his estate at High Meadow in Brewster, north of New York City. He served as president of the Authors Guild and of the Mystery Writers of America, which in 1959 presented Stout with the Grand Master Award—the pinnacle of achievement in the mystery field.
Stout was a longtime friend of the British humorist P. G. Wodehouse, writer of the Jeeves novels and short stories. Each was a fan of the other's work, and there are evident parallels between their characters and techniques. Wodehouse contributed the foreword to Rex Stout: A Biography, John McAleer's Edgar Award-winning 1977 biography of the author (reissued in 2002 as Rex Stout: A Majesty's Life).
Stout served on the original board of the American Civil Liberties Union and helped start the radical Marxist magazine The New Masses, which succeeded The Masses and The Liberator, in the 1920s. At the time of the Great Depression, he was an enthusiastic supporter of the New Deal.
During World War II, he worked with the advocacy group Friends of Democracy and was Chairman of the Writers' War Board (a propaganda organization), and supported the embryonic United Nations. He lobbied for Franklin D. Roosevelt to accept a fourth term as President. He developed an extreme anti-German attitude and in 1943 published the essay "We Shall Hate or We Shall Fail", and during the later part of the war and the post-war period he also led the Society for the Prevention of World War III which lobbied for a harsh peace for Germany. When the war ended, Stout became active in the United World Federalists.
Stout was active in liberal causes. When the anti-Communist era of the late 1940s and 1950s began, he ignored a subpoena from theHouse Un-American Activities Committee at the height of the McCarthy era.
In later years Stout alienated some readers with his hawkish stance on the Vietnam War and with the contempt for communismexpressed in certain of his works. The latter viewpoint is given voice most notably in the 1949 novel, The Second Confession. In this work, Archie and Wolfe express their dislike for "Commies," while at the same time Wolfe arranges for the firing of a virulently anti-Communist broadcaster, likening him to "Hitler" and "Mussolini." Thus Stout in this book stakes his ground as an anti-communist Leftist, perhaps something like George Orwell who occupied a similar position.
Information Please (NBC)
Rex Stout was a guest panelist on Information Please, Clifton Fadiman's famous quiz show, at least four times. He joined regular panelists John Kieran and Franklin P. Adams for broadcasts on March 28, 1939 (with Moss Hart); August 29, 1939 (with linguist Wilfred J. Funk); September 26, 1939 (with Carl Van Doren); and April 18, 1941 (with Henry H. Curran, chief magistrate of Manhattan).
Invitation to Learning (CBS)
In late January 1942 Rex Stout joined Jacques Barzun and Elmer Davis in a discussion of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes on Mark Van Doren's popular CBS radio show, Invitation to Learning. Van Doren included a transcript in his 1942 book, The New Invitation to Learning: The Essence of the Great Books of All Times, published by Random House.
Our Secret Weapon (CBS)
On August 9, 1942, Rex Stout conducted the first of 62 wartime broadcasts of Our Secret Weapon—the truth—on CBS. The idea for the counterpropaganda series had been that of Sue Taylor White, wife of Paul White, the first director of CBS News. Research was done under White's direction. "Hundreds of Axis propaganda broadcasts, beamed not merely to the Allied countries but to neutrals, were sifted weekly," Stout's biographer John McAleer wrote. "Rex himself, for an average of twenty hours a week, pored over the typewritten yellow sheets of accumulated data ... Then, using a dialogue format—Axis commentators making their assertions, and Rex Stout, the lie detective, offering his refutations—he dictated to his secretary the script of the fifteen-minute broadcast." By November 1942 Berlin Radio was reporting that "Rex Stout himself has cut his own production in detective stories from four to one a year and is devoting the entire balance of his time to writing official war propaganda." Newsweek
08-26-2012 09:49 PM
Omnibus, "The Fine Art of Murder" (ABC)
Rex Stout appeared in the December 9, 1956, episode of Omnibus, a cultural anthology series that epitomized the golden age of television. Hosted by Alistair Cooke and directed by Paul Bogart, "The Fine Art of Murder" was a 40-minute segment described by Timemagazine as "a homicide as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Edgar Allan Poe [and] Rex Stout would variously present it." The author is credited as appearing along with Gene Reynolds (Archie Goodwin), Robert Echols (Nero Wolfe), James Daly (narrator), Dennis Hoey(Arthur Conan Doyle), Felix Munso (Edgar Allan Poe), Herbert Voland (M. Dupin) and Jack Sydow. Writer Sidney Carroll received the 1957 Edgar Award for Best Episode in a TV Series. "The Fine Art of Murder" is in the collection of the Library of Congress (VBE 2397-2398) and screened in its Mary Pickford Theater February 15, 2000.
The Dick Cavett Show (ABC)
Reception and influence
|“||If he had done nothing more than to create Archie Goodwin, Rex Stout would deserve the gratitude of whatever assessors watch over the prosperity of American literature. For surely Archie is one of the folk heroes in which the modern American temper can see itself transfigured.||”|
Awards and recognition
- In his seminal 1941 work, Murder for Pleasure, crime fiction historian Howard Haycraft included Fer-de-Lance and The League of Frightened Men in his definitive list of the most influential works of mystery fiction.
- In 1958 Rex Stout became the 14th president of the Mystery Writers of America. In 1959 he received the MWA's prestigious Grand Master Award, which represents the pinnacle of achievement in the mystery field.
- In January 1959 the Crime Writers Association selected Stout as recipient of its Silver Dagger Award for The Father Hunt, which it named "the best crime novel by a non-British author in 1969."
- The Nero Wolfe corpus was nominated Best Mystery Series of the Century at Bouchercon 2000, the world's largest mystery convention, and Rex Stout was nominated Best Mystery Writer of the Century.
"A number of the paintings of René Magritte (1898–1967), the internationally famous Belgian painter, are named after titles of books by Rex Stout," wrote the artist's attorney and friend Harry Torczyner. "He read Hegel, Heidegger and Sartre, as well as Dashiell Hammett, Rex Stout and Georges Simenon," the Times Higher Education Supplement wrote of Magritte. "Some of his best titles were 'found' in this way." Magritte's 1942 painting, Les compagnons de la peur ("The Companions of Fear"), bears the title given to The League of Frightened Men (1935) when it was published in France by Gallimard (1939). It is one of Magritte's series of "leaf-bird" paintings. Created during the Nazi occupation of Brussels, it depicts a stormy, mountainous landscape in which a cluster of plants has metamorphosed into a group of vigilant owls.
Stout and the FBI
Rex Stout was one of many American writers closely watched by J. Edgar Hoover's FBI. Hoover considered him an enemy of the bureau and either a Communist or a tool of Communist-dominated groups. Stout's leadership of the Authors League of America during theMcCarthy Era was particularly irksome to the FBI. About a third of Stout's FBI file is devoted to his 1965 novel, The Doorbell Rang.In its April 1976 report, the Church Committee found that The Doorbell Rang is a reason that Rex Stout's name was one of 332 placed on the FBI's "not to contact list," which it cited as evidence of the FBI's political abuse of intelligence information.
08-26-2012 09:50 PM
His narrative and dialogue could not be improved, and he passes the supreme test of being rereadable. I don't know how many times I have reread the Nero Wolfe stories, but plenty. I know exactly what is coming and how it is all going to end, but it doesn't matter. That's writing.
Nero Wolfe books by Rex Stout
Nero Wolfe books by Rex Stout
Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe books are listed below in order of publication. Novels can be browsed alphabetically by title at the Nero Wolfe novels by Rex Stout page. Titles of the novella collections are listed alphabetically on the Nero Wolfe short story collections page.
- 1934 Fer-de-Lance
- 1935 The League of Frightened Men
- 1936 The Rubber Band
- 1937 The Red Box
- 1938 Too Many Cooks
- 1939 Some Buried Caesar
- 1940 Over My Dead Body
- 1940 Where There's a Will
- 1942 Black Orchids
- 1944 Not Quite Dead Enough
- 1946 The Silent Speaker
- 1947 Too Many Women
- 1948 And Be a Villain (British title More Deaths Than One)
- 1949 Trouble in Triplicate
- 1949 The Second Confession
- 1950 Three Doors to Death
- 1950 In the Best Families (British titleEven in the Best Families)
- 1951 Curtains for Three
- 1951 Murder by the Book
- 1952 Triple Jeopardy
- 1952 Prisoner's Base (British title Out Goes She)
- 1953 The Golden Spiders
- 1954 Three Men Out
- 1954 The Black Mountain
- 1955 Before Midnight
- 1956 Three Witnesses
- 1956 Might as Well Be Dead
- 1957 Three for the Chair
- 1957 If Death Ever Slept
- 1958 And Four to Go
- 1958 Champagne for One
- 1959 Plot It Yourself (British titleMurder in Style)
- 1960 Three at Wolfe's Door
- 1960 Too Many Clients
- 1961 The Final Deduction
- 1962 Homicide Trinity
- 1962 Gambit
- 1963 The Mother Hunt
- 1964 Trio for Blunt Instruments
- 1964 A Right to Die
- 1965 The Doorbell Rang
- 1966 Death of a Doxy
- 1968 The Father Hunt
- 1969 Death of a Dude
- 1973 Please Pass the Guilt
- 1975 A Family Affair
- 1985 Death Times Three (posthumous)
Nero Wolfe novellas by Rex Stout
Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe novellas are listed below in order of first appearance.
- 1940 "Bitter End"
- 1941 "Black Orchids"
- 1942 "Cordially Invited to Meet Death"
- 1942 "Not Quite Dead Enough"
- 1944 "Booby Trap"
- 1945 "Help Wanted, Male"
- 1946 "Instead of Evidence"
- 1947 "Before I Die"
- 1947 "Man Alive"
- 1948 "Bullet for One"
- 1948 "Omit Flowers"
- 1949 "Door to Death"
- 1949 "The Gun with Wings"
- 1950 "Disguise for Murder"
- 1951 "The Cop-Killer"
- 1951 "The Squirt and the Monkey"
- 1952 "Home to Roost"
- 1952 "This Won't Kill You"
- 1953 "Invitation to Murder"
- 1953 "The Zero Clue"
- 1954 "When a Man Murders..."
- 1954 "Die Like a Dog"
- 1955 "The Next Witness"
- 1955 "Immune to Murder"
- 1956 "A Window for Death"
- 1956 "Too Many Detectives"
- 1957 "Christmas Party"
- 1957 "Easter Parade"
- 1957 "Fourth of July Picnic"
- 1958 "Murder Is No Joke" (expanded as"Frame-Up for Murder")
- 1960 "Method Three for Murder"
- 1960 "Poison à la Carte"
- 1960 "The Rodeo Murder"
- 1961 "Counterfeit for Murder"
- 1961 "Death of a Demon"
- 1961 "Kill Now—Pay Later"
- 1962 "Eeny Meeny Murder Mo"
- 1963 "Blood Will Tell"
- 1964 "Murder Is Corny"
- 1985 "Assault on a Brownstone" (1959, posthumous)
08-26-2012 09:51 PM
Other Nero Wolfe works by Rex Stout
- The Nero Wolfe Cookbook, with the editors of Viking Press (1973)—The cuisine and world of Nero Wolfe are brought to life in a wealth of recipes and pertinent quotes from the corpus, illustrated by vintage New York City photographs by John Muller, Andreas Feininger and others. Chapters include "Breakfast in the Old Brownstone"; "Luncheon in the Dining Room"; "Warm-Weather Dinners"; "Cold-Weather Dinners"; "Desserts"; "The Perfect Dinner for the Perfect Detective"; "The Relapse"; "Snacks"; "Guests, Male and Female"; "Associates for Dinner"; "Fritz Brenner"; "Dishes Cooked by Others"; "Rusterman's Restaurant"; "Nero Wolfe Cooks"; and "The Kanawha Spa Dinner". Hardcover ISBN 0-670-50599-4 / Paperback ISBN 1-888952-24-5. "For a number of years Rex Stout had been prodded by friends ... to tackle a bit of hard work at last by writing out the recipes that make the reader's mouth water when they should be thrall to the dry fare of reason. ... The task was accomplished and now the secret of saucisse minuit is out -- with a couple hundred others. The organization of the book is excellent too ..."
- "Why Nero Wolfe Likes Orchids" , Life (April 19, 1963)—Concluding a feature story titled "The Orchid" that was photographed by Alfred Eisenstaedt, Archie Goodwin "investigates and explains the deep satisfactions of his boss's orchid-fixation." (The article was reprinted in Corsage" A Bouquet of Rex Stout and Nero Wolfe, edited by Michael Bourne.)
- "The Case of the Spies Who Weren't," Ramparts Magazine (January 1966)—Archie Goodwin reports that the previous evening Nero Wolfe and "Rex Stout, my literary agent" filled 27 pages in his notebook with their discussion of Invitation to an Inquest by Walter and Miriam Schneir, a recently published book that they are reviewing for Ramparts magazine. Since their review must be fewer than 3,000 words, Wolfe frowns and orders Archie to "Contract it. Cramp it."
- I frowned back. "You cramp it. Or Stout. Let him earn his ten per cent. Dictate it."
- Archie loses the argument and condenses their views on the book, which concerns the case against Julius and Ethel Rosenberg.
Other works by Rex Stout
- 1913 Her Forbidden Knight
A crime story about counterfeiting with no continuing characters, set in New York City; first serialized in The All-Story, August–December 1913. Paperback ISBN 0-7867-0444-6
- 1914 Under the Andes
A "scientific romance" and a "lost race" fantasy novel; first serialized in The All-Story, February 1914. Paperback ISBN 0-445-40507-4.
- 1914 A Prize for Princes
A novel of Balkan intrigue and murder about a very dangerous woman; first serialized in All-Story Weekly, May 2–9, 1913, and All-Story Cavalier Weekly, May 16–30, 1913. Paperback ISBN 0-7867-0104-8.
- 1916 The Great Legend
A historical novel set during the siege of Troy; first printed in All-Story Weekly, January 1, 1916. Paperback ISBN 0-7867-0443-8.
- 1916 The Last Drive
A novel serialized in six parts in Golfers Magazine from July to December 1916. Reprinted in Ross E. Davies & Ira Brad Matetsky, eds., The 2012 Green Bag Almanac and Reader, pp. 225–312. Paperback ISBN 1-933658-13-4.
- 1929 How Like a God
- 1930 Seed on the Wind
- 1931 Golden Remedy
- 1933 Forest Fire
An early Brokeback Mountain-type story featuring a college student working as a summer forest ranger under a strict forest supervisor who first is critical of his work, then becomes fond of him, then extremely jealous when a female tourist arrives and distracts him from his duties. Then a forest fire starts… .
- 1934 The President Vanishes
- 1935 O Careless Love!
- 1937 The Hand in the Glove
Featuring Dol Bonner
- 1938 Mr. Cinderella
- 1939 Mountain Cat
A non-series mystery always republished as The Mountain Cat Murders.
- 1939 Red Threads
Featuring Inspector Cramer
- 1941 Alphabet Hicks
A mystery republished as The Sound of Murder.
Tecumseh Fox mysteries
08-26-2012 09:53 PM
- 1942 The Illustrious Dunderheads
A collection of isolationist, anti-WWII and pro-Nazi statements and votes by sitting Members of Congress.
- 1946 Rue Morgue No. 1
Anthology of 19 mystery stories, edited with Louis Greenfield.
- 1956 Eat, Drink, and Be Buried
Anthology of stories for Mystery Writers of America. British edition titled For Tomorrow We Die (1958) omitted three stories.
Dates indicate first known publication.
- 1912 "Their Lady"
Stout's authorized biographer John McAleer describes this as Stout's first published story: "'Their Lady' may have been published in 1912. No copy of it has come to light. All-Story editors twice credited Rex with its authorship, once in notations accompanying 'Warner & Wife,' 27 February 1915 and again, in notations accompanying 'Justice Ends at Home,' 4 December 1915."
- 1912 "Excess Baggage" (Short Stories, October 1912)
- 1912 "The Infernal Feminine" (Short Stories, November 1912)
- 1912 "The Paisley" (Young's Magazine, November 1912)
- 1912 "Billy Du Mont, Reporter" (Young's Magazine, December 1912)
- 1912 "A Professional Recall" (The Black Cat, December 1912)
- 1913 "Barnacles" (Young's Magazine, January 1913)
- 1913 "Pamfret and Peace" (The Black Cat, January 1913)
- 1913 "A Companion of Fortune" (Short Stories, April 1913)
- 1913 "A White Precipitate" (Lippincott's Monthly Magazine, June 1913)
- 1913 "The Pickled Picnic" (The Black Cat, June 1913)
- 1913 "The Mother of Invention" (The Black Cat, August 1913)
- 1913 "Méthode Américaine" (The Smart Set, November 1913)
- 1914 "A Tyrant Abdicates" (Lippincott's Monthly Magazine, January 1914)
- 1914 "The Pay-Yeoman" (The All-Story, January 1914)
- 1914 "Secrets" (All-Story Weekly, March 7, 1914)
- 1914 "Rose Orchid" (as by Evans Day) (All-Story Weekly, March 28, 1914)
- 1914 "An Agacella Or" (Lippincott's Monthly Magazine, April 1914)
- 1914 "The Inevitable Third" (as by Evans Day) (All-Story Weekly, April 25, 1914)
- 1914 "Out of the Line" (All-Story Cavalier Weekly June 13, 1914)
- 1914 "The Lie" (All-Story Cavalier Weekly, July 4, 1914)
- 1914 "Target Practise" [sic] (All-Story Cavalier Weekly, December 26, 1914)
- 1915 "If He Be Married" (All-Star Cavalier Weekly, January 16, 1915)
- 1915 "Baba" (All-Star Cavalier Weekly, January 30, 1915)
- 1915 "Warner & Wife" (All-Story Cavalier Weekly, February 27, 1915)
- 1915 "A Little Love Affair" (Smith's Magazine, July 1915)
- 1915 "Art for Art's Sake" (Smith's Magazine, August 1915)
- 1915 "Another Little Love Affair" (Smith's Magazine, September 1915)
- 1915 "Jonathan Stannard's Secret Vice" (All-Story Weekly, September 11, 1915)
- 1915 "Sanétomo" (All-Story Weekly, September 25, 1915)
- 1915 "The Strong Man" (Young's Magazine, November 1915)
- 1915 "Justice Ends at Home" (All-Story Weekly, December 4, 1915)
- 1916 "Two Kisses" (Breezy Stories, January 1916)
- 1916 "Second Edition" (Young's Magazine, April 1916)
- 1916 "It's Science That Counts" (All-Story Weekly, April 1, 1916)
- 1916 "The Rope Dance" (All-Story Weekly, June 24, 1916)
- 1917 "It Happened Last Night" (The Black Cat, January 1917)
- 1917 "An Officer and a Lady" (All-Story Weekly, January 13, 1917)
- 1917 "Heels of Fate" (All-Story Weekly, November 17, 1917)
- 1912–1917 "Annuncio's Violin" (first publication unknown)
- 1918 "Old Fools and Young" (Young's Magazine, April 1918)
- 1936 "A Good Character for a Novel" (The New Masses, December 15, 1936)
- 1953 "Tough Cop's Gift" (What's New. New York: Abbott Laboratories, Christmas Annual 1953)
Also titled "Santa Claus Beat," "Cop's Gift" "Christmas Beat" and "Nobody Deserved Justice" in magazine and anthology reprintings
- 1955 "His Own Hand" (Manhunt, April 1955)
Featuring Alphabet Hicks, plus Nero Wolfe recurring character Sergeant Purley Stebbins; also titled "By His Own Hand" and "Curtain Line" in anthology reprintings
Short story collections
- Justice Ends at Home, and Other Stories. New York: The Viking Press (Hardcover ISBN 0-670-41105-1), 1977. Collection of 16 short stories written 1912–17, edited and introduced by John McAleer, Stout's authorized biographer. Contains "The Rope Dance," "An Officer and a Lady," "The Mother of Invention," "An Agacella Or," "A Tyrant Abdicates," "The Pay-Yeoman," "Rose Orchid," "The Lie," "Heels of Fate," "Pamfret and Peace," "Méthode Américaine," "Jonathan Stannard's Secret Vice," "A Professional Recall," "Secrets," "Warner & Wife" and "Justice Ends at Home."
- Target Practice. New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers (Paperback ISBN 0-7867-0496-9), 1998. Collection of 16 stories written 1914–17 for All-Story Magazine. Contains "Target Practice," "The Pay-Yeoman," "Secrets," "Rose Orchid," "The Inevitable Third," "The Lie," "If He Be Married," "Baba," "Warner & Wife," "Jonathan Stannard's Secret Vice," "Sanétomo," "Justice Ends at Home," "It's Science That Counts," "The Rope Dance," "An Officer and a Lady" and "Heels of Fate."
- An Officer and a Lady and Other Stories. New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers (Paperback ISBN 0-7867-0764-X), 2000. Contains "An Officer and a Lady," "Excess Baggage," "Annuncio's Violin," "The Infernal Feminine," "A Professional Recall," "Pamfret and Peace," "A Companion of Fortune," "A White Precipitate," "The Mother of Invention," "Méthode Américaine," "A Tyrant Abdicates," "An Agacella Or," "A Little Love Affair," "Art for Art's Sake," "Another Little Love Affair" and "The Strong Man."
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Books about Rex Stout and Nero Wolfe
- Anderson, David R., Rex Stout (1984, Frederick Ungar; Hardcover ISBN 0-8044-2005-X / Paperback ISBN 0-8044-6009-4). Study of the Nero Wolfe series.
- Baring-Gould, William S., Nero Wolfe of West Thirty-fifth Street (1969, Viking Press; ISBN 0-14-006194-0). Fanciful biography. Reviewed in Time, March 21, 1969 ("The American Holmes" printout/0,8816,839934,00.html).
- Bourne, Michael, Corsage: A Bouquet of Rex Stout and Nero Wolfe (1977, James A. Rock & Co, Publishers; Hardcover ISBN 0-918736-00-5 / Paperback ISBN 0-918736-01-3). Posthumous collection produced in a numbered limited edition of 276 hardcovers and 1,500 softcovers. Shortly before his death Rex Stout authorized the editor to include the first Nero Wolfe novella, "Bitter End" (1940), which had not been republished in his own novella collections.Corsage also includes an interview Bourne conducted with Stout (July 18, 1973; also available on audiocassette tape), and concludes with the only book publication of "Why Nero Wolfe Likes Orchids," an article by Rex Stout that first appeared in Life (April 19, 1963).
- Darby, Ken, The Brownstone House of Nero Wolfe (1983, Little, Brown and Company; ISBN 0-316-17280-4). Biography of the brownstone "as told by Archie Goodwin." Includes detailed floor plans.
- Gotwald, Rev. Frederick G., The Nero Wolfe Handbook (1985; revised 1992, 2000). Self-published anthology of essays edited by a longtime member of The Wolfe Pack.
- Kaye, Marvin, The Archie Goodwin Files (2005, Wildside Press; ISBN 1-55742-484-5). Selected articles from The Wolfe Pack publication The Gazette, edited by a charter member.
- Kaye, Marvin, The Nero Wolfe Files (2005, Wildside Press; ISBN 0-8095-4494-6). Selected articles from The Wolfe Pack publicationThe Gazette, edited by a charter member.
- McAleer, John, Rex Stout: A Biography (1977, Little, Brown and Company; ISBN 0-316-55340-9). Foreword by P.G. Wodehouse. Winner of the Mystery Writers of America's Edgar Award for Best Critical/Biographical Work in 1978. Reissued as Rex Stout: A Majesty's Life (2002, James A. Rock & Co., Publishers; Hardcover ISBN 0-918736-43-9 / Paperback ISBN 0-918736-44-7).
- McAleer, John, Royal Decree: Conversations with Rex Stout (1983, Pontes Press, Ashton, MD). Published in a numbered limited edition of 1,000 copies.
- McBride, O.E., Stout Fellow: A Guide Through Nero Wolfe's World (2003, iUniverse; Hardcover ISBN 0-595-65716-8 / PaperbackISBN 0-595-27861-2). Pseudonymous self-published homage.
- Mitgang, Herbert, Dangerous Dossiers: Exposing the Secret War Against America's Greatest Authors (1988, Donald I. Fine, Inc.;ISBN 1-55611-077-4). Chapter 10 is titled "Seeing Red: Rex Stout."
- Symons, Julian, Great Detectives: Seven Original Investigations (1981, Abrams; ISBN 0-8109-0978-2). Illustrated by Tom Adams. "We quiz Archie Goodwin in his den and gain a clue to the ultimate fate of Nero Wolfe" in a chapter titled "In Which Archie Goodwin Remembers."
- Townsend, Guy M., Rex Stout: An Annotated Primary and Secondary Bibliography (1980, Garland Publishing; ISBN 0-8240-9479-4). Associate editors John McAleer, Judson Sapp and Arriean Schemer. Definitive publication history.
- Van Dover, J. Kenneth, At Wolfe's Door: The Nero Wolfe Novels of Rex Stout (1991, Borgo Press, Milford Series; updated edition 2003, James A. Rock & Co., Publishers; Hardcover ISBN 0-918736-51-X / Paperback ISBN 0-918736-52-8). Bibliography, reviews and essays.
Rex Stout Archive at Boston College
Anchoring Boston College's collection of American detective fiction, the Rex Stout Archive   represents the best collection in existence of the personal papers, literary manuscripts, and published works of Rex Stout, creator of the Nero Wolfe mysteries. The Rex Stout archive features materials donated by the Stout family—including manuscripts, correspondence, legal papers, publishing contracts, photographs and ephemera; first editions, international editions and archived reprints of Stout's books; and volumes from Stout's personal library, many of which found their way into Nero Wolfe's office. The comprehensive archive at Burns Library also includes the extensive personal collection of Stout's official biographer John McAleer, and the Rex Stout collection of bibliographer Judson C. Sapp.
Nero Wolfe adaptations
The adaptations section of the article on Nero Wolfe, and the article about the A&E TV series A Nero Wolfe Mystery (2001–2002), provide detailed information about the various film, radio and television adaptations of Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe stories.
Lady Against the Odds (NBC)
Stout's 1937 novel The Hand in the Glove was adapted for an NBC TV movie titled Lady Against the Odds, which aired April 20, 1992.Crystal Bernard starred as Dol Bonner; Annabeth Gish costarred as Sylvia Raffray. Bradford May, who also directed, received an Emmy Award for outstanding individual achievement in cinematography.
The President Vanishes (Paramount)
In an interview printed in Royal Decree (1983), Rex Stout's official biographer John McAleer asked the author if there were any chance of Hollywood ever making a good Nero Wolfe movie. "I don't know," Stout replied. "I suppose so. They made a movie of another story I wrote—The President Vanishes. I hate like hell to admit it but it was better than the book, I think."
Rex Stout's anonymous 1934 novel was quickly transformed into a feature film by Paramount Pictures. The President Vanishes (1934, British title Strange Conspiracy) was produced by Walter Wanger and directed by William Wellman, and featured a cast that includes Arthur Byron, Edward Arnold and Rosalind Russell.
08-26-2012 09:56 PM
Midtown Manhattan (photo circa 1935), where most Nero Wolfe stories are set
Nero Wolfe is a fictional detective, created by the American mystery writer Rex Stout, who made his debut in 1934. Wolfe's assistantArchie Goodwin recorded the cases of the detective genius in 33 novels and 39 short stories written by Stout between 1934 and 1975, with most of them set in New York City.
Please Pass the Guilt is a Nero Wolfe detective novel by Rex Stout, published by the Viking Press in 1973.
- That was a first — the first time Inspector Cramer had ever arrived and been escorted to the office in the middle of a session with the hired hands. And Saul Panzer did something he seldom does — he stunted. He was in the red leather chair, and when I ushered Cramer in I expected to find Saul on his feet, moving up another yellow chair to join Fred and Orrie, but no. He was staying put. Cramer, surprised, stood in the middle of the rug and said, loud, "Oh?" Wolfe, surprised at Saul, put his brows up. I, pretending I wasn't surprised, went to get a yellow chair. And damned if Cramer didn't cross in front of Fred and Orrie to my chair, swing it around, and park his big fanny on it. As he sat, Saul, his lips a little tight to keep from grinning, got up and came to take the yellow chair I had brought. That left the red leather chair empty and I went and occupied it, sliding back and crossing my legs to show that I was right at home.
- Archie Goodwin, chapter 9
- I work for Nero Wolfe. ... He knows more words than Shakespeare knew.
- Archie Goodwin, chapter 10
- You are looking at the wrong side. Just turn it over, that's all you ever have to do, just turn it over.
- Fritz Brenner, chapter 11
- My only objection to Jews is that one of them is as good a poker player as I am. Sometimes a little better.
- Archie Goodwin, after being asked whether he is anti-Zionist, chapter 14
A Family Affair is the final Nero Wolfe novel by Rex Stout, published in 1975 by the Viking Press.
- It's possible to tell your mind what to do only when your mind agrees with you.
- Archie Goodwin, chapter 2
- To everybody, starting with us.
- Lily Rowan, chapter 13
- It's a temptation, sure it is, but I'm not like Oscar Wilde, I can resist it.
- Saul Panzer, chapter 14
- Pierre said I was the greatest detective in the world. All is vanity.
- Nero Wolfe, chapter 18
Death Times Three is a collection of Nero Wolfe novellas by Rex Stout, published posthumously by Bantam Books in 1985. The first, "Bitter End," was first printed in the November 1940 issue of The American Magazine, and collected in the limited-edition volumeCorsage: A Bouquet of Rex Stout (1977). The story is a re-working of Stout's Tecumseh Fox story Bad for Business. The second, "Frame-Up for Murder," is an expanded rewrite of the 1958 novella "Murder Is No Joke" that was serialized in The Saturday Evening Post but never published in book form. The third, "Assault on a Brownstone," is an early draft of the 1961 novella "Counterfeit for Murder."
Bitter End (1940)
- "The last man who spat at me," I said casually, "got three bullets in the heart before he hit the floor."
- Archie Goodwin, page 2 of the first Bantam Books edition
- "That will do, Archie." Wolfe put down his empty glass. I had never heard his tone more menacing. "I am not impressed with your failure to understand this abominable outrage. I might bring myself to tolerate it if some frightened or vindictive person shot me to death, but this is insupportable." He made the growling noise again. "My food. You know my attitude toward food." He aimed a rigid finger at the jar, and his voice trembled with ferocity. "Whoever put that in there is going to regret it."
- Nero Wolfe, recovering from his taste of quinine-spiked liver pâté, pp. 3–4 of the first Bantam Books edition
- I have never regarded myself as a feast for the eye, my attractions run more to the spiritual, but on the other hand I am not a toad, and I resented her expression.
- Archie Goodwin, page 45 of the first Bantam Books edition
Frame-Up for Murder (1958)
- I had first noticed her in the lobby of the Churchill, because she rated a glance as a matter of principle — the principle that a man owes it to his eyes to let them rest on attractive objects when there are any around.
- Archie Goodwin, on noticing Flora Gallant, chapter 1
Assault on a Brownstone (1959)
- Wolfe was standing over by the big globe, probably picking out a spot for me to be exiled to.
- Archie Goodwin, chapter 3
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The Mother Hunt is a Nero Wolfe detective novel by Rex Stout, published by the Viking Press in 1963.
- Maintaining integrity as a private detective is difficult; to preserve it for the hundred thousand words of a book would be impossible for me, as it has been for so many others. Nothing corrupts a man so deeply as writing a book; the myriad temptations are overwhelming.
- Nero Wolfe, declining an offer from publisher Julian Haft, chapter 9
Trio for Blunt Instruments is a collection of three Nero Wolfe novellas by Rex Stout, published in 1964 by the Viking Press.
Kill Now — Pay Later (1961)
- Innocence has no contract with bliss.
- Nero Wolfe, chapter 7
- Saul smiled. His smile is as tender as he is tough, and it helps to make him the best poker player I know.
- Archie Goodwin, chapter 9
Murder Is Corny (1964)
- I turned to Wolfe. "Your Honor, I object to the question on the ground that it is insulting, impertinent, and disgusticulous."
- Archie Goodwin, while being questioned by Inspector Cramer, chapter 1
Blood Will Tell (1963)
- When I mentioned the title of the privately printed book [The Music of the Future] he made a noise — he says all music is a vestige of barbarism ...
- Archie Goodwin, while reporting to Nero Wolfe, chapter 2
- The brain can be hoodwinked but not the stomach.
- Nero Wolfe, chapter 5
A Right to Die is a Nero Wolfe detective novel by Rex Stout, published by the Viking Press in 1964.
- Come, sir, is time really so precious? Mine isn't. If yours is, all the more tempting to steal a little.
- Nero Wolfe, chapter 8
- I always belong wherever I am.
- Archie Goodwin, chapter 11
The Doorbell Rang is a Nero Wolfe detective novel by Rex Stout, published by the Viking Press in 1965.
- I am neither a thaumaturge nor a dunce.
- Nero Wolfe, refusing Rachel Bruner's $50,000 retainer, chapter 1
- I can dodge folly without backing into fear.
- Nero Wolfe to Rachel Bruner, chapter 1
- Pfui. Are you a dunce, or do you take me for one?
- Nero Wolfe to FBI Special Agent in Charge Richard Wragg, chapter 12
Death of a Doxy is a Nero Wolfe detective novel by Rex Stout, published by the Viking Press in 1966.
- There are two kinds of statistics, the kind you look up and the kind you make up.
- Archie Goodwin, before stating one of the second kind, chapter 9
The Father Hunt is a Nero Wolfe detective novel by Rex Stout, published by the Viking Press in 1968.
- Women are random clusters of vagaries.
- Nero Wolfe, chapter 8
- If you please, Mr. Jarrett, no labels. Labels are for the things men make, not for men. The most primitive man is too complex to be labeled.
- Nero Wolfe, chapter 9
Death of a Dude is a Nero Wolfe detective novel by Rex Stout, published by the Viking Press in 1969.
- She forked a bite of meat to her mouth and started to chew. She often did that; she might get a part in a play with an eating scene, and mixing chewing and talking needed practice. An actor can practice anywhere any time with anybody, and most of them do.
- Archie Goodwin, about fellow house guest Diana Kadany, chapter 3
- A self-invited guest is an abomination, but there is no alternative for me.
- Nero Wolfe to Lily Rowan, chapter 4
- I don't play games. I like using words, not playing with them.
- Nero Wolfe declining to play Scrabble, chapter 5
- Man's brain, enlarged fortuitously, invented words in an ambitious attempt to learn how to think, only to have them usurped by his emotions. But we still try.
- Nero Wolfe, chapter 8
- Wolfe was put between Carol and Alma, and I was across from him and had a good view of his reaction to the tomato soup out of a can. He got it down all right, all of it, and the only thing noticeable was noticed only by me: that he carefully did not permit me to catch his eye.
- Archie Goodwin, chapter 8
The Nero Wolfe Cookbook
The Nero Wolfe Cookbook, by Rex Stout and the editors of Viking Press, was published by the Viking Press in 1973.
- And I am also not surprised that my employer, Mr. Nero Wolfe, approves of its publication because he has a great belief in the influence of printed words in books.
But I have not a great hope that many people will eat superior meals because they buy this book and use it. On that I could say much but I will not write much and I will give only one case. There are a man and woman, married, at whose home I eat sometimes. They own fourteen cookbooks, good ones which they have asked me to suggest, and they have many times asked me for information and advice about cooking which I have been happy to give, but the dishes they serve are only fit to eat. They are not fit to remember after I come away. Those people should not try to roast a duck, and especially they should never try to make Sauce Saint Florentin.
The facts about food and cooking can be learned and understood by anyone with good sense, but if the feeling of the art of cooking is not in your blood and bones the most you can expect is that what you put on your table will be mangeable. If it is sometimesmémorable that will be only good luck. Mr. Wolfe says that the secrets of the art of great cooking, like those of any art, are not in the brain. He says that no one knows where they are.
- Fritz Brenner, in the foreword, speaking of the publication of their cookbook
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Easter Parade (1957)
- For what you pay me I do your mail, I make myself obnoxious to people, I tail them when necessary, I shoot when I have to and get shot at, I stick around and take every mood you've got, I give you and Theodore a hand in the plant room when required, I lie to Inspector Cramer and Sergeant Stebbins whether required or not, I even help Fritz in the kitchen in emergencies, I answer the phone.
- Archie Goodwin, chapter 1
Fourth Of July Picnic (1957)
- I was born in Montenegro and spent my early boyhood there. At the age of sixteen I decided to move around, and in fourteen years I became acquainted with most of Europe, a little of Africa, and much of Asia, in a variety of roles and activities. Coming to this country in nineteen-thirty, not penniless, I bought this house and entered into practice as a private detective. I am a naturalized American citizen.
- Nero Wolfe, chapter 4
- Born in Ohio. Public high school, pretty good at geometry and football, graduated with honor but no honors. Went to college two weeks, decided it was childish, came to New York and got a job guarding a pier, shot and killed two men and was fired, was recommended to Nero Wolfe for a chore he wanted done, did it, was offered a full-time job by Mr. Wolfe, took it, still have it.
- Archie Goodwin, chapter 4
Murder Is No Joke (1958)
- Don't raise one brow like that. You know it disconcerts me.
- Nero Wolfe to Archie Goodwin, chapter 3
Champagne for One is a Nero Wolfe detective novel by Rex Stout, published by the Viking Press in 1958.
- In a world that operates largely at random, coincidences are to be expected, but any one of them must always be mistrusted.
- Nero Wolfe, on the remarkable coincidence that Edwin Laidlaw and Faith Usher would both be invited to the same event, chapter 5
- Anyone who takes Wolfe down a peg renders a service to the balance of nature, and to tell him to his face that he was merely a carbon copy of the cops was enough to spoil his appetite for dinner.
- Archie Goodwin, after Helen Yarmis tells Nero Wolfe she can answer his questions without even thinking, chapter 8
- You are headstrong and I am magisterial. Our tolerance of each other is a constantly recurring miracle.
- Nero Wolfe, as Archie is preparing to write himself a check for a month's severance pay, chapter 12
Plot It Yourself (British title Murder in Style) is a Nero Wolfe detective novel by Rex Stout, published by the Viking Press in 1959.
- A clever man might successfully disguise every element of his style but one — the paragraphing. Diction and syntax may be determined and controlled by rational processes in full consciousness, but paragraphing — the decision whether to take short hops or long ones, whether to hop in the middle of a thought or action or finish it first — that comes from instinct, from the depths of personality.
- Nero Wolfe, chapter 3
Too Many Clients is a Nero Wolfe detective novel by Rex Stout, published by the Viking Press in 1960.
- How often have I told you that impetuosity is a virtue only when delay is dangerous?
- Nero Wolfe to Archie Goodwin, chapter 3
The Final Deduction is a Nero Wolfe detective novel by Rex Stout, published by the Viking Press in 1961.
- It helps a lot, with two people as much together as he and I were, if they understand each other. He understood that I was too strong-minded to add another word unless he told me to, and I understood that he was too pigheaded to tell me to.
- Archie Goodwin, chapter 5
- I don't know how a brain that is never used passes the time.
- Nero Wolfe, chapter 8
Homicide Trinity is a collection of three Nero Wolfe mystery novellas by Rex Stout, published by the Viking Press in 1962.
Eeny Meeny Murder Mo (1962)
- Well. When cheek meets cheek. You are manifestly indomitable and I must buckle my breastplate.
- Nero Wolfe, to a barking Gregory Jett, chapter 4
- I dived for the connecting door and went with it as I swung it open, and kept going, but two paces short of Wolfe's desk I halted to take in a sight I had never seen before and never expect to see again: Nero Wolfe with his arms tight around a beautiful young woman in his lap, pinning her arms, hugging her close to him. I stood paralyzed.
- Archie Goodwin, chapter 9
Death of a Demon (1961)
- The subconscious is not a grave; it's a cistern.
- Nero Wolfe, chapter 1
- Wolfe's bellow would stop a tiger ready to spring.
- Archie Goodwin, chapter 8
Counterfeit for Murder (1961)
- He picked up the top item from the little pile of mail, an airmail letter from an orchid hunter in Venezuela, and started to read it. I swung my chair around and started sharpening pencils that didn't need it. The noise of the sharpener gets on his nerves. I was on the fourth pencil when his voice came.
- Archie Goodwin, persuading Nero Wolfe to see Hattie Annis, chapter 1
Gambit is a Nero Wolfe detective novel by Rex Stout, published by the Viking Press in 1962.
- Mr. Wolfe is in the middle of a fit. It's complicated. There's a fireplace in the front room, but it's never lit because he hates open fires. He says they stultify mental processes. But it's lit now because he's using it. He's seated in front of it, on a chair too small for him, tearing sheets out of a book and burning them. The book is the new edition, the third edition, of Webster's New International Dictionary, Unabridged, published by the G. & C. Merriam Company of Springfield, Massachusetts. He considers it subversive because it threatens the integrity of the English language. In the past week he has given me a thousand examples of its crimes. He says it is a deliberate attempt to murder the — I beg your pardon. I describe the situation at length because he told me to bring you in there, and it will be bad.
- Archie Goodwin, before asking a prospective client to reschedule her appointment, chapter 1
- Once he burned up a cookbook because it said to remove the hide from a ham end before putting it in the pot with lima beans. Which he loves most, food or words, is a tossup.
- Archie Goodwin, telling Sally Blount that Nero Wolfe's burning a dictionary is not without precedent, chapter 1
- Do you use 'infer' and 'imply' interchangeably, Miss Blount?
- Nero Wolfe, chapter 1
- My job is starting you, not stopping you.
- Archie Goodwin, refusing to be admonished by Nero Wolfe, chapter 2
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His novels were so carefully plotted that he never wrote a second draft.
A longtime friend of P.G. Wodehouse (they both died in 1975).Wodehouse contributed the foreword to John McAleer's Edgar-winning "Rex Stout: A Biography".
During WWII, he was active in the Fight for Freedom organization and wrote anti-Nazi propaganda.He also coordinated the volunteer services of American writers to help the war effort.
While on the Navy (1906-1908), he served as a yeoman on President Theodore Roosevelt's yacht.
At the Bouchercon 2000, he was nominated Best Mystery Writer of the Century and the Nero Wolfe corpus was nominated Best Mystery Series of the Century.
President of the Authors Guild.
In 1958, 14th President of the Mystery Writers of America. In 1959, he received the MWA's Grand Master Award.
My theory is that people who don't like mystery stories are anarchists.
08-26-2012 10:00 PM
A Stout Fellow
|David Langford flips idly through some 1992 Nero Wolfe reissues....|
The point is not so much whether Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe is one of the great detectives. It is that Wolfe and his narrator Archie Goodwin are a good bet for second place in the altogether more exclusive ranks of great detective double-acts (after the inevitable Holmes and Watson). The combination of ponderous, Johnsonian Wolfe with wisecracking Archie remains almost irresistible, almost all the time.
Now that the Wolfe books are being reissued in Scribners hardback and Sphere paperback , it's worth a look back at the fat private eye's career. He had a long run despite his vast weight of one-seventh of a ton (the exact figure varies, but not as much as I thought before recalling that the American ton is only a mingy 2000 lb). It starts at the tail-end of Prohibition as Wolfe samples legal alternatives to his usual bootleg beer in the opening scene of Fer-de-Lance (1934), and finishes in the context of his aching wish to help unravel the tangles of Watergate and pin the big one on Nixon (A Family Affair, 1975, the year of Rex Stout's death at age 89). I prefer to ignore the works by Other Hands which have caused him to shamble massively on beyond the grave, like Tor Johnson in Plan 9 From Outer Space....
In a series so protracted, it's hard to maintain a steady level of quality. Once he'd played himself in, Stout managed a thoroughly convincing illusion of doing so, by careful handling of his regular props: Wolfe's gluttony, agoraphobia, pedantry, laziness, erudition, misogyny and manic refusal to assist the police; his bickering love/annoyance relationship with Archie (secretary, legman, gadfly and cocklebur); the obsessive devotion to the orchid collection from nine to eleven and four to six each day; the cameo appearances from live-in chef Fritz Brenner, from crafty Saul Panzer and the other freelance operatives, from the increasingly maddened and cigar-chewing Inspector Cramer ... and so on. The best unifying device of all is Archie's sprightly narrative style, which reliably conveys the impression that things are bubbling along excitingly even when in fact they aren't.
There are some hiccups. Wolfe's tremendous personality and his whole bizarre household on West 35th St, New York (the street number varies), didn't wholly come into focus in the first book, which is only to be expected of a trial balloon. (Nevertheless the second, The League Of Frightened Men from 1935, is among the best, with some twisty morbid psychology.) The 1940 When There's A Will lapses badly from the standard which had by then been set, thanks to pulp stuff like a fearful scarred lady in a veil who tends to vanish mysteriously into the draperies. Not to mention some wholly undecipherable photographic clues which must have helped to make this the least reprinted Wolfe novel. Our man accuses the murderer on the damning grounds that, in the photo, 'The flower in your buttonhole is a ... wild rose,' -- while (a) strain as they may, readers can see nothing but a tiny white dot, and (b) the photographs also show totally leafless trees in what is supposed to be July, a far more blatant clue that the photographer must have been up to no good. The US publishers who'd made this cock-up received so many complaining letters that they fudged up an explanation about some hideous defoliating blight which Wolfe knew of and had discounted without actually bothering to mention the fact. As the great man himself would have said: Pfui.
For the long haul, familiar trappings are not enough: we need shocks. Stout's favourite way of disrupting the expected order of things was usually, and in the end perhaps rather too often, to have Wolfe wrenched from his beloved desk, table and bed. We can believe his visiting the odd gourmet restaurant or flower show (especially when consumed with envy at a rival collector's display of black orchids), and still more so his being arrested by enraged cops as a material witness -- but dislocation does become a trifle hard to take in The Black Mountain (1954). This would be slickly inoffensive action-adventure if it weren't for our difficulty in accepting that the vast and adipose Wolfe, even to avenge his best friend, is capable of tottering across large tracts of Montenegro, climbing mountains, sleeping rough on narrow ledges, and even getting into a knife fight.
Nevertheless, while you're reading them, the effortless-seeming but highly polished narrative propels you smoothly over mere implausibilities. Even when Wolfe takes on and defeats the FBI by outrageous mummery in The Doorbell Rang (1965, called in Dilys Wynn's Murder Ink the 'most overrated Wolfe'), it is only some time after emerging from Stout's glorious piece of wish-fulfilment that chilly hindsight begins to say, 'It couldn't actually have worked.' It worked for long enough -- until the page after THE END.
The more insidious problems against which the books contend are that we never get as many Wolfe or Wolfe-and-Archie scenes as we'd like, and that often there is not enough plot to fill the vehicle of a standard novel. Problem one, articulated by Kingsley Amis in his 1966 essay 'Unreal Policemen', is forgivable. One can sense that topnotch Nero Wolfe speeches were damnably difficult to write, and that he needs to be taken in seemly moderation. Here he is at his wit's end, 'reflecting in desperation ... on a diphthong' as his aides exchange worried glances: 'Tenuous almost to nullity, it was unworthy of consideration. It still is. But I'm bereft, and it's a fact.' (A Right To Die, 1964. Parodists usually dwell on polysyllables while neglecting the short words that clinch a speech like this.) We have enough Wolfe to satisfy, and Archie is always fun.
Problem two was stated and overstated by critic Edmund Wilson in one of his periodic bashes at genre fiction, 'Why Do People Read Detective Stories?' (1944). Wolfe himself he 'rather enjoyed', while feeling the novels 'seemed to have been somewhat padded, for they were full of long episodes that led nowhere and had no real business in the story'. Warming to his theme, Wilson summed up the case for the prosecution:
'I finally got to feel that I had to unpack large crates by swallowing the excelsior in order to find at the bottom a few bent and rusty nails ... I even began to mutter that the real secret that Author Rex Stout had been screening by his false scents and interminable divagations was a meagreness of imagination of which one only came to realize the full ghastliness when the last chapter had left one blank.'
Now if 'classical' detective fans can curb their righteous rage for a moment, they might on reflection agree that there is a tinge of truth in this.
The classic Holmesian or Father Brownian detective tale is a short story, having one clever knot of ingenuity at its heart. A great deal more than one perfect ingenuity is needed to fill out a novel, and unless there's an utterly fiendish tangle of plot on plot, there are likely to be irrelevancies, digressions and patent delaying actions. Even the maestro Conan Doyle padded out and broke the backs of two Holmes novels with massive historical flashbacks sadly lacking in Holmes (does everyone else skip those bits of A Study in Scarlet andThe Valley of Fear, too?). Even John Dickson Carr could spend altogether too much time on highly routine 'love interest', and Dorothy Sayers too long ransacking her dictionary of quotations.
Stout's 'realistic' detective scenario allows for plenty of good clean fun without too much actual development. Wolfe may throw a tantrum and block the action for days. Vital evidence can take time for even Panzer and the other freelances to track down, while Wolfe pessimizes loud and long over the thousands of men the police (who have no chance) have assigned to the same task. Chapters of ingenuity may be needed to lure a recalcitrant suspect to West 35th Street for a marathon session of 'ten thousand questions'. Archie can always be arrested and divert us by his supreme cool under interrogation (not to mention the tense question of whether he'll beat his record for infuriating Lieutenant Rowcliffe into stuttering). Invariably readable, but sometimes it seems painfully true that the plot is spinning in neutral -- at least in the chill light of hindsight. My favourite example is in Murder in Style alias Plot It Yourself (1959), where after a brilliant early coup Wolfe sits on his vast bottom brooding, with increasing self-recrimination, and generally doing nothing while the ripples of his unwontedly clumsy investigation cause three-quarters of the suspects to be murdered.
For those who think brevity is the soul of detection there are in fact a goodly number of Wolfe novellas, gathered into collections of two, four or (mostly) three stories. These are generally taut, concentrated and successful, include many of my favourite Wolfeisms, and are singularly hard to find -- few have seen British paperback editions in living memory, even when most of the novels were being regularly reprinted by Penguin or Fontana. Is this the traditional caution of publishers, following the well-known adage 'The Public Doesn't Buy Short Stories'? A pity if so.
The books chosen for this year's  British relaunch of Wolfe are The Red Box (1937 -- it says '1936' in this edition), Over My Dead Body (1940), Even In The Best Families (1950) and Champagne For One (1958 -- here it mysteriously says '1952, First Edition published in 1959'). According to me these are all good entertainment and representative of Stout, although the early The Red Box does admittedly have an example of those plot jams during the long and unsuccessful search for the fatal box itself ... also one of those bits of portentous but inadequately baffling mystification common in crime fiction though rare in Stout, which blows the murderer's name rather too soon if you can remember a trace of schoolday Latin. But there are several nice ingenuities and set-pieces: Wolfe dragged from his office by Archie's experimental ploy of a petition from revered orchid-growers, murder by remote control in front of his very desk, murder by nitrobenzene booby-trap in a car, etc. The book contains one of Wolfe's most splendid and splenetic outbursts, after Archie has conned him out of abandoning the case and going into a gourmet relapse whose menu plans begin with peafowl, goose, kid, squabs and shish-kabob. For starters.
By the way, Stout's prose in The Red Box attracted the finical attention of The New Yorker magazine -- which ran a filler entitled 'Infatuation with Sound of Own Words Department: Finger-Wiggling Division', listing seventeen variations on 'Wolfe wiggled a finger at him' or 'He wiggled Fritz away with a finger'. It is my impression that Wolfe never again deployed his wiggling finger so often in a single book.
Over My Dead Body expands on the fat man's past, specifically his Montenegrin ancestry and ability to speak Serbo-Croat, and lands him with an adopted daughter who is promptly entangled in a stew of pre-war politics, murder and international finance. (Wolfe gets in some good snide remarks on international financiers.) Rather than a boring old blunt instrument, the deed is done using a blunt fencing épée fitted not with a button to make it safe but with a purpose-designed pointy bit, which Wolfe at one stage conceals from the police in a spurious chocolate cake.
There is much enjoyment in a ruse like this even when -- as here -- it's fairly pointless. (Archie: 'It's wonderful how your mind works. If that had been me I would have gone up and chucked it in my bureau drawer. Of course, it's more picturesque to disguise it as a cake....' Yes.) There is more to relish in Wolfe's disgusted pique when the most excruciatingly foreign-accented of an almost entirely foreign suspect-list is tracked down to her true origin in Ottumwa, Iowa, and her true name Pansy Bupp. (Wolfe: 'Get her out of the house!' Archie: 'Zhat weel be a plaizhoore.') Stout was now in firm possession of the fact that for most detective readers other than Edmund Wilson, a perky style and quirky developments are far more attractive than a mere puzzle. It is better to travel hopefully than to arrive at the last page....
Archie as well as Wolfe was still a developing character at this time. The worst blemish in Over My Dead Body is his descent -- perhaps inflamed by war fever -- into needless bullying of and violence against admittedly unlovable characters (a German agent, an international financier). Beats me how he survived doing the same to an Assistant District Attorney in The Red Box. In later books the reformed Archie prefers to banter with aggressors until actually forced into violence, which seems far more in character.
Even in the Best Families is the most enjoyable of the four books here, though paradoxically not the best introduction to Wolfe. It has less impact if you don't 'know' Wolfe, and it concludes a loose trilogy involving Stout's equivalent of Professor Moriarty ... the dread and highly respectable mastermind Arnold Zeck. The prior books are And Be a Villain alias More Deaths Than One (1948) and The Second Confession (1949). Both appeared in Penguin's 1975 The First Rex Stout Omnibus, cleverly placed in the wrong order and without the concluding novel. Pfui.
A virtue of this one is that it has plenty of plot, opening with a straightforward mystery case that brings a Hands Off warning from Zeck (in the form of a tear-gas-trapped packet of gourmet sausage) and before too long sends Wolfe scurrying unprecedentedly to an offstage hidey-hole for a third of the book -- there to lose 117 lb while preparing himself for a masterstroke against the arch-fiend. Meanwhile Archie demonstrates in convincingly circumstantial detail that he can (as we always knew he could) set up a detective agency and make it on his own. Wolfe's flight and surprise reappearance give two of the best frissons in the entire works. The machinations against Zeck are also good fun, involving the goading of a third party to murder in order to keep Wolfe's and Archie's hands clean of premeditated outrage, and finally the original case is wrapped up with a satisfying and more or less unexpected solution. Hindsight insists that our intrepid pair could not possibly have survived the aftermath of Zeck's end (his goons burst straight in and start shooting), but once again hindsight will kindly shut up.
Finally, Champagne for One is a good example of later-period Wolfe: polished, fun, full of irreverent observations about charity foundations and where charity begins; perhaps a little thinner in every sense than some of the earlier cases, but showing Stout's increasingly accurate eye for thumbnail characterizations, and his total confidence in handling Wolfe/Archie relations.
Nevertheless he was producing the books annually at a surprising speed:
'Rex began another novel on 1 March . The working title was Murder of an Unmarried Mother. Rex finished it on 24 April, then entitled it Champagne for One. Thirty-four writing days. Still more remarkable was the three-week hiatus in Rex's work schedule. He had been to Florida.'
Thus John McAleer's wolfeishly fat Rex Stout: a Biography (1977), which must be one of the most trivia-crammed and uncritical works ever written by a Professor of English.
These Scribners reprints look good outside, with a laudatory quote from the Amis essay already mentioned and the traditional but inevitable cover paintings of sinisterly bedizened orchids. (The unnamed artist has evidently read all the books with care, and even manages a plausible depiction of the useful add-on gadget for one's fencing foil.) Inside, through the miracles of photo-offset, the texts have been lifted from four separate sources, typos and all, including a Julian Symons introduction to Families written for -- and making mention of -- the Collins Crime Club jubilee reprints. Does anyone remember the days when publishers of a uniform edition would contrive, by some arcane trade secret, not to have the words 'Chapter One' set in a blatantly different style for each book?
We need more Stout in print. The effect of this series is cumulative, as touch after touch is added to Wolfe's massive personality (I still treasure his page-by-page burning of Webster's New International Dictionary, third edition, for threatening the integrity of the English language), to Archie's cheeky resourcefulness and to the old brownstone house on West 35th street whose eccentric cosiness makes it -- far more than Poirot's art-deco, Wimsey's clubman magnificence or 221b Baker Street with its reek of chemicals -- a place where one might really like to live. It's worth a visit.
08-26-2012 10:02 PM
Rex Stout Miscellanea
** <Rex Stout’s Top 10 Favourite Mysteries> (1938-47?/1951/1956)
** ›Watson Was a Woman‹ (1941)
** The Illustrious Dunderheads (1942, edited by Rex Stout)
** Rue Morge, No. 1 (1946, edited by Rex Stout)
›Why Nero Wolfe Likes Orchids‹ (1963/1977)
** The Nero Wolfe Cookbook (1973, by Rex Stout and the editors
of Viking Press)
** ›An Informal Interview with Rex Stout‹ (/1977)
[Corsage: A Bouquet of Rex Stout and Nero Wolfe] (1977)
It would be downright criminal for you to miss Rex Stout’s hilarious, then-scandalous speech ›Watson Was a Woman‹, given in 1941 at a ›Baker Street Irregulars‹ meeting – especially when the full text of the speech is only a click away from you. It is unclear as to what exactly might be contained in the two volumes edited by Stout; they are out of reach of the researcher. The Nero Wolfe Cookbook is a collection of Fritz Brenner recipes culled from the canon, garnered with lots of period photographs and, on every page, quotations from Stout’s original Nero Wolfe stories. ›Why Nero Wolfe Likes Orchids‹ is an essay that first appeared in ›Life‹ magazine (19 April 1963) and was written by Stout under the penname ‘Archie Goodwin’. Corsage, a small-print and limited-edition publication (by Jim Rock) of 1977, beside a reprint of the Goodwin essay contains the transcript of an original “informal” interview with the 86-year-old Rex Stout, conducted by Michael Bourne on 18 July 1973 in Stout’s home in New York; and the first appearance, in book form, of the premier Nero Wolfe & Archie Goodwin novelette, ›Bitter End‹ (magazine publication in 1940).
Further, as Stout was a politically and socially active person (especially during and after World War II and during the McCarthy era), appearing, for instance, as the master of ceremonies of the anti-fascist ›Speaking of Liberty‹ radio program (for the first time in 1941), it is likely that there remains a (perhaps substantial) number of Rex Stout texts (or transcripts) that to this day have not been collected in their entirety and thus still await publication.
08-26-2012 10:03 PM
Rex Stout's favourites
The 10 best mystery books as chosen by Rex Stout some time between 1938 and 1947 (in no particular order):
|W. Collins:||The moonstone|
|D. Hammett:||The Maltese falcon|
|A. Christie:||The murder of Roger Ackroyd|
|S. S. Van Dine:||The Benson murder case|
|G. K. Chesterton:||The innocence of Father Brown|
|H. C. Bailey:||Call Mr. Fortune|
|F. N. Hart:||The Bellamy trial|
|F. W. Crofts:||The cask|
|M. Innes:||Lament for a maker|
|D. L. Sayers/R. Eustace:||The documents in the case|