Merely a Genius...
Compose yourself, Archie. Why taunt me? Why upbraid me? I am merely a genius, not a god.
-- Nero Wolfe, in Fer-De-Lance (1934).
A fan site dedicated to Nero Wolfe and his creator, Rex Stout
|On this page:||
My other Wolfe pages
I created this page because I love Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe books -- I love the character, and his vocabulary, wit, and arrogant intelligence. My goal was to amass a list of my favorite quotations from the series -- and then I thought I would create an annotated bibliography, to ensure that I wouldn't accidentally buy the same book under a different title, or miss out on any. Sure enough, I discovered, to my mingled chagrin and glee, that there were still a couple of Wolfe books out there that I hadn't read ...
However, as I write this second paragraph, in September of 1998, I have finally completed the collection: I found Gambit in a used bookstore this spring, and last month was given copies of Trouble in Triplicate and Before Midnight. I feel a great deal of satisfaction, needless to say, in "finishing" the series, but also some regret. Having completed my collection of the Wolfe books, I supposed I'll next have to turn my attention to the Tecumseh Fox series ... a poor second-best. I also plan, in a leisurely way, to go through the Wolfe series again and add some more quotations to my page. Harold Marchant expedited the process by sending me a list of his fave Wolfe quotations; I have added them in as of Oct '00 but without page refs, for the moment. (And meanwhile, many, many thanks to Glenn "The Benefactor" Cummings, for providing me with copies of the last 2 books in the series!)
To anyone else reading this page: I hope that you will also enjoy the quotations, or discover a few books yet to be savored. I've been delighted, since I officially "opened" the site, how many people have taken the time to comment to me about it -- thank you for all your enthusiasm. It is in response to some of that feedback that I've changed the format of the quotations (removing the italics and changing the text color) to make the page more readable.
In making the page I discovered many beautiful, dedicated and extensive sites, from which I shamelessly borrowed. A list of these sites is given at the bottom of the page. In addition, R. F. Page was kind enough to send me a table of alternate titles for the Wolfe books which he had prepared; this was what finally motivated me to re-order my indices. Finally, Glenn Cummings once again stepped into the breach to provide contents information for the omnibus collections. (Many thanks!)
The following list is arranged chronologically. Accordingly, an alphabetised list of book and story titles has been added. In addition, a short list of books about Wolfe or Stout is provided in the Stout bio section.
In creating the following bibliography, I shameless borrowed some of the original titles from Johan Blixt's Rex Stout fan page (now apparently off-line, alas), and some of the original story titles from Karen's Nero Wolfe Novels [and stories] page (also now off-line). Other information here was gleaned from the inside covers of my own editions, from helpful notes posted in the Wolfe Mailing List, and from comments by Wolfe fans who've e-mailed me. (In particular, I'd like to thank R. F. Page for the Alternate Titles list which he was kind enough to send me!) Because I vehemently dislike knowing too much about the plot of books before I read them, the reviews give only meager details, from the beginning of the story, and are meant to help one remember whether or not the book has been read.
|First published in 1940, by Farrar and Rinehart. Introduction of Wolfe's daughter. First, and hilarious, interaction of Wolfe with G-men. Features a fulsomely patriotic rant by Wolfe, whose birthplace is given as the US (later books make his Montenegrin birth clear). As compensation, however, there is banter from Archie concerning Wolfe's fatherhood, and a thoroughly gratifying denouement: the first reported death in Wolfe's office. The mystery opens with the startling news of Wolfe's family; his adopted daughter is accused of theft at a fencing salon.||"War doesn't mature men; it merely pickles them in the brine of disgust and dread. Pfui!"(119)|
|First published in 1940, by Farrar and Rinehart. Also known as Sisters in Trouble. First arrest warrant sworn out (but not served) against Wolfe. The book begins with the mysterious will of multi-millionaire Noel Hawthorne, who leaves his three sisters May, June, and April respectively an apple, a pear, and a peach.||"Wolfe frowned at her. He hated fights about wills, having once gone so far as to tell a prospective client that he refused to engage in a tug of war with a dead man's guts for a rope." (8-9)|
|Black Orchids and Cordially Invited to Meet Death, as well as an introduction and epitaph by Archie.|
|Black Orchids: Also known as The Case of the Black Orchids and Death Wears an Orchid. Introduction to Lewis Hewitt. The mystery opens with Wolfe drawn by rumours of Hewitt's black orchids all the way down to the flower show, where he promptly witnesses a murder.||"It is surprising that Mr. Gould lived as long as did, in view of his character" (99)|
|Cordially Invited to Meet Death: The memorable case of Bess Huddleston, the party arranger. The mystery opens with her arrival at West 35th to complain of libelous letters.||"'There is nothing in the world,' he said, glaring at me as if I had sent him an anonymous letter, 'as indestructible as human dignity. That woman makes money killing time for fools. With it she pays me for rooting around in mud. Half of my share goes for taxes which are used to make bombs to blow people to pieces. Yet I am not without dignity.'" (p. 111)|
|Not Quite Dead Enough, and Booby Trap: two of the three stories (the third being Help Wanted, Male) set in World War II.||Not Quite Dead Enough: Archie's a major for Army Intelligence; Wolfe and Fritz have started a regimen to prepare for entry into the infantry (!). Extremely funny, and well worth reading, just for Archie's gambit to get Wolfe back into circulation as a detective. Archie is arrested again.||"'It's all right, boss,' I said, trying to smile as if I were trying to smile bravely. 'I don't think they'll ever convict me. I'm pretty sure they can't. I've got a lawyer coming to see me. You go home and forget about it.'" (p. 56)||Booby Trap: A pink grenade is used to create a lethal booby trap for an army colonel.||"Archie. I submit to circumstances. So should you." (p. 158)|
|The Red Box and The League of Frightened Men. (And many thanks to R. F. Page and Glenn Cummings for the info here!)|
|First published in October 1946, by Viking Press. One of my favorites: the clash between the National Industry Association and the Bureau of Public Regulation, as played out in the murder of Cheney Boone. At one point, Inspector Cramer is fired; Wolfe is actually arrested (for the first time), and has recourse to violence against the person of Inspector Ash, Cramer's replacement.||
"I was aware that Wolfe could move without delay when he
had to, and, knowing what his attitude was toward anybody's hand touching him, I had prepared myself for motion when I saw Ash grab his arm, but the speed and precision with which he slapped Ash on the side of his jaw were a real surprise, not only to me but to Ash himself." (P. 199)
"Fritz was standing there, four feet back from the door to the office, which was standing open, staring wide-eyed at me. When he saw I was looking at him he beckoned me to come, and the thought popped into my mind that, with guests present and Wolfe making an oration, that was precisely how Fritz would act if the house was on fire." (p. 118)
|First published in October 1947, by Viking Press. A hilarious story, and an interesting mystery. Opens with Archie's appointment with Mr. Pine, at the office of corporate giant Naylor-Kerr.||"It was nothing new for Wolfe to take steps, either on his own, or with one or more of the operatives we used, without burdening my mind with it. His stated reason was that I worked better if I thought it all depended on me. His actual reason was that he loved to have a curtain go up revealing him balancing a live seal on his nose." (p. 96)|
|First published in September, 1948, by Viking Press, apparently under the title More Deaths Than One. Opens with Wolfe's income tax payment, and decision to involve himself in the murder of Cyril Orchard, poisoned 'on the air' during Madeline Fraser's talk show. A good mystery, and the first mention of Zeck. Not to mention some choice ranting from Wolfe!||"That unspeakable prepared biscuit flour! Fritz and I have tried it. Those things she calls Sweeties! Pfui! And that salad dressing abomination -- we have tried that too, in an emergency. What they do to stomachs heaven knows, but that woman is ingeniously and deliberately conspiring in the corruption of millions of palates. She should be stopped!" (p. 16)|
Before I Die, Help Wanted, Male, and Instead of Evidence.
In honour of the fact that Trouble in Triplicate was one of the last two books I read, to complete my Wolfe collection, I'm giving two quotations from each story.
|Before I Die: First appeared in The American Magazine, possibly in 1945. A wonderful story, mostly concerned with the family complications of gangster Dazy Perrit. Opens with Wolfe's grumpiness over a meat shortage rashly motivating him to open dealings with a Member of the Underworld.||
"'Where is some meat?'
'Oh.' Perrit sounded chilly. 'Maybe I've got you lined up wrong. You want a slice of the meat racket?'
'No. I want slices of beef and pork. I want some meat to eat. Lamb. Veal.'
So that was it. I gazed at my boss in bitter disgust. He had lost all sense of proportion. For the sake of making a wild grab for a rib roast, he had left his chair, walked clear to the front room, opened a window, and invited the most deadly speciment between the Battery and Yonkers into his house." (p. 4)
[Of Cramer's tact:] "'It was in effect an obituary. If I were a sentimentalist, I would be touched. Mr. Cramer has never before shown the slightest interest in my enjoyment of a meal. He thinks I haven't long to live.'
|Help Wanted, Male: First published in The American Magazine, possibly in 1946. Set during Archie's tenure as a major in US Army Intelligence, this story opens with the arrival of Ben Jensen, who unsuccessfully tries to hire Wolfe to stave off a murderous attack. Features an unusual, and to my eyes slightly hokey, plot twist, plus another futile attempt by Cramer to search Wolfe's house.||
"Use your brains, but give up the idea of renting mine." (p. 54)
"'Mr. Cramer.' The mountain of yellow pajamas moved. I repeat. I am not interested, not involved, and not curious.'" (p. 57)
|Instead of Evidence: First published in The American Magazine, possibly in 1947, under the title "Murder on Tuesday". Opens with the arrival of Mr. and Mrs. Eugene R. Poor in Wolfe's office, brooding over their conviction that Mr. Poor will be murdered by his business partner, Conrad Blaney. Some wonderful rhetoric from Wolfe and a tense storyline make this one a great read.||
[Mrs. Poor:] "'I ask you, Mr. Wolfe, you are a wise and clever and able man, what would you do if you were in my husband's position?'
Wolfe muttered, 'You put that as a question?'
'Yes, I do.'
'Well. Granting that you have described the situation correctly, I would kill Mr. Blaney.'" (p. 106).
[Ex-GI Joe Groll, to Archie:] "'Gosh, one lousy civilian funeral makes more fuss than a thousand dead men over there did.'
|First published in September 1949, by Viking Press. The second book in the Zeck saga: Wolfe's investigation of Louis Rony.||
"Wolfe shook his head. 'You're expecting a good deal of yourself. I'm more than twice your age, and up with you in self-esteem, but I'm afraid of someone. Don't overdo it. There are numerous layers of honesty, and the deepest should not have a monopoly.'" (p.195)
|Man Alive, Omit Flowers, and Door to Death, as well as a foreword by Archie.|
|Man Alive: First appeared in December 1947 in The American Magazine. Some wonderful humour, and a good story. Opens with Cynthia Nieder's plea for Wolfe to address the mysterious reappearance of Paul Nieder, of the fashion firm Daumery and Nieder.||"He pushed back his chair and was on his feet. 'You say I'm lying. Prove it. But for less provocation than you have given me by your uncivilized conduct in my dining room, I would lie all day and night. Regarding this murder of a bearded stranger, where do I fit, or Mr. Goodwin? Pah. Connect us if you can! Should you be rash enough to try to constrain us as material witnesses, we would teach you something of the art of lying, and we wouldn't squeeze out on bail; we would dislocate your nose with a habeas corpus ad subjiciendum.'" (p. 29)|
|Omit Flowers: First appeared in November 1948 in The American Magazine. Opens when Marko Vukic calls in a favour from Wolfe, demanding his help to free Virgil Pompa, who has been arrested for the murder of Floyd Whitten.||"He dehydrated me with a look. 'If true, boorish. If false, inane.'" (p. 130)|
|Door to Death: First appeared (?). Another hilarious story -- the introduction of Con Noonan, the Rowcliffe of the countryside. When Theodore is called away indefinitely by his mother's illness, Wolfe's need for another orchid-tender leads him on a desparate quest into rural lands. But his chosen replacement, Andrew Krasicki, is immediately implicated in a murder...||
"[Gus:] 'I don't know why -- when a man starts turning gray why don't he realize the whistle has
blowed and concentrate on something else? Take you, you show some gray. I'll bet you don't
dash around crowing and flapping your arms.' |
I tittered without meaning to. Wolfe gave me a withering glance."
|First published in September 1950 by Viking Press, apparently under the original title Even in the Best Families. A wonderful book: the conclusion of the Zeck saga. The mystery opens with the arrival of Mrs. Barry Rackham at Wolfe's door, desperate to determine the source of her husband's mysterious influx of income. Some wildly uncharacteristic behaviour from our hero: Wolfe seen as never before!||[Lily Rowan:] "I'm the only woman in America who has necked with Nero Wolfe. Nightmare, my eye. He has a flair." (p. 97)|
|The Gun With Wings, Bullet for One, and Disguise for Murder.|
|The Gun With Wings: opens with the arrival of Margaret Mion, recently widowed, and her lover, Frederick Weppler.||"For nine months of the year Inspector Cramer of Homicide, big and broad and turning grey, looked the part well enough, but in the summertime the heat kept his face so red that he was a little gaudy. He knew it and didn't like it, and as a result he was some harder to deal with [sic] in August than in January. If an occasion arises for me to commit a murder in Manhattan I hope it will be winter." (p. 400)|
|Bullet for One: A good story, IMHO: opens with the arrival of Audrey Rooney, convinced she's to be framed for the murder of Sigmund Keyes.||"I wriggled off the stool and out of the booth and stood muttering to myself until I noticed that the line of girls on stools at the soda fountain, especially one of them with blue eyes and dimples, was rudely staring at me. I told her distinctly, 'Meet me at Tiffany's ring counter at two o'clock,' and strode out." (p. 452)|
|Disguise for Murder: Also known as Affair Of The Twisted Scarf. Another intense and satisfying story, and the second reported death in Wolfe's office. Opens with members of the Manhattan Flower Club swarming over Wolfe's house like locusts.||[Wolfe responds to Cramer's claim that the office must be sealed as a matter of routine.] "No, Mr. Cramer. I'll tell you what it is. It is the malefic spite of a sullen little soul and a crabbed and envious mind. It is the childish rancour of a primacy too often challenged and offended." (p. 502)|
|First published in October 1951, by Viking Press. Another excellent story, featuring Archie's dramatic flight to L.A. in search of clues. The mystery opens with the murder of Leonard Dykes, a law clerk.||"'A schedule broken at will becomes a mere procession of vagaries.' He strode from the room." (p. 194)|
|Home to Roost, The Cop-Killer, and The Squirt and the Monkey.|
|Home to Roost: First published in The American Magazine in 1951-2, under the original title Nero Wolfe and The Communist Killer. Also known as Nero Wolfe Devises a Strategem. Opens with the arrival of Mr. and Mrs. Benjamin Rackell, inviting Wolfe to solve the murder of their nephew. (1) Was he an undercover FBI agent, or a Communist, as he seemed?||"Wolfe shrugged. 'Confronted with omniscience, I bow. My motives are often obscure to myself, but you know all about them. Your advantage.'" (p. 47)|
|The Cop-Killer: First published in The American Magazine in 1951-2. Two DPs arrive at Wolfe's door, after a policeman begins to ask questions in their place of work. Soon after, the cop is found murdered.||"I cannot agree that mountain climbing is merely one manifestation of man's spiritual aspirations. I think instead it is a hysterical paroxysm of his infantile vanity." (p. 99)|
|The Squirt and the Monkey: First published in The American Magazine in 1951-2, under the original title See No Evil. Also known as the Dazzle Dan Murder Case. Archie is arrested again. The mystery opens when a cartoonist loses the gun in his desk, and hires Wolfe to help him find it.||"I am not an outdoors man."|
|First published in October 1952, by Viking Press, apparently under the original title, Out Goes She. Opens with the arrival of Priscilla Eads at Wolfe's brownstone, casually intent on staying a week, for a fee of $50 a day. A gripping story, and some wonderful ranting by Wolfe on the occasion of Archie's latest clash with Rowcliffe.||"'The whole performance," NeroWolfe was saying, 'is based on an idiotic assumption, which was natural and indeed inevitable, since Mr. Rowcliff is your champion ass -- the assumption that Mr. Goodwin and I are both cretins.'" (p. 48)|
|First published in October 1953, by Viking Press. A wonderful story, with sinister gangsters and murders popping up everywhere. An alarming scene of Archie torturing one of the aforementioned sinister gangsters. Opens with the wildly funny interview between Wolfe and Pete Drossos (age 12), in which Wolfe describes the art of detecting.||
[Wolfe:] "Take Mr. Goodwin. It would be difficult for me to function effectively without him. He is irreplaceable. Yet his actions are largely governed by impulse and caprice, and that would of course incapacitate him for any important task if it were not that he has somewhere concealed in him -- possibly in his brain, though I doubt it -- a powerful and subtle governor."
[Archie:] "Nero Wolfe is investigating the murder ... with his accustomed vigor, skill, and laziness. He will not rest until he gets the bastard or until bedtime, whichever comes first." (p. 39)
|Invitation to Murder, The Zero Clue, and This Won't Kill You.|
|Invitation to Murder: Originally published in The American Magazine under the title Will to Murder. Opens with Herman Lewent's request that Wolfe investigate the possible murder of his sister by the three female inmates of his brother-in-law's household. Archie successfully tricks Wolfe into leaving the house on business.||"I am indifferent to what you call it, blackmail or brigandage, but it would be childish for you to suppose I would perform so great a service for you as a benefaction. My spring of philanthropy is not so torrential." (p. 41-42)|
|The Zero Clue: Originally published in The American Magazine under the title Scared to Death. A great story: another run-in between Wolfe and the statistical school of detection. Opens with the murder of Leo Heller, a mathematical detective.||"Confound it, am I suggesting a gambol for my refreshment? Do you think I welcome an invasion of my premises by platoons of policemen herding a drove of scared and suspected citizens?" (p. 71)|
|This Won't Kill You: Originally published in The American Magazine. Confusingly also known as This Will Kill You, and as The World Series Murder. Another favorite: opens with Wolfe forced to attend a baseball game.||"The requisitions of the income tax have added greatly to the attractions of mercenary crime." (p. 122)|
|First published in October 1954, by Viking Press. A very unusual Nero Wolfe mystery; features the death of two important characters, and a long journey over sea and mountain, to Montenegro, for both Wolfe and Archie. One of the few Wolfe stories to emphasise action and drama over character and dialogue; for that reason, not one of my favourites.||"I pay him the tribute of speaking of him and feeling about him precisely as I did when he lived; the insult would be to smear his corpse with the honey excreted by my fear of death." (p. 21)|
|The League of Frightened Men and And Be A Villain, as well as the stories The Gun With Wings, Bullet for One, and Disguise for Murder (from the collection Curtains for Three).|
In honour of the fact that Before Midnight was one of the last two Wolfe books that I tracked down, to complete my collection, I present not one but two quotations!
"No man should tell a lie unless he is shrewd enough to recognize the time for renouncing it, if and when it comes, and knows how to renounce it gracefully." (p. 99)
"I would appreciate it if they would call a halt on all their devoted efforts to find a way to abolish war or eliminate disease or run trains with atoms or extend the span of human life to a couple of centuries, and everybody concentrate for a while on how to wake me up in the morning without my resenting it. It may be that a bevy of beautiful maidens in pure silk yellow very sheer gowns, barefooted, singing Oh, What a Beautiful Morning and scattering rose petals over me would do the trick, but I'd have to try it." (p. 129)
|When a Man Murders, The Next Witness, and Die Like a Dog.|
|The Next Witness: First published in The American Magazine in 1954 or 1955, under the original title of The Last Witness. A good mystery, IMHO: opens with Wolfe walking out of the courtroom where DA Mandelbaum is trying Leonard Ashe for the murder of Marie Willis.||"'She's a philanthropist,' I told Wolfe. 'She donates dough to the cause of equine genetics.'"|
|When a Man Murders: First published in The American Magazine in 1954 or 1955. Opens with the arrival of Paul Aubry and Caroline Karnow, former widow and now unexpected wife of the resurrected Sidney Karnow. No special thrills, IMHO.||"'Look,' I said, 'evidently you came to get Mr. Wolfe to help you. He can't stand hysterical women, and in another four seconds he would have been out of the room and would have refused to see you again. That's one angle of it. I am going on talking to give both you and Mr. Wolfe a chance to calm down. Another angle is that if you think it's undesirable to be kissed by me I am willing to submit it to a vote by people who ought to know.'" (p. 91)|
|Die Like a Dog: First published in The American Magazine in 1954 or 1955, under the original title The Body in the Hall. Also known as A Dog in the Daytime. The story in which Archie and Wolfe acquire Jet, a black Labrador, after Archie returns a raincoat. One question: whatever happens to Jet after this story?||"I know this is no frolic for you, here with me, but they will almost make it seem so."|
|First published in October 1956, by Viking Press. The story of the missing Paul Herold: a gripping story, IMHO. Opens with the arrival of James R. Herold, asking Wolfe to locate his son.||
"Don't badger me. Go up and let Mrs. Molloy thank you properly for your intrepidity in
saving her from annoyance. First rumple your hair as evidence of the fracas." (p.
"But not only must I pay my bills, I must also sustain my self-esteem. That man, your client, has been wounded in his very bowels, and to add insult to his injury as a mere mercenary would be a wanton act. I can't afford it. Even if I must gainsay Rochefoucauld, who wrote that we should only affect compassion, and carefully avoid having any." (p. 31)
|A Window for Death, Immune to Murder, and Too Many Detectives.|
|A Window for Death: Serialized in the American Magazine, in May 1956, under the original title Nero Wolfe and the Vanishing Clue. A slightly strained story about a prodigal brother, whose return as a uranium-mining millionaire is swiftly followed by his death. Opens with the arrival of David R. Fyfe, without an appointment.||"The trouble with mornings is that they come when you're not awake." (p. 43)|
|Immune to Murder: Serialized in the American Magazine, in November 1955. Wolfe ends up 100s of miles away from home, seconded by his country to serve trout to an important diplomat. Some wonderful grumbling by Wolfe, as in the following selection:||"I resent your tone, your diction, your manners, and your methods; and only a witling would call a man with my conceit a liar." (p. 80)|
|Too Many Detectives: Serialized in Colliers magazine, in September 1956. Wolfe is actually arrested and jailed, as a material witness in the murder of a former client in a wiretap case. The sparks fly. First major interactions with Theodolinda Bonner and Sally Colt.||
"As between the intolerable and the merely distasteful, I must choose the latter." (p. 124)
First published in September 1957 by Viking Press. The mildly entertaining story of Otis Jarrett, who hires Archie as a live-in secretary during a moment of coolness between Archie and Wolfe.
"The idea was to show me that he was actually in the best of humor, nothing wrong with him
at all, that if his manner with me was somewhat reserved it was only because I had been very
difficult, and it was a pleasure, by contrast, to make contact with a fellow being who would
appreciate amenities." (p.3)||
Easter Parade, Fourth of July Picnic, and
Murder is No Joke.
Christmas Party: Also known as The Christmas Party Murder. A wildly funny murder case, in which Wolfe and
Archie are placed under severe strain. The story opens with Archie showing Wolfe a marriage
license for himself and Margot Dickey. The results are predictable:
"He gazed at me through narrowed eyes long enough to count eleven, then picked up the
document and gazed at it. He flicked it to the edge of the desk as if it were crawling with germs,
and focused on me again.
'You are deranged,' he said evenly and distinctly." (p. 3)
Easter Parade: Wolfe hires a burglar to snatch a rare orchid from
an innocent church-goer... Another difficult situation ensues. Apparently originally published in
Look magazine, with colour pictures which included clues to help the readers solve the
mystery ahead of Wolfe.
"'Mr. Cramer,' he said coldly, 'your talent for making yourself offensive is extraordinary.
Presumably investigating a charge of murder, you invade my privacy in my home with the
preposterous intent of involving me in the theft of a bunch of flowers.'" (p.
Fourth of July Picnic: Also known as Fourth of July Murder and Labor Union Murder. Wolfe actually gives a speech at an
outdoor meeting... find out why in this thrilling tale! Actually, the most interesting part of this
story is IMHO Archie's brief autobiographical statement:
"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." (p. 149)||
Murder is No Joke: the first version of this story published, with
the other version appearing in Death Times Three as Frame-Up for Murder. One of the rare stories which Rex Stout re-wrote.
"[Cramer:] 'And when I come and ask what you sent Goodwin there for, ask you plainly and
politely, you say that you will -- What are you laughing at?' ....
[Wolfe:] 'It escaped me, Mr. Cramer. Your choice of adverbs. Your conception of politeness.'" (p. 208)
Some Buried Caesar and Too Many Women, as well as Trouble in Triplicate (Before I Die, Help Wanted, Male, and Instead of Evidence). (And many thanks to Glenn Cummings and R. F. Page for the info here!)
First published in November 1958, by Viking Press. Archie gets roped in to attending a dinner
party for unwed mothers (so that they may mingle with high society, that their morals be
elevated). Very 1950s, as you can tell, but a good story.
"...Mr. Goodwin's professional reputation and competence have been challenged, and by
extension my own. You invoked respondeat superior; I will not only answer, I will act."
First published in October 1959, by Viking Press, apparently under the original title Murder in Style. One of the most intense stories, to my mind, with Wolfe thwarted again and
again. In his frustration, he utters the dramatic vow:
|Poison a la Carte, Method Three for Murder, and The Rodeo Murder.|
|Poison a la Carte: Opens with Archie's hilarious attempt to collect the phone numbers of twelve professional actresses dressed in stolas, before Fritz Brenner's banquet for the Ten for Aristology (whose ill-fated banquets we experience here for the first time). A good mystery, IMHO.||"Confound it, Felix! I have avowed my responsibility. I have apologized. Are you here for the gloomy satisfaction of reproaching me?" (p. 58)|
|Method Three for Murder: Wonderful Wolfe-Archie polemics -- opens with Archie storming out of the houuse after quitting, and running into would-be cab driver Mira Holt on the threshold. The following exchange, between Wolfe and a client, is one of my all-time favorites:||
[Mr. Kearns, an irate visitor :]"'I demand an explanation! I intend to hold you to account for alienating the affection of my wife.'|
'Affections,' Wolfe said.
'Affections. In that context the plural is used.' He lifted the glass and drank, and licked his lips.
Kearns stared at him. 'I didn't come here,' he said, 'to have my grammar corrected.'
'Not grammar. Diction.'" (p. 118)
|The Rodeo Murder: Also known as The Penthouse Murder. Opens up at Lily Rowan's penthouse suite, where a host of Western caricatures are about to compete in a New York-style rodeo. Wolfe has been lured out of his retreat by the promise of endangered birds, casually slaughtered at Ms. Rowan's orders. Not one of my favorite stories, mostly because of the cowboy characters.||"I have nothing to contribute to this frolic." (p. 156)|
|First published in October 1960 by Viking Press. One of my favourites: a gripping story, and great characterisations. Contains an unpleasant wife-battering sub-plot, however. Opens with the arrival of a shabbily-dressed would-be client, claiming he's being tailed whenever he goes to a particular address. A moment of startling self-revelation from Wolfe:||"A modern satyr is part man, part pig, and part jackass. He hasn't even the charm of the roguish; he doesn't lean gracefully against a tree with a flute in his hand. The only quality he has preserved from his Attic ancestors is lust, and he gratifies it in dark corners or other men's beds or hotel rooms, not in the shade of an olive tree on a sunny hillside. The preposterous bower of carnality you have described is a sorry makeshift, but at least Mr. Yeager tried. A pig and a jackass, yes, but the flute strain was in him too -- as it once was in me, in my youth." (pp. 47-8)|
|First published in October 1961, by Viking Press. This book concerns the kidnapping of Jimmy Vail, and opens with his wife's arrival to plead for Wolfe's help. An arrest warrant is sworn out against Archie for grand larceny.||"If her property is not returned to her, or if it is damaged beyond repair, I have engaged to devote my time, energy, and talent, for as long as may be required, to ensure just and fitting requital; and she has determined to support me to the full extent of her resources. If you do not know enough of me to be aware of the significance of this engagement to your future, I advise you to inform yourself regarding my competence and my tenacity." (p. 9)|
|The Rubber Band and In The Best Families, plus the collection Three Doors To Death (Man Alive, Omit Flowers, and Door to Death). (And many thanks to Glenn Cummings and R. F. Page for the info here!)|
|First published in October 1962, by Viking Press. My favorite part is the opening scene, in which we see Wolfe destroying a copy of Webster's 3rd Edition, having judged it to be "intolerably offensive". The story itself, involving the death of chess player Paul Jerin, is less interesting, IMHO.||"Wolfe was patient. 'First you inquired about my furniture and my habits, then about my probity, and now about my private affairs. Can't you contrive a question which deserves an answer?'" (p. 31)|
|Eeny Meeny Murder Mo, Death of a Demon, and Counterfeit for Murder.|
|Eeny Meeny Murder Mo: First published in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine. Great reading, though Wolfe and Archie suffer ignominy: opens when a putative client is strangled, in Wolfe's office, with one of Wolfe's brown and yellow neckties.||"You are manifestly indomitable and I must buckle my breastplate. I choose to deny that there is any such statement." (p. 34)|
|Death of a Demon: First published in The Saturday Evening Post. Also known as The Gun Puzzle. Opens with the arrival of Mrs. Lucy Hazen, flourishing the gun she announces will not be used to kill her husband. Needless to say, he promptly is found murdered... Despite the interesting plot, I find it somewhat of a stale read.||"Wolfe's bellow would stop a tiger ready to spring." (p. 113)|
|Counterfeit for Murder: First published in installments The Saturday Evening Post, on January 14, 21, and 28, 1961, under the orginal title The Counterfeiter's Knife. Also known as Counterfeit Murder. Contains the wonderful character of Hattie Amis, whom Archie spurns because of a missing button as the story opens, and some hilarious interactions between Wolfe, Cramer, and the Treasury Department. The original, inferior version of this story was published in Death Times Three as Assault on a Brownstone.||"Wolfe doesn't flabbergast easy, but that did it." (p. 179)|
|First published in July 1963, by Viking Press. One of my favorites, both because of the difficulty of the case, and because of great lines from Wolfe. At one point, Wolfe is so frustrated that he hurls his jacket at Archie. The story opens with the arrival of Mrs. Richard Valdon, who asks Wolfe to find the mother of a baby that's been left on her door.||"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." (p. 59)|
|Kill Now -- Pay Later, Murder iss Corny, and Blood Will Tell.|
|Kill Now -- Pay Later: first published in 1961 in The Saturday Evening Post. A satisfying story -- Wolfe sues five people, including Cramer, for $1M each. Opens with the arrival of Pete Vassos, slightly early, for the weekly shining of Wolfe and Archie's shoes.||"Innocence has no contract with bliss." (p. 55)|
|Murder is Corny: a fun story, with a great ending, but relies on the sad premise that Cramer et al. suspect Archie of an inept murder.||"Your Honor, I object to the question on the ground that it is insulting, impertinent, and disgusticulous." (p.79)|
|Blood Will Tell: opens with the arrival of an envelope containing a blood-stained silk scarf, addressed to Archie. Slightly silly, but fun reading.||"The brain can be hoodwinked but not the stomach." (p. 159)|
|First published in October 1964, by Viking Press. Reappearance of Paul Whipple, now aging, and with a problem child. Dated racial politics make A Right to Die a bit of a weird read (recurring, defensive references to the lack of prejudice entertained by Wolfe and Archie towards 'Negroes', etc.) but an interesting mystery, IMHO. Opens with Whipple's arrival, without an appointment, at Wolfe's door.||"Lawyers can be pests and often are." (p. 112)|
|First published in October 1965, by Viking Press. One of my favorite Wolfe novels: well worth reading. At a time when Hoover's corruption was making waves across the US, Wolfe single-handedly takes on the FBI. Opens with the arrival of quixotic millionaire Rachel Bruner, complaining of FBI harassment.||"I can dodge folly without backing into fear." (p. 5)|
|Three Witnesses (Die Like a Dog, The Next Witness, and When a Man Murders) as well as Fer-De-Lance and Murder By the Book. (And many thanks to R. F. Page for the publication info here!)|
|First published in August, 1966 by Viking Press. Another of my favorite Wolfe novels. As well as being an engrossing story, Death of a Doxy contains IMHO the most sympathetic and positive female character in the Wolfean library: Amy Jackson, a.k.a., Julie Jaquette. Opens with Archie in the apartment of Orrie Cather's murdered lover, Isabel Kerr.||"Fritz came in with a piece of paper in his hand and demanded, 'Were you drunk when you wrote this?'" (p. 117).|
|First published in May 1968, by Viking Press. The search for Amy Denovo's father: opens with an egg-and-anchovy sandwiches snack with Archie.||"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." (p. 76)|
|First published in August 1969, by Viking Press. A very satisfying story, relying on the immense stupidity of Sherriff Morley Haight (a latter-day Con Noonan) and on the drama of seeing Wolfe manage on a ranch in Montana. Archie is arrested again, and even slapped around by Haight and his buddy cop. Opens with Archie's note to Wolfe, informing him that the vacation at Lily Rowan's ranch would be extended, while Archie tried to solve a local murder.||
"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." (p. 101)
"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." (p. 104)
|Too Many Cooks, Plot It Yourself, and Triple Jeopardy. The latter includes the novellas Home to Roost, The Cop-Killer, and The Squirt and the Monkey. (And many thanks to R. F. Page and Glenn Cummings for the info here!) [The most tantalizing thing about KFoA that I've heard was e-mailed me by Tom Barry, who wrote: "I just picked up a pristine copy of Kings Full of Aces, the Book Club edition published by Viking Press in 1969. As you mentioned, it includes Too Many Cooks. But the novel is followed by the recipes for all the dishes mentioned in the story. Yes, including Saucisse Minuit. Wolfe, the appended editor's note says, was released from his pledge of secrecy by Barin's untimely death during the Spanish Civil War. And there's a note from Nero Wolfe urging the reader not to entrust the recipes to his cook 'unless she is an artist.'" MUAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! - WRL]|
|Might as Well Be Dead, Too Many Clients, and The Final Deduction. (And many thanks to Cathy Troester, Glenn Cummings, and R. F. Page for the info here!)|
|First published in September 1973, by Viking Press. Opens with the arrival of Dr. Vollmer who asks Wolfe, as a favour, to interview a man who says his hands are covered with invisible blood. Moderately interesting.||"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." (p. 72)|
|The Black Mountain, If Death Ever Slept, and Before Midnight. (And many thanks to Glenn Cummings R. F. Page for the publication info here!)|
|And Be a Villain, The Second Confession, and In the Best Families. According to S. MacDonald (And many thanks for the info!) it was printed in 1974 by Viking Press and reprinted in Book Club edition with Library of Congress # 73-19104.|
|First published in May 1975, by Viking Press, only a month before Stout died. A depressing, but well-written and gripping, end to the great opus. Opens with the arrival of Pierre Ducos, an employee at Rusterman's, at 1 o'clock in the morning, demanding sanctuary.||"There is only one object on earth that frightens me: a physicist working on a new trick." (P.97)|
|The Silent Speaker, Might As Well Be Dead, If Death Ever Slept, Three At Wolfe's Door, Gambit, Please Pass The Guilt, and A Family Affair; Three at Wolfe's Door contains the short stories Poison a la Carte, Method Three for Murder, and The Rodeo Murder. (And many thanks to Glenn Cummings for the information!)|
|The Doorbell Rang,The Second Confession, and More Deaths Than One [This last being an alternative title for And Be A Villain]. (And many thanks to Sidnei Becker for the info here!)|
|Bitter End, Frame-Up for Murder, and Assault on a Brownstone.|
|Bitter End: First published in the November 1940 issue of The American Magazine, and then in book form in 1977 in Corsage: A Bouquet of Rex Stout and Nero Wolfe by J. A. Rock & Co.. Before its publication as a Wolfe story, Bitter End was a Tecumseh Fox novel, Bad for Business. Stout(2) converted BFB into a Wolfe novella at the request of The American Magazine because he was short of cash. To my mind, reading the two stories back to back demonstrates the vast superiority of the Wolfe stories to those featuring Tecumseh Fox...Opens with Wolfe's evil experience with a poisoned jar of Tingley's Tidbits.||[On the poisoned Tidbits] "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.'" (P. 4-5)|
|Frame-Up for Murder: Published in The Saturday Evening Post, in three installments, on June 21, June 28, and July 5, 1958. An expanded version of Murder is No Joke, written expressly for publication in TSEP, with Flora Gallant substantially younger and sexier than in the original. Neither story impressed me particularly, and the two are virtually identical in plot.||"'Your name is Flora Gallant?' he growled. The growl implied that he strongly doubted it and wouldn't be surprised if she had no name at all." (P.85)|
|Assault on a Brownstone: The vastly inferior original for Counterfeit for Murder, one of my favorite stories. In Assault on a Brownstone, the wonderful character of Hattie Annis is killed off in a hit-and-run within the first few pages, and Tammy Baxter is played up as a romantic lead.||"My house has been invaded, my privacy has been outraged, and my belongings have been pawed." (P. 179).|
|And Be A Villain and Champagne for One, plus the collection Black Orchids (Black Orchids and Cordially Invited to Meet Death). (And many thanks to Jill Montoya for the info here!)|
And that's the lot! In my opinion, the Goldsborough books are a painfully bad imitation, and I only read them when my craving for new Wolfe material overwhelms my better judgement. (More on Goldsborough pastiches here.) Having now officially completed my collection of the Wolfe stories, I may branch out and add the Tecumseh Fox, or comment on some of the Goldsborough, or just start going through the Wolfe stories again and adding more quotations. The opportunities for web expansion are endless .... ;P I'm not planning on writing about the Cookbook, though, since I can't cook @ all ... but to avoid future e-mails on this topic, I'd like to say that if you're interested in the cookbook you can read about it at Muffy's Page. And although a bunch of Stout's non-Wolfe juvenalia has recently been republished by Carrol & Graf, as Gordon Jones & Roddy Campbell wrote to inform me, I do not recommend them.
- As far as I know, Random House (which bought Bantam) has the rights to all of Rex Stout's books. However, an author search for Rex Stout books from Bantam yields only a partial list of titles; the rest are out of print. (The good news is that over 35 books were in print as of Jan '03 -- a big improvement from the 19 in 12/01 and the 10 in 2000, & another bonus of the TV series. Whoohoo!)
- Rex Stout's Watson was a woman speech is online, and great fun I must say. (And thanks to Alex for the link!)
- There is a big MP3 file of Stout on a 1939 radio show, as Alex wrote to tell me: the recording of Rex Stout's appearance on the radio show "Information, Please" broadcast on 29 August 1939 when Stout was 52.
- The Netscape Open Directory Page for Rex Stout has a collection of links on the great man. Notable also for their good taste in naming this Wolfe page a "Cool Site". ;)
- Dave Patty has a Nero Wolfe fan page, most notable for his giant collection of cover scans, and for the hilarious Wolfean Parodies section.
- The Nero Wolfe Mailing List: Daily doses of Wolfe discussion and trivia. Muahahahahaha! [I was refused access to this link as of 12/01 though -- anyone know a new link?]
- Michael Grost has a short and generally negative essay concerning the Nero Wolfe opus at his Guide to Classic Mystery and Detection site. The article pans Stout's writings as mysteries, criticising the predictability and incoherence of the mystery and puzzle plots, and rambles mysteriously on about the importance of blood sacrifice in the Wolfe canon. Mr. Grost does manage to convey some information concerning the relationship of Stout's work to other mystery writers of the day.
- Muffy has a Nero Wolfe fan page containing a complete list of Wolfe's cases, including those merely made reference to in other books (!), along with other cool finds like diagrams of the house and office layout.
- Mystery Discussion is a message board forum for discussion of Wolfe novels; the admin asked me to link to them, so with any luck that might mean people are interested in discussion of Wolfe ...
- The literary e-zine Hubris: A Gazette of the Arts maintains a Nero Wolfe page; it has an obvious commercial component, but also some interesting links. [Regarding the commercial component, the editor e-mailed me recently to say, "I would fain note that we both love an author who said 'any one who doesn't write for money is an idiot,' or words to that effect" - touché! Nothing wrong with wit & profit in combination .... ;) - WRL, May '03].
- David Langford's A Stout Fellow is an entertaining essay on the Stout opus.
- David R. Anderson (1984). Rex Stout. New York : F. Ungar.
- William Stuart Baring-Gould (1969). Nero Wolfe of West Thirty-fifth Street; the life and times of America's largest private detective. New York: Viking Press.
- Ken Darby (1983). The brownstone house of Nero Wolfe / as told by Archie Goodwin. Boston : Little, Brown.
- John J. McAleer (1977). Rex Stout : a biography. Boston: Little, Brown. [Reprinted as John McAleer (2001). Rex Stout: A Majesty's Life, Millennial Edition. Rockville, MD: James A. Rock & Co., Publishers] (And thanks to J. A. Rock for pointing this out!)
- O. E. McBride (2003). Stout Fellow. iUniverse, Inc. I haven't read this yet but the subtitle is A Guide Through Nero Wolfe's World and the blurb looks like a light-hearted collection of fan trivia.
- Guy M. Townsend (1980) (Ed.). Rex Stout, an annotated primary and secondary bibliography. New York : Garland Pub.
- J. Kenneth Van Dover (1991). At Wolfe's door : the Nero Wolfe novels of Rex Stout. San Bernardino, CA: Borgo Press. [Reprinted as J. Kenneth Van Dover (2003). At Wolfe's Door: The Nero Wolfe Novels of Rex Stout. Rockville, MD: James A. Rock & Co., Publishers] (And thanks to J. A. Rock for pointing this out!)
In addition, one biography of Rex Stout is given at the head of the recent Bantam publications of the Nero Wolfe series. It runs:
|Rex Stout, the creator of Nero Wolfe, was born in Noblesville, Indiana, in 1886, the sixth of nine children of John and Lucetta Todhunter Stout, both Quakers. Shortly after his birth, the family moved to Wakarusa, Kansas. He was educated in a county school, but by the age of nine he was recognized throughout the state as a prodigy in arithmetic. Mr. Stout briefly attended the University of Kansas, but he left to enlist in the Navy, and spent the next two years as a warrant officer on board President Theodore Roosevelt's yacht. When he left the Navy in 1908, Rex Stout began to write freelance articles and worked as a sightseeing guide and an itinerant bookkeeper. Later he devised and implemented a school banking system which was installed in four hundred cities and towns throughout the country. In 1927 Mr. Stout retired from the world of finance and, with the proceeds of his banking scheme, left for Paris to write serious fiction. He wrote three novels that received favorable reviews before turning to detective fiction. His first Nero Wolfe novel, Fer-de-Lance, appeared in 1934. It was followed by many others, among them, Too Many Cooks, The Silent Speaker, If Death Ever Slept, The Doorbell Rang, and Please Pass the Guilt, which established Nero Wolfe as a leading character on a par with Earle Stanley Gardner's famous protagonist, Perry Mason. During World War II Rex Stout waged a personal campaign against Nazism as chairman of the War Writers' Board, master of ceremonies of the radio program "Speaking of Liberty," and member of several national committees. After the war he turned his attention to mobilizing public opinion against the wartime use of thermonuclear devices, was an active leader in the Authors' Guild, and resumed writing his Nero Wolfe novels. Rex Stout died in 1975 at the age of eighty-eight. A month before his death he published his seventy-second Nero Wolfe mystery, A Family Affair. Ten years later, a seventy-third Nero Wolfe mystery was discovered and published in Death Times Three.|
A Note on Finding the BooksPeople often e-mail me to ask where the books can be found. When I first set up the site they were all (or almost all) out of print. Thanks to the gratifying two-season success of the Braunstein / Jaffe A&E series, many of them have been reprinted (as Kenneth Timoner and Jeff Greenwalt were kind enough to draw to my attention!). For Nero Wolfe stories, I suggest that you first check the Random House site (the current publishers): search for Rex Stout to see which books are still in print. When I checked as of January '03 there were over 35 Wolfe books in print , including the classics The Second Confession, In the Best Families, and The Golden Spiders (also listed, strangely: 2 German translations). Buying from the Random site, the huge advantage is the cost: us$5, plus shipping etc.
Many of the books are also available in audioformat, or at least this was true in 2001. According to a Wolfe Pack post from that year, most titles have an audiobook available, through Durkin Audio [Saul Rubinek reading], Audio Partners [Michael Prichard reading] or other cast productions. Both the Rubinek and the Pritchard readings have been recommended to me by fellow fans.
As noted above, A&E is also apparently now [May '03] releasing the first season of the recent TV series on DVD (w. free Archie poster 'while supplies last'). One can only applaud the release of more & more Wolfe material, in more & more formats. Whoohoo! (And thanks to Corry Devin from A&E promo for the URL.)
Having said that, none of the Nero Wolfe books are available online, because the copyright is still in force. However, you can find the hilariously bad Stout juvenile work Under The Andes -- an "adventure" story, with lots of savage races, ridiculuous women, and noble young men. (Under the Andes has also been republished by Carrol & Graf, along with a bunch of Stout's other non-Wolfe juvenalia) as Gordon Jones & Roddy Campbell wrote to inform me. I do not recommend any of the 30s non-Wolfe books except for die-hard fans interested in the evolution of Stout's style.)
For those of us interested in reading rather than listening or surfing, however, my first recommendation is that you establish good relations with the local used bookstores, and ask them to set aside the books for you as they come in. Searching through the used bookstores of Toronto and Montreal, it only took me a year to collect the entire series. And the hunt was, I must say, great fun!
If your local used bookstores fail you, there are also, as Kate Nepveu pointed out to me, the local libraries. Many libraries carry the Wolfe books, and where they don't sometimes lending programmes allow you to get them shipped in from out of town.
In addition, there are some web resources. If you're open to shelling out the big bucks, you might try Alibris (specializes in out of print books -- when I checked had dozens of titles) or Amazon (just dang big -- also dozens of titles). I've also received one recommendation for BookFinder: Very snazzy site. Another couple of people have recommended Abebooks.com! Several people have mentioned eBay to me. I received a recommendation for Barnes & Noble, who apparently link their site up to used book dealerships also; for Bookopoly.com; and most recently for a small Denver store called Tattered Cover.
That's all that I can suggest, offhand -- good luck on the quest!
(2) Thanks to Soledad Garcia for pointing out that although Wolfe was chronically short of money, it was Stout who converted BFB into "The Bitter End", not Wolfe!
You are probably the only person who has ever accessed this web page, while I myself have logged on times since October 2000. From November 1997 to September 2000, there were about 30k hits.
My other Wolfe pages
- Wolfe on TV:
- Wolfe and Literature: