Monday, June 21, 2021

Mystery Monday: Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe

Mystery Monday: Nero Wolfe 

Thanks to television many of the Golden Age fictional detectives have not fallen into obscurity. One of those detectives is Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe. For those of you unfamiliar with Wolfe, he is an armchair sleuth. Literally. He remains in his luxurious New York City brownstone to solve crimes. Intriguingly, over the course of the stories, ten different addresses are given on West 35th Street, most of which are in the 900s which would have been in the Hudson River. 
Created in 1934 in Fer-de-Lance, Wolfe appeared in thirty-three novels and forty-one short stories and novellas. He addresses himself to the suspects in Fourth of July Picnic
“I was born in Montenegro (on the Adriatic Sea and part of the Balkans) and spent my 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.” 
According to a memo from Stout to his biographer, Wolfe is 5 ft 11 inches and weighed 272 pounds.
Archie Goodwin, narrator of the stories and Wolfe’s assistant often describes his boss as weighing a “seventh of a ton,” but by 1947 indicated “he weighs between 310 and 390, and he limits his physical movements to what he regards as the irreducible essentials.” Because of his unwillingness to leave his home, Archie does the legwork for the genius detective. 
Wolfe is a voracious reader, but his main hobby is tending orchids. He keeps a rigid personal schedule including four hours each day with his flowers. Clients are expected to accommodate themselves to the orchid schedule. In The League of Frightened Men, Archie notes, “Wolfe had once remarked to me that the orchids were his concubines: insipid, expensive, parasitic and temperamental.” The orchids and the orchid rooms are sometimes focal points of the stories. 

Food is the other delight in Wolfe’s life. He spends hours planning menus with Chef Fritz Brenner. Described as a gourmand and a gourmet, he has three generous meals a day, with shad roe being a particular favorite. Because of his love of haute cuisine, there are certain foods that never appear on the table, such as corned beef and rye bread or fried chicken, forcing Archie to head to one of New York’s restaurants to partake. The extent Wolfe takes his food seriously is indicated when Archie says in Gambit, “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.” 
Eccentricities include the refusal to wear anything that is even slightly soiled, an almost pathological dislike for the company of women, and an aversion to physical contact. 
Over the years, Wolfe has been brought to film, radio, and television in America, Germany, Italy, and Russia. He has been portrayed by Edward Arnold, Walter Connolly, Francis X. Bushman, Sydney Greenstreet, William Conrad, and Maury Chaykin. A pilot was shot for a TV series in 1959 starring Kurt Kaszner and Wolfe and William Shatner as Archie, but the project didn’t make it off the ground. 
Are you a Nero Wolfe fan? 


Murder at Madison Square Garden 

The dream of a lifetime becomes a nightmare. 
Photojournalist Theodora “Teddy” Schafer’s career has hit the skids thanks to rumors of plagiarism. With any luck, a photo spread with Charles Lindbergh at the America First Rally will salvage her reputation. After an attempted assassination of Lindbergh leaves another man dead, Teddy is left holding the gun. Literally. Can she prove her innocence before the police lock her up for a murder she didn’t commit? 
Private Investigator Ric Bogart wants nothing to do with women after his wife cleaned out their bank account and left him for another man, but he can’t ignore the feeling he’s supposed to help the scrappy, female reporter who is arrested for murder at the America First rally. Can he believe her claims of innocence and find the real killer without letting Teddy steal his heart?

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