Saturday, 7 January 2017

That wonderful detective Nero Wolfe

Rex Stout wrote 33 Nero Wolfe novels and 39 novellas between 1934 and  his death in 1975.  in the mid-2000s, someone was showing some episodes from a  US TV series over here in the UK, and I caught a few of them.  I really liked Timothy Hutton as Archie, Nero Wolfe's acerbic secretary, driver, and all round gofer matched against the man himself, Nero Wolfe, played by Maury Chaykin.

Over My Dead Body (A Nero Wolfe Mystery Book 7)Black Orchids (A Nero Wolfe Mystery Book 9)Nero Wolfe is a big man.  So big, in fact that his chair was specially made to fit his bulk, and most of this bulk seems to be because a) he has a private chef who uses a lot of cream and butter; b) Wolfe likes beer as well as good wine and drinks 3 bottles several times a day ( keeping account of his beer drinking by saving the bottle tops in  his desk drawer; and 3) exercise is an anathema to him.

He has two hobbies - growing orchids and solving crimes.  The crime solving brings in the cash, but I must say I think he might have a private income too, as a lot gets done for sometimes very little money and living in a rather nice brownstone in New York with staff and good food and wine and orchids must cost!

The Rubber Band/The Red Box 2-in-1 (Nero Wolfe)Wikipedia has two pages, one for Rex Stout the author, and one for Nero Wolfe; there is a website for Wolfe fans called The Wolfe Pack, and someone in Australia is making Nero Wolfe charm bracelets for sale on Etsy!

The League of Frightened Men (A Nero Wolfe Mystery Book 2)So how come I didn't know about Rex Stout and all those books?  The Red Box was one of those "found" books - second hand shop/house clearance warehouse/charity shop?  One of those anyway; and I have found, in my reading career, that any publication in the early Penguin Books crime series - always green covers - will be readable.  I'd never heard of Rex Stout, didn't know he was American and didn't connect him with the TV shows I had seen until I saw the words Nero, Wolfe and orchids.

The Silent Speaker (A Nero Wolfe Mystery Book 11)The first book (Fer-de-Lance) was set at around the time it was written (mid 1930s), and although the series moves on through the years, apparently Nero and Archie don't age.  That's OK by me.  I may never read every one, but what a lovely surprise to find - all those books, a great hero (or not, as he is scathing when cross, and hardly ever leaves the house) and some clever thinking.  I did see a remark somewhere out there on the Internet that Stout is a cross between Raymond Chandler and Agatha Christie.  I don't have any comment on that as I have never read either of them (GASP!) but I looking forward to more Rex Stout.