Rex Todhunter Stout, one of the nine children of John Wallace Stout and Lucetta Elizabeth Todhunter, was born in Noblesville, Indiana, on 1st December, 1886. Stout attended Topeka High School in Kansas, and the University of Kansas.
In 1906 Stout joined the U.S. Navy. He left after two years and he later claimed that over the next four years he worked at about thirty different jobs. His main ambition was to be a writer and sold several stories and articles in magazines. Stout made much more money from inventing a school banking system for which he received royalties. In 1916 he married Fay Kennedy and spent the next few years travelling around Europe.
On his return to the United States Stout became associated with liberal causes such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Stout became friends with Roger Baldwin, Scott Nearing, Oswald Garrison Villard, Norman Thomas, Jane Addams, Chrystal Eastman, Clarence Darrow, John Dewey, Abraham Muste, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn and Upton Sinclair. In 1925 Baldwin appointed him to the Board of the ACLU's powerful National Council on Censorship. Stout also contributed $4,000 to get the radical magazine, The New Masses, started. However, Michael Gold, the editor, allowed the magazine to become a strong supporter of the Soviet Union, and non-communists such as Stout, Max Eastman and Floyd Dell ceased to become involved in the journal.
Stout's first book, How Like a God, was published in 1929 while he was living in Paris. He returned to the United States and in 1934 published the political thriller, The President Vanishes (1934). The book concerns the mysterious disappearance of the president who was facing impeachment, over his foreign policy that might result in a war. It eventually becomes clear that the president has staged his own disappearance to counter an impending military coup. It was later argued that the novel was based on President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his problems with the political conspiracy alleged by Major General Smedley Butler in 1933. Jacques Barzun has argued: "To a reader of keener political-mindedness... this may be a sufficiently gripping tale. A peace-loving president, in a period of European anxiety about war, is kidnapped. The reason for the deed is as surprising as the perpetrator."
Later that year Stout published the detective novel, Fer-de-Lance. This introduced the public to Nero Wolfe and his assistant Archie Goodwin. It has been argued by Frederick Isaac that: "Rex Stout's Fer-de-Lance, then, may be said to have heralded the beginning of several eras. It was, first and foremost, the opening of one of America's best detective series, introducing Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin and their world to generations of readers. Second, Archie's presence raises serious questions about the possible roles that the detective's assistant could and should play in the investigative process, some of which remain open even today... Third, Wolfe and Archie began to redefine the relationship between the two traditions of the Great Detective and the hard-boiled sleuth ... By identifying both of these strands and personifying them in Wolfe and Archie, Stout challenged the world of detection to analyze itself. The genre has never been the same since." Stout followed the novel with other Nero Wolfe stories: The League of Frightened Men (1935), The Rubber Band (1936), The Red Box (1937), Too Many Cooks (1938) and Some Buried Caesar (1939).
Stout was a strong critic of Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Government and according to his biographer, John J. McAleer, the author of Rex Stout - A Majesty's Life (1977), Stout was an agent of the British Security Coordination (BSC) and helped them to establish the Fight for Freedom (FFF) organisation. "Rex Stout was not only an officer in the BSC front Friends of Democracy and a major spokesman for another BSC front, Fight for Freedom, he also admits to working directly for BSC agent Donald MacLaren." Peter Cusick, the Executive Secretary of the FFF, later recalled: "Rex Stout was the nicest angry man I knew in the Hitler period... His anger and brilliance contributed in an extraordinary way to the successful efforts of both the Committee and the Board to alert the country, as a whole, to existing dangers."
Thomas E. Mahl, the author of Desperate Deception: British Covert Operations in the United States, 1939-44 (1998), agrees: "Rex Stout, the mystery writer and interventionist who had worked long and diligently with the BSC front Friends of Democracy." Another member of the BSC, George Merten, later recalled: "Rex Stout deserves honor and credit for exposing himself at that time for a cause which was not too popular in influential, especially corporation quarters."
Other members of Fight for Freedom included Ulric Bell, (Executive Chairman), Peter Cusick (Executive Secretary), Allen W. Dulles, Joseph Alsop, Henry Luce, Dean G. Acheson, James P. Warburg, Marshall Field III, Fiorello LaGuardia, Lewis William Douglas, Carter Glass, Harold K. Guinzburg, Conyers Read, Spyros Skouras and Henry P. Van Dusen. The group also contained several journalists such as Herbert Agar (Louisville Courier-Journal), Geoffrey Parsons (New York Herald Tribune), Ralph Ingersoll (Picture Magazine) and Elmer Davis (CBS).
On 21st April, 1941, Stout made a speech in New York City where he attacked the activities of Charles Lindbergh: "I wish I could look you in the eye, Colonel Lindbergh, when I tell you that you simply don't know what it's all about.... A desperate war is being fought, and the winners of the war will win the oceans. No matter what we do, we shall be either one of the winners, or one of the losers; no shivering neutral will get a bite of anything but crow when the shooting stops. It would therefore seem to be plain imbecility not to go in with Britain and win.... Every fascist and pro-Nazi publication in America, without exception, applauds and approves of him.... Dozens of times in the past year he has been enthusiastically quoted in the newspapers of Germany and Italy and Japan."
Stout then went onto defend himself against the attacks he had received from America First Committee: "The America First Committee is calling people like me, who are convinced that we should go in with Britain now and win, a gang of warmongers.... If a 1941 warmonger is a man who advocates that we should immediately send warships and the men we have trained to sail them and shoot their guns, and airplanes and the boys we have trained to fly them and drop their bombs, send them to meet our acknowledged deadly enemy where he is, and attack him and defeat him, then count me in."
In 1941 BSC agent Donald MacLaren employed Rex Stout, George Merton (another BSC agent) and Sylvia Porter of the New York Post, to write a propaganda booklet entitled Sequel to the Apocalypse: The Uncensored Story: How Your Dimes and Quarters Helped Pay for Hitler's War. It was published in March 1942. Stout also hosted three weekly radio shows, and coordinated the volunteer services of American writers to help the war effort.
After the Second World War Rex Stout returned to writing Nero Wolfe novels. This included Instead of Evidence (1946), The Silent Speaker (1946), Too Many Women (1947), Before I Die (1947), More Deaths Than One (1948), Three Doors to Death (1949), Trouble in Triplicate (1949), The Second Confession (1949) and Disguise for Murder (1950).
Red Channels was published on 22nd June, 1950. Written by Ted C. Kirkpatrick, a former FBI agent and Vincent Hartnett, a right-wing television producer, it listed the names of 151 writers, directors and performers who they claimed had been members of subversive organisations before the Second World War but had not so far been blacklisted. Stout immediately condemned the publication of this document. A strong opponent of McCarthyism, Stout believed the activities of Joseph McCarthy helped Communism by making anti-Communism seem reactionary.
Rex Stout protested against the execution of Julius Rosenberg and Ethel Rosenberg. He was highly critical of Harry Gold, David Greenglass and Elizabeth Bentley, who had provided evidence against the Rosenbergs. As his biographer pointed out: "Gold had since admitted that he perjured himself. Greenglass, Ethel's brother, had been described by his own wife as a pathological liar. In a subsequent case, Elizabeth Bentley's status as an incorrigible liar was established to the satisfaction of the courts."
Other books during this period by Stout included The Golden Spiders (1953), Three Men Out (1954), The Black Mountain (1954), Before Midnight (1955), Three Witnesses (1956), Might as Well Be Dead (1956), Three for the Chair (1957), If Death Ever Slept (1957), The Final Deduction (1961), Homicide Trinity (1962) and The Mother Hunt (1963).
J. Edgar Hoover told his FBI agents to keep a close watch of Rex Stout. This probably dates back to the work he did with anti-fascist group in the 1930s that Hoover considered to be under the control of the American Communist Party. Hoover was also suspicious of his leadership of the Authors League of America that was a target of Joseph McCarthy.
Stout had also made it clear that he disapproved of Hoover who had discribed Martin Luther King as the "biggest liar in the world". Stout said that: "Hoover is a megalomaniac, although I detest that word. He appears totally egocentric, and in addition to other things he is narrow-minded. I think his whole attitude makes him an enemy of democracy... I think he is on the edge of senility."
It has been pointed out that about a third of Stout's FBI file is devoted to his 1965 novel, The Doorbell Rang. The novel concerns the publication of The FBI Nobody Knows (1964) by Fred J. Cook. In the novel, the wealthy Mrs. Rachel Bruner buys 10,000 copies of Cook's book and sends them to persons of influence, including cabinet members, Supreme Court justices, members of Congress and heads of corporations. Bruner believes that as a result of her actions she is being persecuted by the FBI and employs Nero Wolfe to investigate the organization.
Stout was someone who had grave doubts about the Warren Commission Report and created a great deal of controversy when he praised Rush to Judgment, a book on the assassination of John F. Kennedy by Mark Lane. He came under attack from several people, including George Field, who condemned the book as "undermining confidence in our democratic processes". Stout replied: "If the devil himself writes a book, and the publisher sends me an advance copy, asking for a quotable comment if I think it deserves one, and I read it and find it is a good job, I shall certainly say so. Also I regard Rush to Judgment as a useful contribution to a necessary controversy."
Rex Todhunter Stout died on 27th October, 1975.
On 9 April, when the Germans swept into Norway and Denmark, William Allen White hurried to New York, where he met with Clark Eichelberger, executive secretary of the Union of Concerted Peace Efforts. In September 1939, Eichelberger had persuaded White to accept chairmanship of the new Nonpartisan Committee for Peace. Now, together, they decided that a committee should be formed to help the Allies in all ways "short of war." At a luncheon at the University Club attended by White, Eichelberger, John Farrar, Elmer Davis, Harold Guinzberg, Rex, and others, the Nonpartisan Committee was reborn as the Committee to Defend America by Aiding the Allies. Again White was chairman; Rex was a charter member. When Hitler invaded the Low Countries on 10 May, the committee sought mass support. It got it. By 1 July, it had three hundred local chapters.
National headquarters of White's committee was in New York City. That fact was to become a problem for White. The nucleus of the New York chapter was the Century Club or "Miller Group," under the nominal leadership of Francis Pickens Miller, their executive secretary. Membership of this group included Ulric Bell, William Agar, Elmer Davis, John Balderston, Henry R. Luce, Robert Sherwood, Dean Acheson, Allan Dulles, Admiral W. H. Standley, George Field, Barry Bingham, James B. Conant, Harold Guinzberg, and Joseph Alsop. All went beyond White in believing in direct military intervention. If they did not advocate it openly, that was because they did not yet dare to. White was afraid their advanced demands would wreck the committee. He told a friend, "The New York committee is my hair shirt." White held on while the group promoted giving destroyers, fighter planes, torpedo boats, munitions, lend-lease, food, and credit to Britain, but hostile mail from isolationists at last unnerved him. In January i94i he retreated to the post of honorary chairman, and in April, when his committee advocated convoys to get supplies to Britain, he withdrew from it altogether.
Rex relished the militancy of the Miller Group and supported its campaigns. When the New York chapter of White's committee experienced yet another rebirth, as the Fight for Freedom Committee, Rex, at the invitation of Ulric Bell, was one of its sponsors.
As a man of business experience, Rex was an oddity in our circle. He was important to all of the people in that part of the culture in New York.... He was riding no hobby horse. Without propaganda, he stimulated the others in the group - a man of quiet, unspectacular influence. He didn't convert people, like Scott Nearing, or have them marching in parades, like Norman Thomas. He never went out on a picket line. He was secure enough financially with his home and his hobbies. He didn't need to exhibit himself.... He was much more self-sufficient than the people he went with. He had a rare sense of inner security.... Rex didn't need others to complete himself.... He didn't need to go where the crowd was. He never went around to get guidance from his friends - to find out how they were voting, how dealing with some current issue. You couldn't count on him to go along with the liberal line. He wouldn't jump on board because everyone else was backing Norman Thomas or Al Smith. Many of the others were fighting momma and poppa, striking out against the conservatism of their own families - fighting their past. Rex had none of those problems. He was supremely his own man.
I wish I could look you in the eye, Colonel Lindbergh, when I tell you that you simply don't know what it's all about.... It would therefore seem to be plain imbecility not to go in with Britain and win....
If we do not see to it that our ships and planes and guns get across the Atlantic where they can
fulfill the purpose they were made for, we are saying for all the world to hear, "You've got our number, Mr. Hitler, you were perfectly correct when you said years ago that Americans were too soft and decadent and timid ever to stop you on your way to world conquest."
Every fascist and pro-Nazi publication in America, without exception, applauds and approves of him.... Dozens of times in the past year he has been enthusiastically quoted in the newspapers of Germany and Italy and Japan....
Charles Lindbergh is one of the minor tragedies of America. In 1927, twenty-five years old, he was the blue-eyed darling of a hundred million of us, the flaming and indomitable knight of the new element we were conquering, the air. In 1941, thirty-nine years old, he is a middle-aged sourpuss who apparently thinks that we scattered that thousand tons of confetti on him in those glorious days of May because we had found a hero who played it safe, who refused to confront danger like a man.
The America First Committee is calling people like me, who are convinced that we should go in with Britain now and win, a gang of warmongers.... If a 1941 warmonger is a man who advocates that we should immediately send warships and the men we have trained to sail them and shoot their guns, and airplanes and the boys we have trained to fly them and drop their bombs, send them to meet our acknowledged deadly enemy where he is, and attack him and defeat him, then count me in.
In the fall of 1941 Rex had been approached by Donald MacLaren, an agent of the British Security Co-ordination, working under William Stevenson, the brilliant Canadian who was later knighted for his work as head of the British Intelligence Center in New York and for other wartime activities. The B.S.C. asked Rex to help with an expose it was preparing which would show how the Nazis were using the money of American consumers, with L.G. Farben as its transmission belt, to help finance Hitler's war. Rex pledged full cooperation. John L. Balderston, an active member of the FFFC, was enlisted to prepare a booklet setting forth the information Stevenson's sources had gathered .Much of the gathering was done by MacLaren, George Merten, and economist Sylvia Porter. When the text was completed, Rex wrote a foreword for it. Then the manuscript was taken to Canada, where it was secretly printed on Camp X presses. As soon as it was ready for distribution, the booklet was smuggled back into the United States.
Merten says: "On the eve of the publication we organized a public meeting in Elizabeth, New Jersey, being near the site of the American Merck Company, one of those involved in close cooperation with the Germans. As the only speaker at the meeting, which was quite well attended, Rex Stout gave an outline of the problems dealt with in the booklet". The speech was given just two days after Pearl Harbor. Though lengthy, it was graphic. Rex knew that his audience was comprised mostly of German-Americans. lie said he was sorry that some of them were going to be suspected of disloyalty. "There is nothing more exasperating, nothing that so fills a man with helpless rage and resentment," he said, "as to be made the target of unjust suspicion and the unjust treatment that results from it." He explained why they would be the target of such accusations. Hitler had said: "Germany is wherever a German is." In nearby Linden, Rex pointed out, the General Aniline and Film Corporation, second largest manufacturer of photographic equipment in America, third largest manufacturer of dyes and chemicals, owned by LG Farben, was controlled by the Schmitzes and the Duisbergs, who had laid the groundwork for World War II. Rex warned that unless G.A.F. was truly Americanized, Americans, even after Hitler's downfall, would be working still for the sinister German forces that connived for world dominion.
Presiding at the Authors' League Council's meeting on 7 January, Rex took a major role in formulating a statement deploring the reckless blacklisting of writers by Red Channels, a booklet published in 1950 by Theodore Kirkpatrick, editor of the magazine Counter Attack. Red Channels had linked numerous radio and TV personnel with left-wing causes and had set in motion a major witch-hunt. The League argued that the acceptance or rejection of a writer's work should be decided by its merits, not by his alleged affiliations. At the same time, Rex appealed to Wayne Coy, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, to call a hearing on the blacklisting of writers by radio and TV stations. He hoped that if the light of reason was brought to bear on the situation, the hysteria would subside....
On 18 January 1953, the playwright Maxwell Anderson wrote to The New York Times suggesting that the Authors' League had unleashed general confusion by defending all radio and television writers listed in Red Channels - the guilty and innocent alike. He urged that the League set up a board to sift them out. "Every American Communist," he said, "is a traitor to his country and has forfeited the right to be heard." Rex, on 25 January, reminded Anderson that he himself had been present the year before when the League had drafted a statement of its position and had supported it. That statement continued to be League policy. As much as he deplored Communism, Rex would not use his office as League president to create a Star Chamber. He was still sailing his course between the Scylla of McCarthyism and the Charybdis of Communism.
The American people must be taught the nature of our enemy in order to eliminate the possibility of a premature peace.... The chief difficulty to any peace in this world is not the momentary, spasmodic vices of the Nazis but the inherent anti-democratic traits in the German character. We must understand them in order to convince them that the only way to get along in this world is to cooperate with democracy. If we could convince them by giving each of them a copy of the Declaration of Independence, that would be fine. If we can only convince them by killing twenty million of them, we must do that.
Rex Stout, Creator of Nero Wolfe, Dead
Rex Stout creator of Nero Wolfe died yesterday of natural causes at his home in Milltown Road, Danbury, Conn. He was 88 years old and had published last month his 46th Wolfe mystery “A Family Affair,”
In the gothic world of the mystery‐murder‐detective novel the doyen of American practitioners was Rex Todhunter Stout a wiry, goat‐bearded, argumentative, intense, immodest, highly talented artisan. His principal handiwork was Wolfe, a Falstaff in girth land wit, a serious eater, a devoted orchidologist, an agoraphobe who solved crimes by sheer brainpower, albeit with the help of a brash but efficient legman, Archie Goodwin
Nero Wolfe made his dazzling debut in 1934, when hiscreator was 47 years of age. And from then on the 286‐pound, sedentary sleuth tri‐ umphed over a variety of venal forces that included the Federal Bureau of Investigation. He accomplished these feats between beers in a brownstone on West 35th Street, near the Hudson River,
that had a hothouse on the roof. Dispensing with crime laboratories and the like, he relied on old‐fashioned logic of the sort practiced by Sherlock Holmes, the vowels in whose name were identical to Nero Wolfe's, even to their order.
Mr. Stout's Nero Wolfe books, most of them published by Viking Press, appeared in 22 languages and sold a total of more than 45 million copies. They made their author happily wealthy, for he agreed with Samuel Johnson that “no man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money.” An he wrote economically.
“I write for 39 consecutive days each year,” he said. “I figure on six weeks for a book but I shave it down.”
“Before starting,” he explained on another occasion, “I do put up in front of me a handwritten list of characters, but I've never written out a single word of any plot.
“The plots come when I'm shaving, watering the plants, puttering around. Sometimes I think of them for three weeks, sometimes for three days. If you keep the main facts firmly in mind, and you don't let anything contradict you, you can move around freely.”
Concentrating on his typewriter, he did not even stop to water his 300 house plants, a chore he delegated to wife. “I don't drink when I'm, writing because it fuddles my logical processes,” he also confided, adding:
“But When finish a book I go down to the kitchen and pour‐myself a big belt.”
Mr. Stout was frequently asked about the origins of Nero Wolfe. A believer in the potency of the subconscious, he insisted that “Nero Wolfe just appeared—I don't know a thing about him.” Others, however, offered explanations, including Alexander Woollcott, a friend of Mr. Stout's, who was certain that he had been plagiarized bodily. The critic and wit cited his physical resemblance to Nero Wolfe and their common distaste for exercise. Indeed, Mr. Woollcott fell to referring to himself as Nero and to al close friend and companion as Archie.
Christopher Morley, a Sherlock Holmes expert, argued that Nero Wolfe was patterned on, Mycroft Holmes, the fat and gifted younger brother of Sherlock.
Likened to Robot
And Alva Johnston, in a profile of Mr. Stout in The New Yorker a number of years ago, likened the detective to Ajeeb, a robot of the eighteennineties that appeared to beat all corners at chess. “He was thrown open from time to time so that the public could peer into his interior,” Mr. Johnston wrote. “But In spite of every appearance of being an honest, clean‐living machine Ajeeb had a guilty secret. He had a little man concealed about his clockwork person, the Great Pillsbury, one of the chess masters of the period.”
Mr. Johnston speculated that “the colossal Nero Wolfe” was like Ajeeb because Mr. Stout was concealed about his person all the time. Most students of Mr. Stout agreed with Mr. Johnston when he wrote:
“Nero is odd and a trifle grotesque because he has all the foibles and peculiarities of the man inside him. The fat detective can't help being a knowing and versatile operator, since he gets his stuff from the variegated exporience of the author, who has been, among other things, banker. yacht Mayflower, boss of 3,000 writers of propaganda in World War II, gentleman farmer and dirt farmer, big businessman, cigar salesman, pueblo guide, hotel manager, architect, cabinet maker, pulp and slick, magazine writer, propagandist, for world government, crow trainer, jumping‐pig trainer, mammoth — pumpkin grower, conversationalist, politician, orator, potted‐plant wizard, gastronome, musical amateur, president of the Author's Guild, usher, ostler and pamphleteer.”
Boyhood in Kansas
This jack‐of‐all‐trades was born in Noblesville, Ind., on Dec. 1, 1886, the sixth of nine children of John and Lucetta Todhunter Stout, both Quakers. Shortly after Rex's birth, the family moved to Wakarusa, Kan., and the boy was educated at a country school.
A prodigy in arithmetic, he was a public character in Kansas and was exhibited all over the state by the age of 9. The boy was blindfolded while someone wrote a long column of figures on a blackboard. Then the blindfold was removed and he was turned around, and within a few seconds he could give the correct total.
Fearing that his personality would be warped, Rex's parents called a halt to the exhibitions and took him out of school for a time. In this period he finished reading his way through his father's library‐1,200 volumes of biography, history, philosphy and fiction.
After graduation from Topeka High School (he won a statewide spelling contest while there) and a brief stay at the University of Kansas, Mr. Stout joined the Nayy and spent the hext two years playing whist on President Theodore Roosevelt's yacht with seven warrant Officers in need of an eighth. Tiring of cards, he purchased his discharge in 1908 and for the next four years he roamed the United States.
In this period he drifted into magazine writing, with articles and stories in Munsey's and Everybody's and from 1912 to 1916 he cranked out a potboiler a month. He spent his fees more rapidly than he collected them, so he decided to quit writing (“I just got tired of having a date and no money for my laundry”) for a more lucrative job until he hit upon the notion of selling bankers child depositors. From that to the formation of the Educational Thrift System was only a brief step. Mr. Stout's deal with the hankers provided that they would pay him so much a child a year, with him furnishing the children and the bankbooks. The children provided the pennies for a weekly Bank Day, held In schools, that was to teach thrift and the decimal system at the same time.
The scheme was so successful (bankers were delighted to he cast as benefactors of the young) that Mr. Stout was able to retire with $400,000 in 1927 and go to Paris to write serious fiction. His first novel, “How Like a God,” appeared in 1929 and provoked favorable comment, as did his next three, “Seed on the Wind,” “Golden Remedy” and “Forest Fire.”
The Depression, however, reduced the author's fortune (his psychological novels were not financial successes) and he sought a way to make some quick money with his typewriter.
The detective novel proved! the solution, for his first Nero Wolfe book, “Fer‐de‐Lance,” came out ir 1934 and brought in solid cash.
It was followed by many others, including, before World War II, “The League of Frightened Men,” “The Rubber Band” and “Too Many Cooks.” These established Nero Wolfe as at least an equal to Erie Stanley Gardner's Perry Mason, who made his fictional bow in 1933, and gave Mr. Stout an excellent income that permitted him and his second wife, the former Pola Hoffman, to build a 14‐room) house on a faunlike estate near Brewster, N.Y. He had married Miss Hoffman, a fabrics designer, in 1932 after he and his first wife were divorced.
The war slowed down Mr. Stout's detective fiction, as he carried on a personal campaign against Hitlerism. He joined such organizations as Fight for Freedom, the Council for Democracy and the Committee to Defend America by Aiding the Allies. He became master of ceremonies on the radio program “Speaking of Liberty’ in 1941, and during the war he had a hand in several national radio programs that debunked Nazi propaganda.
As chairman of the War Writers Board, he was a frequent and eloquent speaker at forums and rallies across the country. His pleas for a hard peace for Germany embroiled him in an acrimonious debate with Dorothy Thompson, the columnist, that was publicly settled when Mr. Stout conceded that there were a few “good” Germans.
After the war Mr. Stout turned his attention to mobilizing public opinion against the use of thermonuclear devices in war. He also advocated world government, or federation, as a means of insuring international peace.
In addition, Mr. Stout resumed his Nero Wolfe novels in earnest and his gentlemanfarming at High Meadow. He exhibited his products at the Danbury (Conn.) Fair over the years and sometime won prizes for his pumpkins and peaches.
Among the postwar whodunits were “The Silent Speaker,” “The Golden Spiders,” “If ‘Death Ever Slept” and “The Mother Hunt.” These and Mr. Stout's other mystery novels were celebrated in a learned essay by Jacques Barzun of Columbia University in a tribute to the author on his 79th birthday, in 1965. He described Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin as “this sublime duet of Don Quixote and a glamorized Sancho Panza who go tilting together against evil.
Of all the Nero Wolfe books, “The Doorbell Rang,” published in 1965, was the author's most controversial, for its villain was the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which he had long considered an “odious, overbearing and unprincipled” organization. In his review of the book for The New York Times, Anthony Boucher called “the duel between the private detective and the government forces a delight in high‐comedy melodrama,” but added that “purely as a detective story it is of Stout's weakest.”
Typical of His Style
At the conclusion of the book Mr. Stout paid off his dislike of J. Edgar Hoover, the F.B.I. director, in the following scene, which was typical of his writing style. The narrator is Archie Goodwin.
“The doorbell rang. I got up and went to the hall and saw a character on the stoop I had never seen before, but I had seen plenty of pictures of him. I stepped back in and said, ‘Well, well. The big fish.’
“He [Nero Wolfe] frowned at me, then got it, and did something he never does. He left his chair and came. We stood side by side, looking. The caller put a finger to the button, and the doorbell rang.
“'No appointment,’ I said. ‘Shall I take him to the front room to wait a while?’
“ ‘No. I have nothing for him. Let him get a sore finger.’ He turned and went back to his desk.
“I stepped in. ‘He probably came all the way from Washington just to see you. Quite an honor.’
“'Pfui. Come and finish this.’
“The doorbell rang.”
For many years Mr. Stout was a leader in the Authors Guild. As such, he was active in its efforts to win better contract terms with publishers and improvements in the copyright law add in Its attempts to gain freedom for writers imprisoned in other countries for their political views.
Agile and with his Ancient Mariner eyes undimmed, Mr. Stout was rarely idle in his 80's. Among his Wolfe books published in that decade was “Please Pass the Guilt.” which pleased both his gastronomic readers and his mystery fans.
Mr. Stout leaves his wife two daughters, Barbara Selleck and Rebecca Bradbury two sisters, Ruth and Mary Stout, and five grandchildren. There Will be no public service.
Born in 1886, the sixth of nine children, Rex Todhunter Stout was a babe in his mother's arms when he came to Kansas. The family settled in 1887 on a 40-acre farm near Wakarusa. Before his seventh birthday young Rex had read all 1,200 books in his father's library, which included the Encyclopedia Britannica and the Holy Bible. Rex's father, John Wallace Stout, taught school in Shawnee County for six years. In 1895 he was appointed county superintendent of schools and moved his family to Topeka.
Young Rex, who later achieved fame as creator of the Nero Wolfe detective stories, was short of stature but long on brains. He took delight in correcting his teachers or challenging them to furnish proof of certain statements, which hardly endeared him to teachers. Stout's biographer, John McAleer of Boston College, dubbed his subject during his high school years, 1899 - 1903, as "Mr. Know-It-All in Knee Pants."
In 1905, two years out of high school, Rex enlisted in the navy as a yeoman and was assigned to the presidential yacht, The Mayflower . His duties there were purely of a clerical nature but when home on leave, he gave the Topeka Daily Capital an account of his exploits in the navy that indicated Rex's flair for fiction.
Buying his early discharge from the navy, Stout started writing short stories and poetry while living in New York City. When Nero Wolfe first appeared in 1934 the great detective was kitchen-testing prohibition beer, and 42 volumes later, he was deploring the outrage of Watergate. During the last decade of Stout's life, he had more books in print than any other American author. At the time of his death, the New York Times stated the Nero Wolfe books had appeared in 22 languages and sold more than 45 million copies. Rex Stout died October 27, 1975, at the age of 88.
Entry: Stout, Rex
Author: Kansas Historical Society
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Date Modified: January 2013
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Reception and influence [ edit | edit source ]
If he had done nothing more than to create Archie Goodwin, Rex Stout would deserve the gratitude of whatever assessors watch over the prosperity of American literature. For surely Archie is one of the folk heroes in which the modern American temper can see itself transfigured.
— Jacques Barzun ⎘]
Awards and recognition [ edit | edit source ]
- In his seminal 1941 work, Murder for Pleasure, crime fiction historian Howard Haycraft included the first two Nero Wolfe novels, Fer-de-Lance and The League of Frightened Men, in his list of the most influential works of mystery fiction. ⎙]
- In 1958, Rex Stout became the 14th president of the Mystery Writers of America. ΐ] :428
- In 1959, Stout received the MWA's prestigious Grand Master Award, which represents the pinnacle of achievement in the mystery field. ΐ] :429 ⎚]
- In January 1969, the Crime Writers Association selected Stout as recipient of its Silver Dagger Award for The Father Hunt, which it named "the best crime novel by a non-British author in 1969." ΐ] :499
- The Nero Wolfe corpus was nominated Best Mystery Series of the Century at the Bouchercon XXXI mystery convention, and Rex Stout was nominated Best Mystery Writer of the Century. ⎛][lower-alpha 6]
- In 2014, Rex Stout was selected to the New York State Writers Hall of Fame.
Cultural references [ edit | edit source ]
"A number of the paintings of René Magritte (1898–1967), the internationally famous Belgian painter, are named after titles of books by Rex Stout," wrote Harry Torczyner, Magritte's attorney and friend. ΐ] :578 [lower-alpha 7] [lower-alpha 8] "He read Hegel, Heidegger and Sartre, as well as Dashiell Hammett, Rex Stout and Georges Simenon," the Times Higher Education Supplement wrote of Magritte. "Some of his best titles were 'found' in this way." ⎝] Magritte's 1942 painting Les compagnons de la peur ("The Companions of Fear") bears the title given to The League of Frightened Men (1935) when it was published in France by Gallimard (1939). It is one of Magritte's series of "leaf-bird" paintings, created during the Nazi occupation of Brussels. It depicts a stormy, mountainous landscape in which a cluster of plants has metamorphosed into a group of vigilant owls. ⎞]
Rex Stout Archive [ edit | edit source ]
The Rex Stout Archive anchors Boston College's collection of American detective fiction. ⎟] The collection was donated by the Stout family and includes manuscripts, correspondence, legal papers, personal papers, publishing contracts, photographs, and ephemera. It also includes first editions, international editions, and archived reprints of Stout's books, as well as volumes from Stout's personal library, many of which found their way into Nero Wolfe's office. The comprehensive archive at Burns Library also includes the extensive personal collection of Stout's official biographer John McAleer, and the Rex Stout collection of bibliographer Judson C. Sapp. ⎠]
Rex Todhunter Stout (1886 – 1975) was an American crime writer, best known as the creator of the larger-than-life fictional detective Nero Wolfe, described by reviewer Will Cuppy as "that Falstaff of detectives." Wolfe&aposs assistant Archie Goodwin recorded the cases of the detective genius from 1934 (Fer-de-Lance) to 1975 (A Family Affair).
The Nero Wolfe corpus was nominated Best Mystery Series of the Century at Bouchercon 2000, the world&aposs largest mystery convention, and Rex Stout was nominated Best Mystery Writer of the Century.
Rex Todhunter Stout (1886 – 1975) was an American crime writer, best known as the creator of the larger-than-life fictional detective Nero Wolfe, described by reviewer Will Cuppy as "that Falstaff of detectives." Wolfe's assistant Archie Goodwin recorded the cases of the detective genius from 1934 (Fer-de-Lance) to 1975 (A Family Affair).
The Nero Wolfe corpus was nominated Best Mystery Series of the Century at Bouchercon 2000, the world's largest mystery convention, and Rex Stout was nominated Best Mystery Writer of the Century.
Rex Stout - History
[an asterisk * denotes a collection of novelettes]
[two asterisks ** denote a volume or item that does not feature Archie Goodwin and Nero Wolfe]
Seven quotations by Rex Stout (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7) have been chosen as mottoes for this Book of Quotations . Beside the current webpage, you might want to take a look at this alternative overview of links to Rex Stout texts, quotations, audio recordings, and the mottoes.
New Version of This Webpage!
You are currently viewing the old version of this webpage. The entire Avenarius’ Book of Quotations is currently (started in 2007) being re-made into a wiki (using the same software as Wikipedia). The wiki format of Avenarius’ Book of Quotations will enable all visitors of these pages to add favourite quotations of their own to all collections already available, or to create their own collections of favourite excerpts from whatever works and authors they deem worth quoting.
Please visit the all-new Rex Stout profile webpage in the wiki format! You are free to contribute to the new version of this page yourself! All the content from this, the old version of the Rex Stout page, will be transferred to the new version of the page over time. In fact, feel free to go ahead and do so yourself if you can spare a minute. Plus, exciting new content has already been added to the Rex Stout page in the new format, so make sure to check it out.
On This Webpage
Here is a list of collections of Rex Stout quotations already included in Avenarius’ Book of Quotations :
Collections of quotations from the following Rex Stout volumes are forthcoming:
The League of Frightened Men (1935)
The Rubber Band (1936)
The Red Box (1937)
Some Buried Caesar (1939)
** Red Threads (1939)
** Double for Death (1939)
Over My Dead Body (1940)
Where There’s a Will (1940)
* Black Orchids (1942)
* Not Quite Dead Enough (1944)
The Silent Speaker (1946)
And Be a Villain (1948)
The Second Confession (1949)
* Trouble in Triplicate (1949)
In the Best Families (1950)
* Three Doors to Death (1950)
Murder by the Book (1951)
Prisoner’s Base (1952)
* Triple Jeopardy (1952)
The Golden Spiders (1953)
* Three Witnesses (1956)
If Death Ever Slept (1957)
* Three for the Chair (1957)
Champagne for One (1958)
* And Four to Go (1958)
Plot It Yourself (1959)
Too Many Clients (1960)
* Homicide Trinity (1962)
The Mother Hunt (1963)
A Right To Die (1964)
The Doorbell Rang (1965)
Death of a Doxy (1966)
The Father Hunt (1968)
Death of a Dude (1969)
Please Pass the Guilt (1973)
A Family Affair (1975)
* [Death Times Three] (1985)
There are, in all, 33 Nero Wolfe / Archie Goodwin full-length novels, published by Rex Stout inbetween 1934 and 1975. (See the complete list of Nero Wolfe full-length novels further down on this webpage.) That is a span of 41 years Rex Stout was between 48 and 89 years old when he wrote his famous yarns! In addition to the 33 full-length Nero Wolfe novels, there are 14 collections of Nero Wolfe / Archie Goodwin short novels (novelettes) that, combined, contain 41 Nero Wolfe short novels. (See the complete list of Nero Wolfe novelettes further down on this webpage.) That means an average of one Nero Wolfe short novel per one year of Nero Wolfe writing! In total numbers, there are 74 various Wolfe/Goodwin yarns published in 47 various volumes. Isn’t that interesting?
However, two pairs from among the 41 novelettes are, in each instance, two different versions of the same story. ›Frame-Up for Murder‹ (1958/1985), which might well be nominated for the best Wolfe short story ever written, is an expansion of ›Murder Is No Joke‹ (1958) and ›Assault on a Brownstone‹ (/1985) is an early, very differently plotted version of ›Counterfeit for Murder‹ (1959/1962). Even so, all four of these stories are worth reading I mean, worth rereading as nearly everything Stout ever wrote about Wolfe.
Quotations from the following Nero Wolfe novelettes are forthcoming:
›Assault on a Brownstone‹ (/1985)
›Bitter End‹ (1940/1985)
›Before I Die‹ (1947/1949)
›Black Orchids‹ (1942)
›Booby Trap‹ (1944)
›Christmas Party‹ (1957/1958)
›The Cop-Killer‹ (1951/1952)
›Cordially Invited to Meet Death‹ (1942)
›Counterfeit for Murder‹ (1959/1962)
›Death of a Demon‹ (1961/1962)
›Die Like a Dog‹ (1954/1956)
›Door to Death‹ (1949/1950)
›Easter Parade‹ (1957/1958)
›Eeny Meeny Murder Mo‹ (1962)
›Fourth of July Picnic‹ (1957/1958)
›Frame-Up for Murder‹ (1958/1985)
›Help Wanted, Male‹ (1945/1949)
›Home to Roost‹ (1952)
›Immune to Murder‹ (1955/1957)
›Instead of Evidence‹ (1946/1949)
›Man Alive‹ (1947/1950)
›Murder Is No Joke‹ (1958)
›The Next Witness‹ (1955/1956)
›Not Quite Dead Enough‹ (1942/1944)
›Omit Flowers‹ (1948/1950)
›The Squirt and the Monkey‹ (1951/1952)
›Too Many Detectives‹ (1956/1957)
›When a Man Murders‹ (1954/1956)
›A Window for Death‹ (1956/1957)
Where there are two years of publication given, the first digit denotes the year of publication in a magazine, while the second digit denotes the first publication of that story in book form, in one of Rex Stout’s customary collections of novelettes. The one digit in square brackets denotes the year of writing of a novelette that only got published for the first time in Rex Stout’s posthumous collection of novelettes, Death Times Three. There are in total 14 Nero Wolfe collections of novelettes, including the posthumous volume 11 collections contain 3 Nero Wolfe novelettes each, while And Four to Go contains (guess how many!) novelettes and the earliest two collections, Black Orchids and Not Quite Dead Enough, contain only a pair of short novels each.
Four additional sections of quotations will be set up on this site:
Rex Stout’s Miscellaneous quotations
Rex Stout’s Worst quotations
Quoted By Rex Stout
Others About Rex Stout
Rex Stout and Pola Stout photographed in 1944
The Other Rex Stout
After studying all of Wolfes, I wouldn’t like to neglect the many writings Rex Stout produced prior to his days of Nero Wolfe fame. After all, Stout was almost in his fifties when, in 1934, he came up with that fabulous first Wolfe novel, Fer-de-Lance. (In fact, it may well be the finest Nero Wolfe volume of them all!) And, Stout had exhibited signs of genius since his earliest childhood his IQ was in the 190s.
Rex Stout’s non-Wolfe writings may be roughly divided into the following four groups:
A common error in perception of Rex Stout’s writings is to confuse, or mingle, the second with the third category in the list of the four groups of non-Wolfe writings just given above. Yet Rex Stout’s (four, it seems) “serious” genre novels (beginning with How Like a God, 1929), written in the late 1920s and early 1930s, just before Stout commenced his Nero Wolfe œuvre in Fer-de-Lance (1934), must be very different in nature, and possibly also in quality of writing, from his juvenilia: stories from “pulp” magazines of the 1910s decade or adventure novels such as Under the Andes (1914).
There is a gap of a decade and a half between the two sets of stories. It is preposterous to judge one set after only reading a sample from the other set. Yet this is commonly done, in ignorance, by many Nero Wolfe enthusiasts who quickly dismiss any non-Wolfe book by Rex Stout simply because it does not feature Wolfe, or because it (the adventure novel Under the Andes, to give an example) is esteemed to be of low quality and, on the basis of this single work written by Stout when he was in his late 20s, these readers believe they can judge and dismiss (without having read) How Like a God, written when Stout was 43 (!) years old, after his Paris stay of several years – and only a few years prior to his first and exquisite Wolfe novel, Fer-de-Lance.
It is important to note that Rex Stout’s four “serious” genre novels had been praised by contemporary literary criticism (both ›The New York Times‹ and ›The New York Herald Tribune‹ lauded How Like a God, 1929), even though the novels failed to catch the attention of a wide reading public. It is high time for these four “serious” Rex Stout novels to be re-examined and re-assessed (in terms of literary quality) today, in the 21st century. I can only speak in conjectures here for while it is next to impossible to get one’s hands on all Nero Wolfe volumes in Central Europe, you can entirely forget about finding, or even borrowing for a few days, Rex Stout’s non-Wolfe & non-mystery & non-juvenilia writings here this is yet another obstacle facing Rex Stout scholars in these parts of Europe.
Non-Wolfe Mystery Novels
** The Hand in the Glove (1937, featuring Dol Bonner)
** Red Threads (1939, featuring Inspector Cramer in a supporting role )
** Double for Death (1939, featuring Tecumseh Fox)
** The Mountain Cat Murders (1939)
** Bad for Business (1940, featuring Tecumseh Fox)
** The Broken Vase (1941, featuring Tecumseh Fox)
** The Sound of Murder (1941, featuring Alphabet Hicks)
Here again one encounters a common error in judgment on the part of the reading public: the superb novel Red Threads (on a par with the best of Wolfes!) is often termed “an Inspector Cramer mystery”. Yet that is wrong, for Cramer only appears as a supporting cast member in Red Threads, and is even less noticeable here than in most Nero Wolfe stories. Red Threads is an exquisite romantic mystery novel and the role of a (non-professional) detective is performed by a native-American character (not Tecumseh Fox – Fox only sports a native-American name). The only other non-Wolfe mystery volume I’ve been able to find and read thus far (August 2004) is Double for Death featuring Tecumseh Fox despite Stout’s own praise for this novel’s plot, I found the book dull and, indeed, a waste of time to read. It is difficult to guess what the remaining five non-Wolfe mysteries by Stout might be in terms of literary quality: disappointments like Double for Death, or hidden gems like Red Threads?
According to several web sites (for instance, an outstanding Czech Rex Stout bibliography), there are two non-Wolfe short mysteries from the 1950s that have never been published in book form: ›Tough Cop’s Gift‹ and ›By His Own Hand‹, the latter featuring Alphabet Hicks (the stories’ alternate titles can be located in this list). I am unable to verify this claim as the stories are not accessible.
“Serious” Rex Stout Novels
** How Like a God (1929)
** Seed on the Wind (1930)
** Golden Remedy (1931)
** Forest Fire (1933)
A commentary on these novels is above. I may have got the number of this sort of Rex Stout novels wrong, may have included what shouldn’t be in this category or omitted what should have. (There currently seems to be no way to verify the categorization, as the books are unavailable.) If you can correct an error in the categorization of Rex Stout’s writings on this webpage, please drop a line to [email protected] .
Rex Stout, aged 20,
on board of the presidential yacht Mayflower, 1906
Adventure Novels / Juvenilia
** Her Forbidden Knight (1913)
** Under the Andes (1914)
** A Prize for Princes (1914)
** The Great Legend (1916)
** The President Vanishes (1934)
** O Careless Love! (1935)
** A Question of Proof (1935)
** Mr. Cinderella (1938)
** [Justice Ends at Home, and Other Stories] (1977)
Once more, I am not certain whether all the titles listed above really belong in this category I have not read any of them, although the full text of Under the Andes can be downloaded for free from the Internet. (Nevertheless, it appears hazardous to read the novel before one has acquainted oneself with all the Nero Wolfes!) Similarly available are the full texts of nine Rex Stout juvenilia short stories, expertly prepared for Internet presentation in 1998 by Geoffrey Sauer (disclaimer for all external links on this webpage and web site):
The reputation of these items of juvenilia or adventure varies. Under the Andes and A Prize for Princes (both re-issued on paper in book form in recent years, and purchasable via online bookstores like Amazon) are, by some accounts, supposed to be trashy. But are they? Let each reader find out for himself or herself by examining the links above. At the very least, some Amazon reviewers said they were delighted by the quality of writing found in the short stories from the “pulps” (see the nine links above) that were posthumously collected and published (with a foreword by John McAleer) in book form in 1977 under the title Justice Ends at Home, and Other Stories.
Rex Stout Miscellanea
** < Rex Stout’s Top 10 Favourite Mysteries > (1938-47 ? /1951/1956)
** ›Watson Was a Woman‹ (1941)
** The Illustrious Dunderheads (1942, edited by Rex Stout)
** Rue Morge, No. 1 (1946, edited by Rex Stout)
›Why Nero Wolfe Likes Orchids‹ (1963/1977)
** The Nero Wolfe Cookbook (1973, by Rex Stout and the editors
of Viking Press)
** ›An Informal Interview with Rex Stout‹ (/1977)
[Corsage: A Bouquet of Rex Stout and Nero Wolfe] (1977)
It would be downright criminal for you to miss Rex Stout’s hilarious, then-scandalous speech ›Watson Was a Woman‹, given in 1941 at a ›Baker Street Irregulars‹ meeting – especially when the full text of the speech is only a click away from you. It is unclear as to what exactly might be contained in the two volumes edited by Stout they are out of reach of the researcher. The Nero Wolfe Cookbook is a collection of Fritz Brenner recipes culled from the canon, garnered with lots of period photographs and, on every page, quotations from Stout’s original Nero Wolfe stories. ›Why Nero Wolfe Likes Orchids‹ is an essay that first appeared in ›Life‹ magazine (19 April 1963) and was written by Stout under the penname ‘Archie Goodwin’. Corsage, a small-print and limited-edition publication (by Jim Rock) of 1977, beside a reprint of the Goodwin essay contains the transcript of an original “informal” interview with the 86-year-old Rex Stout, conducted by Michael Bourne on 18 July 1973 in Stout’s home in New York and the first appearance, in book form, of the premier Nero Wolfe & Archie Goodwin novelette, ›Bitter End‹ (magazine publication in 1940).
Further, as Stout was a politically and socially active person (especially during and after World War II and during the McCarthy era), appearing, for instance, as the master of ceremonies of the anti-fascist ›Speaking of Liberty‹ radio program (for the first time in 1941), it is likely that there remains a (perhaps substantial) number of Rex Stout texts (or transcripts) that to this day have not been collected in their entirety and thus still await publication.
• John McAleer: Rex Stout: A Majesty’s Life. An Edgar-winning bottomless treasury of information on the man behind the Man. Jacques Barzun called this “the definitive account by a master biographer”. Originally published under the title Rex Stout: A Biography (1977, Little & Brown, Boston), now in its second edition (2002, James A. Rock & Co., Publishers), the 668 pages are compulsory reading for Rex Stout enthusiasts.
• J. Kenneth Van Dover: At Wolfe’s Door : The Nero Wolfe Novels of Rex Stout. A slim but well-liked guide to all 74 Nero Wolfe stories, featuring non-spoiler synopses and essays on the canon. First published in 1991 (Borgo Press, San Bernardino, California), today in its second edition (2003, James A. Rock & Co., Publishers).
• William Stuart Baring-Gould: Nero Wolfe of West Thirty-Fifth Street: The Life and Times of America’s Largest Private Detective (1969, Viking Press, New York). A mock-biography of Nero Wolfe (up to 1968), featuring a brief note by Rex Stout.
• Ken Darby: The Brownstone House of Nero Wolfe / As Told by Archie Goodwin (1983, Little & Brown, Boston). This one managed to gain some notoriety.
• Guy M. Townsend (ed.): Rex Stout: An Annotated Primary and Secondary Bibliography (1980, Garland Pub., New York)
• David R. Anderson: Rex Stout (1984, F. Ungar, New York)
Nero Wolfe Discussion Mailing Lists
• The Wolfe List – the oldest of them all, founded in January 1996 by the late Terry Hagley, today (2005) suffering from its old age: no web archive, sporadically updated homepage. Around 200 Rex Stout fans discuss the 74 Nero Wolfe stories in chronological sequence, helped by promptings from a volunteer discussion-leader (you may become one of them). To join the list, send the word “subscribe” (without the quotes) in the body of the message to [email protected] .
• Wolfenistas – founded by the late Bill Johnson in March 2000 as a web-based Nero Wolfe Club in the aftermath of A&E’s production of The Golden Spiders, the mailing list today focuses on the literary Wolfe. There are 480 subscribers as of August 2005 (up from 334 in January 2004). Join them by sending an empty email to the address [email protected] .
• Pfui Pfighters – founded in August 2002 by the untiring Lovin’ Babe! aka Jessie Strader in protest against the A&E network’s cancellation of its Nero Wolfe TV series, today (August 2005) the list numbers 362 subscribers (up from 253 in January 2004). It focuses on the issue of “finding a new [TV] home for Wolfe”. Even if you don’t happen to be a fan of the much-loved – though not by everyone (the top complaint being that the A&E Wolfe yells too much) – Michael Jaffe, Timothy Hutton, and Maury Chaykin show, you may consider joining the list by sending an empty email to the address [email protected] , as contributions here (similarly to other Nero Wolfe virtual discussion venues) are often delightfully worded and erudite.
• Archie FF – list for fan fiction based on the character of Rex Stout’s Archie Goodwin, the narrator of Nero Wolfe stories. Discussion is also welcome. You can join by sending an empty email to the address [email protected] .
• A&E message board – no mailing-list, but a web-based forum set up by A&E for fans to discuss the network’s Nero Wolfe TV series that was, however, cancelled in August 2002 after only two seasons. 21 out of the 74 Nero Wolfe stories managed to be filmed by A&E see the full list of episodes.
• West 35th Street Yahoos – a short-lived, now defunct Nero Wolfe book discussion and fan fiction group, founded in August 2005 by Hickory Caesar Grindon and later that year deleted without trace by same. Wolfe volumes were discussed in chronological order on a “Book-of-the-Month” basis – one book per month. This was, of course, similar to what the traditional, long-standing Wolfe List has been doing for years eventually Grindon may have thought the new group was a mere duplication, perhaps diluting the energies of Nero Wolfe fans across the cyberspace. However, since this Yahoogroup used to be managed by Yahoo’s machines rather than erratic human administrators, it was a winner in terms of usability when compared to the oldest Wolfe list.
Rex Stout in WWW
• The Wolfe Pack at nerowolfe.org – the recently redesigned official site of the ›Wolfe Pack‹, a fan club (since 1978) for the fictional detective, Nero Wolfe, and author Rex Stout
• Merely A Genius. – Winnifred Louis’s fan site dedicated to Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe series. Includes biographical information, a list of related sites, and an annotated bibliography of Nero Wolfe short stories and novels that features dozens of delightful quotations from the Corpus. On the same site, don’t miss Wolfe’s reading list and Ms. Louis’s amusing account of her cooperation with Michael Jaffe’s staff during the TV production of The Golden Spiders. ›Merely a Genius. ‹ is the Google search engine’s long-standing no. 1 resource on the Internet for Rex Stout – you’ve gotta go there!
• thrillingdetective.com – see the Nero Wolfe section of Kevin Burton Smith’s unique web site, presenting a detailed Rex Stout bibliography and a comprehensive listing of Nero Wolfe films and TV and radio productions.
• Gazette of the Arts – see the Nero Wolfe section of the not-so-well-designed but informative site by a former friend of mine, now foe, Jim Rock, the publisher of Corsage, At Wolfe’s Door, and John McAleer’s Rex Stout biography. Mr. Rock’s delightfully vituperative email denouncing the present writer’s perceived activities can be found at the top of a webpage devoted to the issue of Rex Stout copyright.
• Dave Patty has a new site called Nero Wolfe – Cover Art, Parodies, and Other Things Wolfean, to complement his earlier The Nero Wolfe Site Index that notably features cover scans of hundreds of editions of Rex Stout books
• Miroslav Kromiš’s exhaustive, meticulous Czech bibliography of Rex Stout – states both Czech and English titles (including all alternative titles) and publication years of all of Rex Stout’s works. Curiously, the page is to be found on a site devoted to examining “trash literature” (brak) Kromiš, though, argues for a positive vision of “brak”, mentioning that Karl May’s novels impress him as being more profound than Sartre’s!
The page is no longer being updated because, as Kromiš says, after the 1990s Nero Wolfe publishing boom in the Czech Republic, the 2001 first Czech appearance of Three for the Chair made the Nero Wolfe corpus completely available in Czech translations, so the need to track missing volumes is no longer felt. Some of Stout’s best-known works have been translated into Czech more than once – by various translators. It took 61 years to publish the entire Nero Wolfe corpus in Czech, the first Czech Nero Wolfe having appeared in 1940 (Some Buried Caesar, none-too-skilfully translated by the famed Czech anarchist A. J. Šťastný). The Czech translator who made Wolfe famous among Czech (and Slovak) readers was František Jungwirth (his first Czech Wolfe was A Right to Die in 1967).
In contrast, there was no Nero Wolfe publishing boom in Slovakia in the 1990s, although a few new Slovak Stout (and even Robert Goldsborough) translations did appear Goldsborough’s Murder in E-Minor, in fact, is the only non-original Wolfe story that is only available in Slovak, and not in Czech language.
• an equally admirable Italian bibliography of Rex Stout – all 74 Wolfe stories listed in the chronological order in which they appeared in Italian translations. Original English titles are also included (scroll down the page!) along with a list of principal characters for each Wolfe story. On the same site, an outstanding webpage documenting the first-ever Nero Wolfe TV series (10 episodes), made in Italy in the late 1960s you may even watch a short videoclip of the Italian Wolfe (Tino Buazzelli) and the Italian Archie (Paolo Ferrari). (Read further comments check out also info on a 21st century Russian Nero Wolfe TV series.)
• a treasure trove for German-speaking Nero Wolfe fans is Lutz‑R. Busse’s Gazette-BS site. All those detailed summaries of his cases are probably something Archie would gladly read over his breakfast instead of the regular New York Gazette for a change!
• Muffy Barkocy’s Nero Wolfe site, featuring a day-to-day time-line of Nero Wolfe’s cases that goes as far back as 1930, with Nero Wolfe buying a brownstone and hiring Goodwin as assistant
• The Nero Wolfe Database – Dan Dapkus’s online reference of characters and plots in the Nero Wolfe series
• Nero Wolfe & Archie Goodwin at Home – John Clayton’s meticulous plans and 3D representations of the house at 815 (?) West 35th Street, including nice albeit not too precise 3D sketches of Wolfe’s office
• Orchidées de canon – a collection of images of the orchids cultivated by Nero Wolfe. See also Orchids named after Nero and the introductory page on the same site.
• written in English, a Finnish biographical sketch and bibliography of Rex Stout by Petri Liukkonen, also reprinted here
• a British bibliography of Rex Stout’s works from FantasticFiction.co.uk, showing many book covers and an overview of Stout editions, many of them available for (costly) purchase.
• Lawrence A. Coon’s Nero Wolfe Character Search and Nero Wolfe Book Search, in early stages of development but looking promising
• The Van Dine School – a chapter (featuring an essay on Rex Stout, about halfway down the webpage) from Michael E. Grost’s monumental Internet project, A Guide to Classic Mystery and Detection, that contains reading lists and essays on great mysteries, mainly of the pre-1965 era.
• Glenn Dixon’s three Nero Wolfe stories, Three Strikes, from Gregory Smith’s site (new web address in 2006!) you may also read Glenn Dixon’s introduction to the stories
• OTRCat.com (Old Time Radio Show Catalog), a site dedicated to the preservation of the golden era of radio (old time radio). The site offers vast resources about nostalgic radio shows. Besides listening to thousands of old time radio episodes online (including Adventures of Nero Wolfe), visitors can stream or download full episodes in MP3 format as well as read detailed descriptions of the performers and series broadcast in the era (1920s–1959). In the “daily downloads”, there are the broadcasts of the day throughout history (from the last 50-70+ years).
Be forewarned that a large number of the Archie Goodwin top 100 links refer not to our man-about-town but to his namesake, a US comic-book writer (1937). When Mr. Goodwin the artist was born in 1937, his parents’ bookshelves may have included Fer-de-Lance, The League of Frightened Men, and The Red Box.
Looking for Wolfe
Collections of quotations from all works by Rex Stout will be continually added to this Book of Quotations as the volumes become available for study to the webmaster. I started reading Rex Stout in English in 1989, as soon as the Iron Curtain fell down – to wit, the barbed wire that used to mark the south-western (Austrian) frontier of my home city of Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia, back then still Czechoslovakia (click for more geographical details). The endless extent of the coiled barbed wire could be observed from my family’s garden, situated on a hilltop in that edge of Bratislava. The barbed wire, my hate of it, and of the people who concocted and guarded it with machine-guns, along with the shimmering view across the Danube river of the sprawling free country (not guarded by anyone) beyond the wire, are some of the permanent images and emotions of my childhood.
So, as an 18-year-old I for the first time set out to travel to Vienna – a laughable 40 miles away, but Communists would not let people cross the Austrian border prior to November 1989. One of the first things I searched for in the famous Viennese shopping street of Mariahilferstraße was an English-language bookstore and there, a Rex Stout book in original English. In my teens I had only known Stout from Czech and Slovak translations of mixed (mostly poor) quality Slovak libraries (and those in the neighbouring countries) have never, to this day, carried Rex Stout in English. Wolfe would sooner read Shakespeare in a Bulgarian translation than I would read Wolfe in any other language than English now that I’ve managed to learn English – to a great extent thanks to studying Rex Stout’s exquisitely idiomatic prose in the original language. Ironically, the only Stout volume that that Viennese English-language bookstore had available back then in November 1989 was the final (posthumous) volume 47 of the Nero Wolfe œuvre: Death Times Three. (That collection of novelettes was fairly new in those days, having for the first time appeared in 1985.)
Of course my burning desire right then was to find and read all 47 Nero Wolfe volumes in the original language as soon as possible. Little did I suspect what seemingly impossible task this would turn out to be. It took me nearly 15 years to get hold of the remaining 46 Nero Wolfe volumes, while search for other works by Rex Stout had to be abandoned as futile.
The Internet was instrumental, to an amazing degree, in my finally having been able to locate all of the long sought-after Nero Wolfe volumes, most of them in only 9 months’ time in 2004. In January 2004, a vastly expanded update of this webpage first appeared on the Internet some of those who read my original January 2004 lamentation on this webpage were so moved by compassion as to send me, in all, no less than 16 totally new (for me) Wolfe volumes in only 9 months’ time, all the way from Indiana, Britain, Singapore, California, Florida, and Colorado, whereas prior to the appearance of this webpage I had to go without a “new” Wolfe for a bunch of years, so that I was actually forced to start re-reading some of my “old” Wolfe volumes.
In this way Nero Wolfe, enamoured of inertia though he may be, has to travel thousands of miles around the globe nowadays, so that he can meet all those who need him. Fortunately – as always – he has Archie to keep his company. I wish we could all visit them in the Brownstone instead!
Among my benefactors have been Mary Holm aka “WordDance”, Rich Friedman aka “Schwartz”, Suzi Johnson aka “Stampsuds”, Donald L. Smith aka “The Man About the Chair”, Sim Li Chuan, Bevis Benneworth, S. G. Wolfram aka “May Hawthorne”, and Debby Montague. Thank you all! The Wolfe search is finally over! (You may read more on how difficult it is to get hold of English language books in Slovakia in the archived January 2004 and August 2004 versions of this section of the webpage.)
A vision I have is that one day in this digital age (preferably sooner than in year 2046 when all of Stout’s copyright finally expires), the complete works of Rex Stout will be available for download on the Internet, for anyone anywhere in the world who intends to study them. Prior to year 2046, whether such downloads are to be free or whether they are to be purchased (for a moderate fee, it is hoped – and a fee that can be paid even by those who are denied the possession of Western credit-cards), must be decided by the copyright holder, the Rex Stout Estate. At any rate, the research of Rex Stout’s writings should not be hampered, in this high-tech age, by the embarrassing medieval circumstances in which Rex Stout scholars, particularly those outside the US, are currently forced to operate.
Today’s Rex Stout scholars are paying the price for Stout’s longevity had the grandmaster’s life been shorter, his copyrights would have expired long ago. Rex Stout’s contemporaries, such as DH Lawrence and F Scott Fitzgerald, are today (2004) out of copyright or are moving outside it – just because they died much sooner than Stout! There is no logic to the circumstance that DH Lawrence’s famous Lady Chatterley’s Lover, first published in 1928, is today outside of copyright, while Rex Stout’s premier Nero Wolfe novel, Fer-de-Lance, first published only 6 years later in 1934, is to be protected by copyright until 2046. Legal justifications exist for all of this – logic and common sense nevertheless protest. The copyright issue seems to be an illustration of the perversity of life it’s as if tuberculosis or alcoholism were damnation in more ways than one: not only did Lawrence, Fitzgerald, etc. etc., die prematurely, but their heirs have likewise been punished by not being able to enjoy their ancestor’s royalties for as long a time as a healthy artist’s survivors. Rex Stout’s health was no less phenomenal than his intellect thank heavens Stout did live long enough to write all the Wolfe yarns he wrote.
Pictures on this webpage were found freely floating on the Internet, with no exclusive copyright attached to them however, should you know of its existence, please notify the webmaster.
Rex Stout (1886) is the creator of the famous and phenomenally fat armchair detective genius Nero Wolfe and his almost equally famous assistant Archie Goodwin. Wolfe is an updated version of Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, while Archie is a modern, gritty, and wise-cracking Dr. Watson. Archie is just as much Wolfe’s as Dr. Watson’s antithesis.
Stout was born on 1st December 1886, in Noblesville, Indiana, to a Quaker family (the sixth of their nine children). A genius in his own right, he twice read the Bible cover to cover before he was 4 years old, and read all of Shakespeare’s plays and memorized all the sonnets between the ages of 7 and 12 (at 86, he could still quote the sonnets letter-perfect). Stout became the state spelling champion at the age of 13, and was early recognized as a prodigy in arithmetic.
He only briefly attended a university then he spent two years serving as naval officer. Later he devised a school banking system that was installed in 400 cities throughout the USA. The proceeds enabled Stout to leave for Paris in 1927, devoting himself to writing “serious” fiction (How Like a God, 1929) – as opposed to the stories of romance and adventure that he had been producing in his late twenties. The picture below shows Stout in 1916, aged 30, shortly after his literary career began.
Though the few “serious” novels he had published received favourable reviews, Stout did not gain renown until he turned to detective fiction. He only wrote his first Nero Wolfe mystery in 1934, at the age of 48! It was titled Fer-de-Lance and is among the finest books Stout ever came up with.
Thirty-two more Wolfe & Archie full-length novels were to follow plus thirteen collections of novelettes (typically, each volume including three short mysteries). All in all, there were 73 Wolfe & Archie stories published in Stout’s lifetime his final novel, A Family Affair, was printed a month before he died on 27th October 1975, in Danbury, Connecticut, at the age of 88. Ten years later another Wolfe novelette was discovered and for the first time published in Death Times Three, a posthumous collection of short novels – thus bringing the total number of Wolfe & Goodwin stories up to 74.
Stout was also a distinguished political activist. His obituary in the ›Long Island Press‹ (quoted elsewhere on this webpage) called Stout “an early ‘one-worlder’ and antifascist” who since 1941, when he was master of ceremonies of the ›Speaking of Liberty‹ radio program, had been prompting the idea of world government. Stout headed the ›Writers War Board‹ from 1941 to 1946, was president of the ›Society for the Prevention of World War III‹, and chairman for more than 20 years of the ›Writers Board for World Government‹. He managed to escape Senator McCarthy’s fangs even though in 1954, in The Black Mountain, Nero Wolfe explicitly compares McCarthy to the likes of Hitler, Franco, and Malenkov.
On the professional stage, Stout served several terms as an officer of the ›Authors’ League of America‹ and one term as president of the ›Mystery Writers of America‹. In 1958 he was honoured with the MWA Grand Master Award – even though he claimed that each Nero Wolfe novel took him exactly 39 days to write and that he never edited, rewrote, or even reread any of them!
A prolific writer, Stout wasn’t able to maintain the same high standard of writing throughout his career there were several ups and downs. Generally the early Wolfe novels tend to be more appreciated by readers – even though in his latest years Stout turned in some exquisite novels. When he’s at the top of his craft, he deserves to be ranked among not merely America’s leading mystery writers, but leading humorous writers as well: Archie Goodwin has been critically appraised (by Jacques Barzun) as “the lineal descendant of Huckleberry Finn”.
Among Stout’s finest achievements (beside Fer-de-Lance) are Too Many Cooks, Some Buried Caesar, The Silent Speaker, In the Best Families, Plot It Yourself, The Doorbell Rang, and Death of a Dude. At least one non-Wolfe mystery also deserves high credit: Red Threads. It is written in the vein of Jane Austen – the writer Rex Stout admired most of all.
The aim of the Rex Stout section of this site is the offering, one day, of a selection of quotations from the entire Nero Wolfe Corpus of Rex Stout’s work – and beyond, including his less known “serious” genre novels. However, on 4th April 2002, an attorney representing Rex Stout’s estate requested that all Rex Stout quotations files be removed from this site the webmaster promptly obliged his request (read more about this).
It is hoped that the current (August 2004) status-quo will soon be improved and Rex Stout quotations will once again be offered online for the enjoyment of site visitors. After all, this site is entirely non-profit and the offering of brief Rex Stout quotations online has the single aim of making Rex Stout’s name more popular among readers around the world. (On average there are about 30 unique visitors to this site each day from around the world see statistics.) The effect of presenting such brief Rex Stout quotations online cannot be harmful to the interests of the Rex Stout Estate in any imaginable way if anything, it will further the sales of Rex Stout’s books, new or second-hand, by whetting the site visitors’ appetite for the enjoyment of Rex Stout’s books in their entirety. It is trusted that the Rex Stout Estate will see that this is so and, in days to come, will not object to the presentation of brief Rex Stout quotations online.
The Complete List ofthe 33 Nero Wolfe& Archie GoodwinFull-Length Novels
1) Fer-de-Lance (1934)
2) The League of Frightened Men (1935)
3) The Rubber Band (1936)
4) The Red Box (1937)
5) Too Many Cooks (1938)
6) Some Buried Caesar (1939)
7) Over My Dead Body (1940)
8) Where There’s a Will (1940)
9) The Silent Speaker (1946)
10) Too Many Women (1947)
11) And Be a Villain (1948)
12) The Second Confession (1949)
13) In the Best Families (1950)
14) Murder by the Book (1951)
15) Prisoner’s Base (1952)
16) The Golden Spiders (1953)
17) The Black Mountain (1954)
18) Before Midnight (1955)
19) Might As Well Be Dead (1956)
20) If Death Ever Slept (1957)
21) Champagne for One (1958)
22) Plot It Yourself (1959)
[ aka Murder in Style]
23) Too Many Clients (1960)
24) The Final Deduction (1961)
25) Gambit (1962)
26) The Mother Hunt (1963)
27) A Right To Die (1964)
28) The Doorbell Rang (1965)
29) Death of a Doxy (1966)
30) The Father Hunt (1968)
31) Death of a Dude (1969)
32) Please Pass the Guilt (1973)
33) A Family Affair (1975)
The Complete List ofthe 41 Nero Wolfe& Archie GoodwinNovelettes ( = Short Novels = Short Stories ) in 14 Novelettes Collections
I) Black Orchids (1942)
1) ›Black Orchids‹ (1942)
2) › Cordially Invited to Meet Death‹ (1942)
II) Not Quite Dead Enough (1944)
3) ›Not Quite Dead Enough ‹ (1942)
4) ›Booby Trap‹ (1944)
III) Trouble in Triplicate (1949)
5) ›Before I Die‹ (1947)
6) ›Help Wanted, Male‹ (1945)
7) ›Instead of Evidence‹ (1946)
IV) Three Doors to Death (1950)
8) ›Door to Death‹ (1949)
9) ›Man Alive‹ (1947)
10) ›Omit Flowers‹ (1948)
V) Curtains for Three (1951)
11) ›Bullet for One‹ (1948)
12) ›Disguise for Murder‹ (1950)
13) ›The Gun with Wings ‹ (1949)
VI) Triple Jeopardy (1952)
14) ›The Cop-Killer‹ (1951)
15) ›Home to Roost‹ (1952)
16) ›The Squirt and the Monkey ‹ (1951)
VII) Three Men Out (1954)
17) ›Invitation to Murder‹ (1942)
18) ›This Won’t Kill You‹ (1952)
19) ›The Zero Clue‹ (1953)
VIII) Three Witnesses (1956)
20) ›Die Like a Dog‹ (1954)
21) ›The Next Witness‹ (1955)
22) ›When a Man Murders‹ (1954)
IX) Three for the Chair (1957)
23) ›Immune to Murder‹ (1955)
24) › Too Many Detectives‹ (1956)
25) ›A Window for Death‹ (1956)
X) And Four To Go (1958)
26) ›Christmas Party‹ (1957)
27) ›Easter Parade‹ (1957)
28) › Fourth of July Picnic‹ (1957)
29) ›Murder Is No Joke‹ (1958)
XI) Three at Wolfe’s Door (1960)
30) ›Method Three for Murder ‹ (1960)
31) ›Poison a la Carte‹ (1960)
32) ›The Rodeo Murder‹ (1960)
XII) Homicide Trinity (1962)
33) ›Counterfeit for Murder‹ (1959)
34) ›Death of a Demon‹ (1961)
35) › Eeny Meeny Murder Mo ‹ (1962)
XIII) Trio for Blunt Instruments (1964)
36) ›Kill Now – Pay Later‹ (1961)
37) ›Murder Is Corny‹ (1962)
38) ›Blood Will Tell‹ (1963)
XIV) [ Death Times Three ] (1985)
39) ›Bitter End‹ (1940)
40) ›Frame-Up for Murder‹ (1958)
41) ›Assault on a Brownstone‹ [ 1959 ]
For a comprehensive list of alternative novelettes titles, and to learn the titles and issues of magazines where each novelette originally appeared, please consult Kevin Burton Smith’s superb bibliographies on his thrillingdetective.com site.
There are endless arguments among Nero Wolfe fans concerning weighty issues such as whether Archie’s desk is located to the right or to the left of Wolfe’s desk whether Wolfe needs to turn his head in order to observe Fritz entering with the beer, and the like. The solution for such disputes is provided by Rex Stout himself, in the sketch of Wolfe’s office that Stout made in 1949. For copyright reasons, it is not possible to reproduce a scanned picture of Stout’s drawing itself – however, I took care to re-draw Stout’s sketch digitally so that it accurately represents Stout’s sketch as published in the Bantam Books ›The Rex Stout Library‹ edition of Fer-de-Lance (1992, page 289).
Clicking the sketch above will enlarge it for comfortable viewing and painful re-drawing of your mental image of Wolfe’s and Archie’s workplace. As to myself, I saw the sketch too late: I had, since childhood days, always imagined Archie with Wolfe on his right side as Archie faces visitors scattered in the one red and many yellow leather chairs. So, whenever I (re)read a Nero Wolfe story today, I’m sticking with my original mental image of Wolfe’s office in defiance of Rex Stout’s own, albeit “correct” image – that’s literature, and the freedom it affords to the reader as opposed to television or movies.
The Voice of Rex Stout
What about listening to the grandmaster’s voice in a genuine audio recording? Remember, in the 1940s Stout used to be what today would probably be termed a “radio talkshow host”.
You have two options: for $20, you may buy (from James A. Rock & Co., Publishers) an original audio cassette recording of ›An Informal Interview with Rex Stout‹, offering “over an hour of wonderful insights on life, writing, and the genesis of Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin” and “representing a window on his definitive thoughts on life, literature, and his own work”. The interview was conducted by Michael Bourne, the editor of Corsage, on 18 July 1973 in Stout’s home in New York, at a time when Stout was aged 86. A transcript of the interview is available from the same publishers.
The other option: in 2002, a fellow Nero Wolfe fan emailed me an MP3 he stumbled across in a newsgroup: the full-length audio recording of the 29 August 1939 instalment of a radio quiz-show called Information, Please, in which Rex Stout appeared as a member of the guests panel. Only three days later, an event occurred that would change the history of this planet and disrupt Rex Stout’s writing career – the smooth production of one Nero Wolfe novel per year. You may download the entire recording (over 28 minutes, 6.5 megabytes), or just two highlights: Rex Stout commenting on Sherlock Holmes stories (4:24 minutes, 1.76 megabytes) and on presidential beards and moustaches (2:35 minutes, 1.03 megabytes). The wit exhibited by Mr. Stout in answering the quizmaster’s questions is goodwinesque indeed. Well worth the download(s)!
(For the webmaster’s commentaries on Stout’s appearance in the radio quiz-show, see the following three emails sent to Nero Wolfe mailing lists in August 2002: 1, 2, 3.)
Wolfean Still Life by Kevin Gordon
(you may purchase the painting here)
Rex Stout,creator of Nero Wolfe
(obituary first printed in
© Long Island Press
Tuesday, 28th October 1975)
DANBURY, Conn. (AP) – Rex Stout, who made a lifelong career out of chronicling the feats of the fat, orchid-growing, gourmandizing detective Nero Wolfe and his sidekick Archie Goodwin, died yesterday at 88.
Although Wolfe was as fictional as the address of his Manhattan brownstone in the West 30’s – his street number would have put him in the middle of the Hudson River – to millions of murder-mystery fans Wolfe was as real as Sherlock Holmes.
Wolfe’s creator died at the hillside home he built here in 1930 – making sure it was over the line from New York so he wouldn’t have the ultraconservative Hamilton Fish as his representative in Congress.
“So what did I get?” he asked sadly a few years ago. “Clare Boothe Luce.” Stout apparently found the Connecticut congresswoman almost as far removed as Fish from Stout’s own liberal philosophy.
In more that 40 novels, Wolfe was almost always aloof from politics, making exception to let Archie air his feelings on former President Nixon and the Watergate affair in his last adventure, the best-selling A Family Affair.
But author Stout was noted – aside from Nero Wolfe novels – for his tendency to jump into a variety of political issues.
An early “one-worlder” and antifascist, Stout pursued his ideas to the lecture platform and the halls of government.
Since 1941, when he was master of ceremonies of the ›Speaking of Liberty‹ radio program, Stout had prompted the idea of world government.
A Quaker who spoke out for an early entry into World War II and against a soft peace for Germany, Stout also was active on the ›Voice of Freedom‹ and ›Our Secret Weapon‹ radio programs during the war and headed the Writers War Board from 1941 to 1946.
He also was president of the Society for the Prevention of World War III and chairman for more than 20 years of the Writers Board for World Government.
In a highly publicized dispute with writer Dorothy Thompson, Stout resigned from his post with Freedom House, but later was reconciled – after Miss Thompson quit as president of Freedom House – to become its treasurer in 1957, a post he held for many years.
Stout, who wrote more than 55 books, claimed each Nero Wolfe took 39 days to write and that he never rewrote or even reread them.
Stout is survived by his second wife, the former Pola Weinbach, and two daughters, Barbara Selleck and Rebecca Bradbury.
A poster for the A&E
Nero Wolfe TV series (2001/2) starring
Timothy Hutton and Maury Chaykin
VHS covers for the Russian
Nero Wolfe TV series (2001/2):
Before I Die, The Silent Speaker, and Man Alive (top to bottom)
Rex Todhunter Stout
Rex Todhunter Stout (December 1, 1886 – October 27, 1975) was an American writer noted for his detective fiction. Stout is best known as the creator of the larger-than-life fictional detective Nero Wolfe, described by reviewer Will Cuppy as "that Falstaff of detectives."  Wolfe's assistant Archie Goodwin recorded the cases of the detective genius from 1934 (Fer-de-Lance) to 1975 (A Family Affair).
The Nero Wolfe corpus was nominated Best Mystery Series of the Century at Bouchercon 2000, the world's largest mystery convention, and Rex Stout was nominated Best Mystery Writer of the Century.
Early life Stout was born in Noblesville, Indiana, but shortly after that his Quaker parents, John Wallace Stout and Lucetta Elizabeth Todhunter Stout, moved their family (nine children in all) to Kansas. His father was a teacher who encouraged his son to read, and Rex had read the entire Bible twice by the time he was four years old. He was the state spelling bee champion at age 13. Stout attended Topeka High School, Kansas, and the University of Kansas, Lawrence. His sister, Ruth Stout, also authored several books on no-work gardening and some social commentaries.
He served from 1906 to 1908 in the U.S. Navy (as a yeoman on President Teddy Roosevelt's official yacht) and then spent about the next four years working at about thirty different jobs (in six states), including cigar store clerk, while he sold poems, stories, and articles to various magazines. It was not his writing but his invention of a school banking system in about 1916 that gave him enough money to travel in Europe extensively. About 400 U.S. schools adopted his system for keeping track of the money school children saved in accounts at school, and he was paid royalties. In 1916, Stout married Fay Kennedy of Topeka, Kansas. They divorced in 1932 and Stout married in the same year Pola Weinbach Hoffmann, a designer who had studied with Josef Hoffmann in Vienna, Austria.
Writings Rex Stout began his literary career in the 1910s writing for the pulps, publishing romance, adventure, and some borderline detective stories. His first stories appeared among others in All-Story Magazine. He sold articles and stories to a variety of magazines, and became a full-time writer in 1927. Stout lost the money he had made as a businessman in 1929.
In Paris in 1929 he wrote his first book, How Like a God, an unusual psychological story written in the second person. During the course of his early writing career Stout tackled a variety of literary forms, including the short story, the novel, and science fiction, among them a pioneering political thriller, The President Vanishes (1934).
After he returned to the U.S. Stout turned to writing detective fiction. The first work was Fer-de-Lance, which introduced Nero Wolfe and his assistant Archie Goodwin. The novel was published by Farrar & Rinehart in October 1934, and in abridged form as "Point of Death" in The American Magazine (November 1934). In 1937, Stout created Dol Bonner, a female private detective who would reappear in his Nero Wolfe stories and who is an early and significant example of the woman PI as fictional protagonist, in a novel called The Hand in the Glove. After 1938 Stout focused solely on the mystery field. Stout continued writing the Nero Wolfe series for the rest of his life, publishing at least one adventure per year through 1966 (with the exception of 1943, when he was busy with activities related to World War II). Though Stout's rate of production declined somewhat after 1966, he still published four further Nero Wolfe novels and a cookbook prior to his death in 1975, aged 88.
During WWII Stout cut back on his detective writing, joined the Fight for Freedom organization, and wrote propaganda. He hosted three weekly radio shows, and coordinated the volunteer services of American writers to help the war effort. After the war Stout returned to writing Nero Wolfe novels, and took up the role of gentleman farmer on his estate at High Meadow in Brewster, north of New York City. He served as president of the Authors Guild and of the Mystery Writers of America, which in 1959 presented Stout with the Grand Master Award—the pinnacle of achievement in the mystery field.
Stout was a longtime friend of the British humorist P. G. Wodehouse, writer of the Jeeves novels and short stories. Each was a fan of the other's work, and there are evident parallels between their characters and techniques. Wodehouse contributed the foreword to Rex Stout: A Biography, John McAleer's Edgar Award-winning 1977 biography of the author (reissued in 2002 as Rex Stout: A Majesty's Life).
Public activities Stout served on the original board of the American Civil Liberties Union and helped start the radical magazine The New Masses, which succeeded the Masses, a Marxist publication, during the 1920s. During the Great Depression, he was an enthusiastic supporter of the New Deal. During World War II, he worked with the advocacy group Friends of Democracy and was Chairman of the Writers' War Board (a propaganda organization), and supported the embryonic United Nations. He lobbied for Franklin D. Roosevelt to accept a fourth term as President. He developed an extreme anti-German attitude and in 1943 published the essay "We Shall Hate or We Shall Fail", and during the later part of the war and the post-war period he also led the Society for the Prevention of World War III which lobbied for a harsh peace for Germany. When the war ended, Stout became active in the United World Federalists.
Stout was active in liberal causes. When the anti-Communist era of the late 1940s and 1950s began, he ignored a subpoena from the House Un-American Activities Committee at the height of the McCarthy era.
In later years Stout alienated some readers with his hawkish stance on the Vietnam War and with the contempt for communism expressed in certain of his works. The latter viewpoint is given voice most notably in the 1949 novel, The Second Confession. In this work, Archie and Wolfe express their dislike for "Commies," while at the same time Wolfe arranges for the firing of a virulently anti-Communist broadcaster, likening him to "Hitler" and "Mussolini." Thus Stout in this book stakes his ground as an anti-communist Leftist, perhaps something like George Orwell who occupied a similar position.
Awards and recognition In 1958 Rex Stout became the 14th president of the Mystery Writers of America. In 1959 he received the MWA's prestigious Grand Master Award, which represents the pinnacle of achievement in the mystery field.
In January 1959 the Crime Writers Association selected Stout as recipient of its Silver Dagger Award for The Father Hunt, which it named "the best crime novel by a non-British author in 1969." The Nero Wolfe corpus was nominated Best Mystery Series of the Century at Bouchercon 2000, the world's largest mystery convention, and Rex Stout was nominated Best Mystery Writer of the Century.
Popular culture "A number of the paintings of René Magritte (1898), the internationally famous Belgian painter, are named after titles of books by Rex Stout," wrote the artist's attorney and friend Harry Torczyner. "He read Hegel, Heidegger and Sartre, as well as Dashiell Hammett, Rex Stout and Georges Simenon," the Times Higher Education Supplement wrote of Magritte. "Some of his best titles were 'found' in this way." Magritte's 1942 painting, Les compagnons de la peur ("The Companions of Fear"), bears the title given to The League of Frightened Men (1935) when it was published in France by Gallimard (1939). It is one of Magritte's series of "leaf-bird" paintings. Created during the Nazi occupation of Brussels, it depicts a stormy, mountainous landscape in which a cluster of plants has metamorphosed into a group of vigilant owls.
Stout and the FBI Rex Stout was one of many American writers closely watched by J. Edgar Hoover's FBI. Hoover considered him an enemy of the bureau and either a Communist or a tool of Communist-dominated groups. Stout's leadership of the Authors League of America during the McCarthy Era was particularly irksome to the FBI. About a third of Stout's FBI file is devoted to his 1965 novel, The Doorbell Rang. In its April 1976 report, the Church Committee found that The Doorbell Rang is a reason that Rex Stout's name was one of 332 placed on the FBI's "not to contact list," which it cited as evidence of the FBI's political abuse of intelligence information.
Rex Stout: A Biography
Author Rex Stout created one of the best-known and popular fictional detective characters in history, Nero Wolfe, along with Wolfe's unforgettable and talented personal assistant, Archie Goodwin. With Nero Wolfe, Stout has been described as a puppet master who manipulated a character until it took on a life of its own.
Nero Wolfe became so real that he has spawned decades of study and analysis from reviewers, bibliophiles, academics, and fans who debate and speculate on every aspect of Nero Wolfe's life: the man himself, his assistant Archie Goodwin, his detective methods, his home, and his culinary preferences. Although Rex Stout the author was a fascinating man with a life history worth telling, he comes second to the characters he created in Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin.
In each of the Nero Wolfe narratives, comprising almost 80 novels, novellas and short stories, the story is told through the eyes of Archie Goodwin. Wolfe is brilliant, eccentric, and lazy. Archie does all of the legwork, while Wolfe stays at home and solves the mystery. Some have speculated that the Archie Goodwin character was Rex Stout's idealized self-portrait. Others have suggested Archie was actually female, although there is little evidence in Stout's books to support that.
Post-Depression Fascism in America
Fascism throughout world history has tended to take root and thrive when its target society was at its most vulnerable. By no means a new 'ideology,' fascism experienced its greatest successes between approximately 250 A.D. and the Middle Ages. During periods of constant war, abject poverty, widespread disease and almost continual civil unrest, promoters of fascism seized on the weaknesses of a populace to 'divide and conquer,' so as to promote the interests of the wealthy and powerful over the interests of the downtrodden.
Such tactics were not only employed to geo-political advantage. The rise of the earliest Catholic Church and that of England's own Anglican Church were two of the most notable examples of fascism exploited in the name of religion. But whether exploited in the name or religion or political ideology, fascism, by the mid-1930s, had yet again taken root through much of Europe and even post-Great Depression America.
So it was that from feudalism to outright fascism throughout history, the worst of history's powerful and wealthy bad actors have continually attempted to divide and subjugate its citizenries. America's own fascists of the pre-World War II era were comprised mostly of powerful industrialists and manufacturers who, while at the same time expanding internationally, assumed the guise of 'nationalists' and 'isolationists' in an effort to have their cake and also eat it: further expanding and consolidating their international conglomerates, while opposing all efforts to come to the aid of the very countries from which they were attempting to further profit.
The battles between America's isolationists and America's "One-World" proponents raged throughout the Administrations of Republican Presidents Harding, Coolidge and Hoover, with isolationist rhetoric growing increasingly strident with each new administration. By the time that Democrat Franklin Delano Roosevelt assumed the Presidency, America had become virtually split between isolationists and proponents of intervention against growing fascist hegemony throughout the Far East and Europe.
"The isolationists were a diverse group, including progressives and conservatives, business owners and peace activists, but because they faced no consistent, organized opposition from internationalists, their ideology triumphed time and again. Roosevelt appeared to accept the strength of the isolationist elements in Congress until 1937. In that year, as the situation in Europe continued to grow worse and the Second Sino-Japanese War began in Asia, the President gave a speech in which he likened international aggression to a disease that other nations must work to "quarantine." At that time, however, Americans were still not prepared to risk their lives and livelihoods for peace abroad. Even the outbreak of war in Europe in 1939 did not suddenly diffuse popular desire to avoid international entanglements. Instead, public opinion shifted from favoring complete neutrality to supporting limited U.S. aid to the Allies short of actual intervention in the war. The surprise Japanese attack on the U.S. Navy at Pearl Harbor in December of 1941 served to convince the majority of Americans that the United States should enter the war on the side of the Allies."
41-10-09 to 41-12-11 NBC [WEAF] Ten, 15-minute programs Thursday Evenings
Notes on Provenances:
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Watch the video: A Nero Wolfe Mystery S01E07 Disguise for Murder
[Date, title, and episode column annotations in red refer to either details we have yet to fully provenance or other unverifiable information as of this writing. Red highlights in the text of the 'Notes' columns refer to information upon which we relied in citing dates, date or time changes, or titles.]