Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Rex Stout

Stout is my favorite mystery writer. The best. Hands down. No hemming or hawing. I've read all the Nero Wolfe books multiple times, I've cooked from the Nero Wolfe cookbook, I've watched virtually every TV and movie adaptation. I just love them. One of the best things about them, and I wish more of today's authors could do this as well, is that it really doesn't matter where you start. Every one of them is a perfect introduction, and you don't have to have read some other one to figure out who's who and what's what.

The attraction, as with any great mystery series, is the characters. Of course there's Wolfe himself, all seventh of a ton of him, with Fritz and Theodore on the homefront, the legmen Saul, Fred and Orrie, the cigar chomping (but never smoking) Inspector Cramer, among others. But more than anything there is the magical voice of the narrator, Archie Goodwin. As Robert Hughes writes on

"Archie Goodwin's deceptively airy tone often masks a serious treatment of subjects from treason and anti-Semitism to, of course, murder. It's Archie we want to read. It's Archie who describes Wolfe's eccentricities, his splendid repasts, his choleric outbursts, his obsessions with orchid-growing. Were these described in the third-person, we'd have an interesting, but perhaps somewhat two-dimensional character, an assemblage of tics. But from Archie's perspective, and through Stout’s prose, we have an unforgettable personage, a true original."

For the full story on the books, and the incredible career of their creator, go to Rex Stout: An American Wit and Propagandist.

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