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 [F] Mystery Net Community  / Mystery Greats  /

Nero Wolfe
 
We're curious if any other mystery buffs are addicted to Rex Stout. Is Wolfe truly an olympus of detection - compared with say, Poirot or Maigret?

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shailesh khadilkar - 02:44pm Sep 2, 1998 PST(#48 of 128)

Even though I love Nero Wolfe and Archie and Saul and Fred and Lon..... I do not think that Wolfe mysteries are very intriguing. Now, don't get me wrong, I own almost all the Nero Wolfe novels ever published, but, I did not buy them because they were good mysteries, I just happen to like the writing style of Rex Stout and narration of Archie. But, as far as quality of mystery goes I would give Rex Stout say 4 out of 10.


Paul W. - 11:29am Sep 11, 1998 PST(#49 of 128)

To Shailesh:

Yeah, I gotta admit it too. I grew up on Wolfe and Archie, and nobody admires 'em more than I do . . . but the style, the atmosphere, the dialogue is why we read and reread the Wolfe stories. The puzzle plotting was rarely of the dazzling kind where you smack your forehead and say "Why didn't I see that?", the kind you find in Ellery Queen or John Dickson Carr. Stout was a master of making things happen, as I wrote in an earlier post, but rarely did he use the real sleight-of-hand stuff. (Some exceptions are his novelettes "The Gun with Wings", "The Squirt and the Monkey", and "Die like a Dog", all from the '50s.)


Paul Bergin - 02:27pm Sep 11, 1998 PST(#50 of 128)

Since both of you kind of tiptoed around the main reason the puzzle/challenge to the reader aspect of the Wolfe novels is less than compelling, I guess it's up to me. Stout cheated! Frequently and flagrantly. He hid things from the reader and then sprung them out of left field in the final reckoning. Unlike Carr, say, or (today) Ed Hoch and to a certain extent (in some of his shorter non-Nameless work) Bill Pronzini, Stout did not play fair with the reader. I can think of only one Wolfe novel that can even remotely be called a fair-play mystery -- "Gambit." The characters, though. There was no cheating the reader in that respect.


hellerfan - 05:24pm Sep 12, 1998 PST(#51 of 128)

I agree that the writing of characters is the best part of Stout's talent. But his stories always had a basic plot in place. Who cares about the surprises? After the tenth read, they weren't surprises anymore!


Matthew Kreps - 11:15am Sep 13, 1998 PST(#52 of 128)

I think one reason why the Nero Wolfe stories don't hold up well as mysteries (for the most part) could be that Rex Stout never did rewrites. Most of those stories were first drafts. All were done in longhand. Now that admittedly is the legend. Does anyone know if it's true or not?


Paul W. - 02:14pm Sep 21, 1998 PST(#53 of 128)

After a rereading (something like my 10th over 30 years) of _The Golden Spiders_ (1952):

Yes, Stout does tend to plot a little haphazardly. The first 2/3 of this novel is about well-to-do people connected with something called the Association for the Assistance of Displaced Persons (though we are never told in so many words what a displaced person is). Suddenly, in a very exciting scene, Archie has a shootout with a gangster named "Lips" Egan in a parking garage. The connection between these two worlds is not made very clear, at least to me.

And the only clue to the identity of the murderer -- the only clue you and I are told about -- is a reference to the exact number of hours that have elapsed since the murder. He did this sort of thing pretty often. He usually gave us some kind of clue, but to have a whole novel-length mystery solution depend on something that tiny, by itself, is unfair.

But I love the books anyhow.

BTW, John McAleer wrote in his 1977 biography of Stout that he did indeed write the stories very quickly: something like 3 months for a novel and 6 weeks for a novelette, and only rarely rewrote. When you look at the high literary quality of the writing in the entire series, this is amazing. I don't recall if Stout did them in longhand, though.


Bill & Carla - 06:34pm Sep 25, 1998 PST(#54 of 128)

Sherlock Holmes is better myth, but Nero Wolfe is better written.


Jon Brigman - 09:57pm Oct 27, 1998 PST(#55 of 128)

I am a new fan of Nero Wolfe. I have been collecting the Rex Stout library eagerly but I'm having trouble finding some of the older books (and some newer ones too) Does anyone have any suggestions? Thanks!


Joanne - 05:39pm Nov 29, 1998 PST(#56 of 128)
"No one can make you feel inferior without your consent. " (Eleanor Roosevelt)

I have to be honest... The first thing that comes to my mind when I think of Nero Wolfe and Archie (and I do think of them as a pair) is the setting. I can still *picture* the orchid room, the stoop (outside stairs), the office and the secret viewer. I also enjoy the banter between the two of them - I think Archie sort of keeps Wolfe from getting too big an ego (I can't see Hastings or Watson acting like that with the two biggest egos of any fictional detectives I can think of.) Suggestions on reading any of these? Not really. Just keep an open mind, go with the flow, and don't expect them to be like any other detectives you might have read.


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