Welcome to Masters of Mystery Monday, where each week we feature a fictional detective and examine his or her unique contribution to mystery fiction. You are invited to challenge yourself with a short detective quiz, and see the answers to the previous week’s quiz. This week:
Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe
Some interesting facts about Rex Stout and the Nero Wolfe series:
1. The first Nero Wolfe novel, Fer de Lance, was published in 1934, and the series continued through 47 books, with the final one (by the original author) posthumously published in 1985. Robert Goldsborough, with the permission of Stout’s estate, wrote 7 more Wolfe novels, published between 1986 and 1994.
2. Rex Stout was President (14th) of the Mystery Writers of America, and won their “Grand Master” Award in 1959.
3. Rex Stout apparently worried J. Edgar Hoover, and was watched by the FBI during the McCarthy era. (The FBI was watching Dashiell Hammett, too, but he was engaged in political activism. Gotta watch out for those mystery writers.)
4. Although there are aspects of the hard-bitten P.I. genre in the Nero Wolfe novels, what makes them different is that the endings are usually happy, and the overall tone is not a somber one. Click here for Thrilling Detective’s thoughts on the subject.
4. There is a Nero Wolfe fan society, “The Wolfe Pack,” which organizes mystery fan conventions, and gives out a yearly award, “The Nero Award,” to the best mystery novel written in the Nero Wolfe style. Check out Mystery Fanfare‘s post on this year’s nominees.
Why we like Nero Wolfe and the series:
1. The books are told in Archie Goodwin’s first-person, wise-cracking narration, which means that we get an inside look at Archie’s tough-guy sarcasm, mixed with his soft spot for beautiful dames.
2. In true 1930s/40s style, there are always beautiful dames, usually up to no good.
3. Wolfe doesn’t fit into any cliched detective niche (and at 1/7th of a ton, he doesn’t fit anywhere very easily). Agoraphobic, testy, egotistical, compulsively devoted to routines and order, an avid gourmand and grower of orchids, Nero Wolfe makes even the category of armchair detective look blah by comparison. Because of his size, he has an elevator in his New York brownstone, and a bed and a chair specially made for him.
4. Although outwardly guided by money (and lots of it) as the primary consideration for taking on a case, Wolfe is really guided by firm principles of justice.
5. The puzzles are always satisfying, and Wolfe shows his true condescending genius in solving them. Unlike the Holmes/Watson interaction, however, Goodwin doesn’t come out of it looking like a doofus. Lt. Rowcliffe and Inspector Cramer (Wolfe’s chief adversaries in many of the books), however, usually do.
Beyond the books: television, film, radio
For the entire radio collection, click here
The A&E series, starring Timothy Hutton and Maury Chaykin (2001-02):
For the complete IMDb list, click here
Great sites for more info:
The Wolfe Pack (Nero Wolfe fan site)
Want the answers to the last quiz?
Can you match these detectives with their signature vice or hobby?
1. Nero Wolfe c. growing orchids
2. Sherlock Holmes d. cocaine (during periods of boredom, between cases)
3. Monk e. Obsessive-Compulsive disorder
4. Nick Charles b. drinking
a. cigar smoking
c. growing orchids
e. Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
Create your own “Master of Mystery” quiz! I’ll feature your best mystery stumpers, along with a link to your site. Just post it in the comments section, and I’ll start collecting them!
Have you read the Nero Wolfeseries? I’d love to hear from you.
Until next time,
9 thoughts on “Nero Wolfe, Master of Mystery”
The Nero Wolfe books are some of my all-time faves. I love the brownstone, and Lily’s apartment, and Archie taking the dames out to dance. Whenever I make scrambled eggs I think of the book in which Nero made scrambleds for a *woman* and the secret was to take 45 minutes to cook them. One of the all-time greats for sure!
You are a true Wolfe aficionado, Liza! So glad you came by to visit and share a favorite scene. I like the scenes where Inspector Cramer gets up without using his hands, just to annoy Wolfe…
I haven’t read the books, but I enjoyed the A&E series. I always thought it was “killed” early by the networks…but, I’m glad T.Hutton is on Leverage now. 🙂
I’m sure your “to be read” list is long, but the novels are worth a look! Thanks, Tiffany. 🙂
My mother got me hooked on Archie and Wolfe back when I was a teen. Now I read them aloud to her so we can both enjoy them at the same time. 🙂
I have the Nero Wolfe Cookbook! The only thing I’ve made out of it is scrambled eggs–and I don’t take 45 minutes to cook them, either. lol
I’ve been curious about the cookbook; are the recipes really elaborate? I think it’s so neat that you and your mom can still share the stories! So glad you stopped by, Marian. Thanks!
Yes, the recipes are as close as possible to the descriptions in the books, and each one has a quote. I very much enjoyed the book, even if I’m not the one to attempt most of the recipes.
Oh, this makes me want to go out and read a Nero Wolfe! I’ve never read the books, but I’ve watched the series. Did Peter Ustinov play Nero? Or was that Hercule Poirot?
Love this blog!
After putting together this blog, I wanted to re-read them all! I’ll bet there are some I’ve missed: it’s quite a collection. Peter Ustinov played Hercule Poirot, although he wasn’t as popular as the current actor, David Suchet. Thanks for visiting, Cathy!
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