Wolfe Pastiches & Pop Culture

This page is an extension of my Nero Wolfe fan site, Merely A Genius. I hope to generate a list of books featuring Wolfe but not written by Stout and/or references to Wolfe in pop culture.

List of Wolfe Pastiches

I decided it was unworkable to have the breakdown I had before and have re-ordered the list by author, like the rest of my pages. This means some of the sections are quite scanty, but at least the page is easier to follow! The major pastiches are by Goldsborough (who was authorized to continue the series) and by Garrett, Harrison, Lescroart, Cook, Dixon, and Wolfe); please do contact me if you know of others. In addition, I gleaned some additional notes from rec.arts.sf.written on sci fi pastiches of Wolfe & Archie, after being pointed in that direction by Kate Nepveu, and have integrated numerous references from fellow fans.

Robert Goldsborough is (or was) the writer authorized to attempt to continue the Wolfe series when Stout died. His first attempt, Murder in E-Minor (1986) was quite good, I thought, but the others I found disappointing. These were: Death on Deadline (1987); The Bloodied Ivy (1988); The Last Coincidence (1989); Fade to Black (1990); and Silver Spire (1992).

There is a seventh volume, The Missing Chapter (1994), which I haven't read. One fan, Boris Shafir, commented: "It was about as disappointing as the previous one, absolutely unconvincing, at least to me. But there were two funny moments. First: this book is about the murder of an author who picked up a successful detective series after the original author died (what a self-irony !) And two: Wolfe's elevator breaks down in the middle of it, and eventually a new one is installed which no longer squeals, so now Archie can no longer detect Wolfe's arrival by the sound of the elevator." But another, Phillip Mundhenk, wrote in: "That last Goldsborough book (Missing Chapter) seems to me the best, really the only one I'd recommend -- perhaps you should give it a try."

Dennis Lien e-mailed me to note, "I don't see a listing for "The Red Orchid," by Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac, first published in French in their collection USURPATION D'IDENTITE, and translated into English and published thus in ELLERY QUEEN'S MYSTERY MAGAZINE in January 1961. The collection contains pastiches of a number of mystery authors, using actual names of their characters--which probably explains why the book as a whole has never been translated into English, and why EQMM dropped its plan to print all of the stories individually after doing (if I recall) three of them, including that one Nero Wolfe story. I assume someone's copyright attorney (or several someones') came down on the magazine like a load of bricks.... "The Red Orchid" is also a locked room mystery, though arguably a bit of a cheat as such. Ingenious, though." (And thanks to Brian Trainer, who also e-mailed me re this story!)

"For mentioning -- someone purses their lips like Nero Wolfe in _Agyar_ by Steven Brust." [JBM - post I found at rec.arts.sf.written]

Glen Cook is, as Pat kindly wrote to tell me, the author of a sci-fi series featuring a team who closely resemble Archie (P. I. Garrett) and Wolfe (the "Dead Man"). I haven't checked these books out yet, but I know a few people who are fans.

In a Wolfe Pack post around 2001, Michael Cutillo praised "the Lobo Blacke series by William DeAndrea. Which are basically Wolfe in the Wild West. 'Written in Fire' (1995) and 'Fatal Elixir' (1997) Walker Press.

Glen Dixon wrote a series of Wolfe pastiches praised by Michael Cutillo and Miklos Kallo in Wolfe Pack posts a few years ago. Michael commented, "entertaining if not actually a perfect copy of Stout's style;" Miklos was more enthusiastic, "I have read and re-read them with pleasure." The stories are online here, along with Wolfe Pack discussion digests of each story. (And thanks to Ruth Humphrey for the link!)

"The [Wolfe adapation] that comes to mind immediately is Effinger's Marid Audran series." [Courtenay Footman - post I found at rec.arts.sf.written] Commenting on the same author: "George Alec Effinger has a 'personality' implant that is Wolfe" [JBM - post I found at rec.arts.sf.written]

Anthony Shaw wrote in to recommend "Slow Burn," by detective fiction writer GM Ford, who also wrote the Leo Waterman series. "Slow Burn" is described as "an homage to Wolfe" and Anthony commented, "It, as well as the entire Leo Waterman series set in Seattle, is a delightful read."

Randall Garrett is the author of a mystery series of the 60s and 70s featuring a character called Lord Darcy. The books are set in an alternate universe in which magic works, and science therefore never developed into the dominating social force that it is our times. Also, King Richard never died during the crusades, in this alternate time line, so there was never any offensive reign of King John in England, therefore no Magna Carta, therefore feudalism was never otherthrown. Anyways, I was reading somewhat unenthusiastically through the series last year when, to my glee, I discovered that in the novel Too Many Magicians (the title alone might have given me a hint), Darcy's investigation is in collaboration with a thinly-veiled Wolfe/Archie team, the Marquis of London and his side-kick Lord Bontriomphe (French: Bon Triomphe, Good Win). The style of writing is utterly unlike Stout's (stereotyped dialogue & characterisation, with a focus on plot and puzzle-type mysteries), so I think many Wolfe fans would be bored by TMM. But I enjoyed the unexpected encounter with these alternate creations. Fritz also appears, as Sir Frederique Bruleur.

When I was reading rec.arts.sf.written (see below), I found several raving fans of the Darcy series who were also Wolfe fans, so perhaps I was too harsh above. One more trivia connection: Dorothy J. Heydt posted the remark, "Someone else [Robert Sneddon - WL] pointed out, in "Too Many Magicians", Lord Bontriomphe's gun is a .38 Heron. Archie Goodwin apparently drove a '38 Heron. [p] Actually, Lord Bontriomphe's gun (I've just finished checking this) is a Heron .36. I'm going to have to go through some wartime Nero Wolves to find out just what model year Archie drove during the war years when the Heron plant was building tanks or something."

  • Bill Page wrote me to recommend the novella "Poppa Was a Catcher," by Steven Gould. It was published in New Destinies, Fall 1987, and also appeared in Cities In Space, edited by Jerry Pournelle and John F. Carr, Ace Books, Sept. 1991. Bill noted, "Just fyi, I have known Steve since the 1970s, so I'm not exactly an impartial observer, but this is a well written story about an elderly woman and her young male assistant who live in outer space and who solve a crime. There are several allusions to Nero Wolfe, and having the Wolfe character be a woman makes for an interesting variation."

    Glenn Harrison Lee Schwartz and Bob Wardrop recommended Lawrence Block's Chip Harrison series to me, and so did Scott Benson, who wrote in the following detailed comments:

    The reason I'm writing today: I was idly poking around your site, and I noticed what looks like a serious omission from your Pastiche section: the Chip Harrison stories, written by Lawrence Block.

    Chip Harrison has a rather interesting pedigree. He was originally created by Block for a pair of novels geared toward the young-adult reader, NO SCORE and CHIP HARRISON SCORES AGAIN. These were very entertaining little coming-of-age stories written with more than a tip of the hat to J.D. Salinger (the difference being that Chip is a heck of a lot better adjusted than Holden Caulfield, and, if the books are to be believed, gets LOTS more girls).

    However, one thing these books were not was mysteries. So it was quite a surprise when Chip turned up a couple of years later in another pair of novels, MAKE OUT WITH MURDER and THE TOPLESS TULIP CAPER. In these, Chip had moved to New York and found himself working as the legman, man of action, and Boswell for a private detective named Leo Haig... and here we have our connection.

    Leo Haig is a very funny parody of Wolfe. He's more roly-poly than gargantuan and lives in a converted carriage house above a whorehouse, with a Chinese gourmet cook who pretends he can't speak English. Haig collects tropical fish, about which he has an encyclopedic knowledge; is continually trying to learn to smoke a pipe because he likes the way it looks; and, oh yes... believes that Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin really exist. His life goals are, in this order, to be invited to supper at Wolfe's table and to be the world's second greatest private detective.

    Chip is as good an Archie as he can be under these circumstances, considering that (a) he has never been a private detective before, (b) he's being taught how to be one by the likes of Haig, and (c) he's only seventeen years old. Chip tells the stories in first person, of course, as verbatim as he can, and Block manages the astounding feat of making Chip sound like Archie Goodwin and Holden Caulfield at the same time.

    The stories are, as I've noted, very funny, and also pretty solid mysteries. They were published in the 70s, and go in and out of print, but may still be available: the most recent editions, I believe, were brought out in the late 80s by The Mysterious Press.

  • In a Wolfe Pack post in April 2001, S. Wolfram recommended "a 1998 novel called _Corpus Corpus: A Sgt. John Bogdanovic Mystery_. The author is H. Paul Jeffers. 'Theodore R. Janus is a world-renowned defense attorney whose client list is rife with underworld figures as well as the author of an encyclopedia on Rex Stout's famous detective, Nero Wolfe.' .... The story is slight both in characterization and in plot. But it is fun to read a book in which virtually every section and chapter title is the name of a Wolfe story (and those titles are usually worked into the plots of the chapters) and in which several characters are conversant with the corpus. The conversation is littered with quotations and lessons from the corpus.... Jeffers uses the corpus and the fans to good effect. I enjoyed the book."

    Brian Trainer e-mailed me, "In THE RESURRECTED HOLMES, Ed. by Marvin Kaye, there is a story by Kaye "ascribed to Rex Stout" called "Too Many Stains," where Sherlock and his brother Mycroft relate the hitherto untold "Adventure of the Second Stain." I haven't finished it yet so I'm not prepared to say whether it is worth the trouble."

    John Lescroart wrote two Wolfe pastiches, Son of Holmes (1986), and Rasputin's Revenge: The Further Startling Adventures of Auguste Lupa - Son of Holmes (1987). John Kavanagh wrote in this review of Son of Holmes:

    As I remember the plot, Auguste Lupin is the illegitimate son of Sherlock Holmes and Irene Adler (!), who apparently shacked up during the period Watson et al. thought Holmes was dead. Lupin, Fritz Brenner, and the boring narrator are involved in a thriller espionage plot during WWI.

    We learn that Lupin has used several aliases, usually with a Roman emporer's name coupled with the word for "Wolf" in some language. He tells the narrator that he has no wish to remain a man of action, and his plan after the war is to settle in a large city and raise orchids.

    I forget the details, and as I recall the book does not live up to the clever premise; it's not very well-written. I forget if Marko Vukcic is included. The name "Nero Wolfe" is never mentioned, so you have to be a fan to get it. Also, it pokes fun at the fact that Wolfe is modelled on Mycroft Holmes - apparently that side of the family disposition is one that prevailed in "Lupin".

    One thing I might like to add is that book is not (as far as I remember) intended to be written in the style of either Stout or Conan Doyle, and it's more of an adventure thriller than a murder mystery.

    I just looked up the book on Abe.com and found several copies (though I personally prefer the time-honoured hunt through used bookstores ... ah, the thrill of the chase!), along with references to the sequel, Rasputin's Revenge: The Further Startling Adventures of Auguste Lupa - Son of Holmes (1987).

    Also, there is another review of SOH, along with a visual, at Dave Patty's Wolfe web site, here. (And thanks to Walt Doherty for posting the URL in the Wolfe mailing list.)

    "_Saturn's Race_ by Niven and Barnes, has a computer simulation of Nero Wolfe (or actually a thinly-disguised-to-avoid-copyright-infringement version of same) in a fairly important role. It's an old computer game AI (made by someone who didn't want to shell out for the rights), adapted for another purpose." [Ed M] Expanding later on the book, Ed wrote: "I thought it was pretty good overall. It's certainly not worth reading just for the Nero Wolfe content, though."

    Rob Lopresti e-mailed me to note, "One mention you are missing is Barbara Paul's novel THE FOURTH WALL. The main character lives on W 35th Street. At one point her apartment is broken into and the police are alerted by two of her neighbors, a Dr Vollmer, and a Mr Goodwin. She never meets them, alas."

    Josh Pachter e-mailed me to point out I'd missed the 1971 pastiche he wrote called "Sam Buried Caesar," a short story published in the August issue of Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. There is a little description of the story at Mr. Pachter's web site, here.

  • "Mack Reynolds had Wolfe and company in one of his Ultra-Welfare State stories in Analog, but not (of course) named. Lily Rowan was a dried-up old woman, Saul, Fred, and Orrie were practically senile, and Wolfe was reduced to eating canned soup because there was no work, the Ultra-Welfare State having removed the root cause of crime." [Joseph T Major - post I found at rec.arts.sf.written]

    Unidentified author: "I've seen a series of mysteries in which Queen Elizabeth II is the detective. (Various palace staff do the Archie Goodwin bits, and Her Majesty puts the pieces to gether like Nero Wolfe.)" [Chris Henrich - post I found at rec.arts.sf.written]

    "In Margaret Weis's and Don Perrin's _Hung Out_ (the latest, as far as I know, in their Mag Force 7 space-opera series), the commander of the team has Nero Wolfe's lawyer, and the description of how they met is clearly that of Wolfe and Wolfe's office. How this was fitted into a futuristic Galactic Empire I have no idea, but it is pretty well done." [Joseph T Major - post I found at rec.arts.sf.written]

    Gene Wolfe wrote a story called "The Rubber Bend," according to Kate Nepveu, which was collected in Storeys from the Old Hotel. Kate commented on this story:

    "[A] Wolfe and Holmes pastiche and a definite groaner. (Though the robot Nero deciding to grow mushrooms instead of orchids because you can't eat orchids was pretty amusing.)"

    However, I notice that a couple of people at rec.arts.sf.written were more kind towards this story.

  • "You have seen THE NERO WOLFE COOKBOOK, have you not? Some bowsers in there, but the recipe for Deviled Lamb Kidneys is worth the purchase price alone." [Brenda - post I found at rec.arts.sf.written]

    Wolfe in Pop Culture

    I will be adding pop cult references as I have time & as I come across them.... What I am looking for here is explicit mentions of Wolfe, Archie, or Stout in fiction/movies/etc.

    The 21st Century:

  • S. T. Karnagh plugged the TV series (and Stout's Wolfe series, in general)for the National Review Online in Wolfe a la Tube: An A&E series loyal to its source [May 10, 2002].
  • Rush Limbaugh plugged the Wolfe novels on his radio show in March, 2001, according to Doris Johnston.
  • Nikki wrote in to me, "I'm not sure if this is what you're looking for for your Wolfe in Pop Culture section but both Jacques Barzun (Jacques Barzun Reader) and Alfred Bester (Redemolished) have written essays on Rex Stout and Nero Wolfe. Since both of the books have been released within the last few years, the essays probably appeared elsewhere before. Hope this helps."

    The 20th Century:

  • Isaac Asimov: According to Philip Mundhenk, Isaac Asimov in one of his books (possibly the autobiography, I Asimov) mentions Rex Stout at one point as an example of another writer who could write very quickly & at another point compares his own home loving ways to those of Nero Wolfe.
  • Anita Blake:In the newsgroup rec.arts.sf.written JBM wrote, "In the latest Anita Blake ... she says she's not Nero Wolfe." Expanding: "_Obsidian Butterfly_ page 281 (at the top), she's being told that although she is being released from the hospital she is supposed to stay out of the action from now on and she asks does she look like Nero Wolfe and goes on to say she's not a stay at home kinda girl."
  • Ian Fleming: S. D. Randel pointed out that in Ian Fleming's James Bond novel On Her Majesty's Secret Service, we learn that Bond and M have both read the Wolfe books, and Bond, at least, likes them.
  • Donald E. Westlake. According to Greg McAllister, in Westlake's Somebody Owes Me Money the main character, named Chet, stuck in the middle of a murder, comments that he feels like Nero Wolfe- "Before long, everybody comes to see me."

    Details of any other Wolfe fan fiction or pop references welcomed at wrlouis@yahoo.com! I also have a guestbook, which you are welcome to view or sign.