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Rhody Radio episode transcription has been been made possible by the American Rescue Plan: Humanities Grants for Libraries, which is an initiative of the American Library Association (ALA) made possible with funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) through the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.


For the Readers: Booktalking Nero Wolfe with Woonsocket Library

Photo of Ed and Michaela from Woonsocket Harris Public Library sitting in front of a bookshelf and talking about books for the library YouTube page. Rhody Radio logo banner at the bottom of the image, featuring the text "Rhody Radio" and an illustration of the state of Rhode Island wearing headphones

[music] [00:00:00]

Speaker: This episode of Rhody Radio is brought to you by your local library's Library of Things. Did you know that your library has more than just books and movies? Libraries across Rhode Island lend out all sorts of unconventional items. You can borrow fishing gear, ukuleles, tools, games and puzzles, telescopes, and more. Whether you want to try a new hobby or keep the kids occupied, Ocean State libraries have what you need. Contact your local library to find out what's in their library of things.


Emily Goodman: You're listening to Rhody Radio, Rhode Island Library Radio Online. I'm your host, Emily Goodman, editorial board member for Rhody Radio, and adult services coordinator for the office of Library and Information Services. Today's episode is dedicated to mystery readers around the state. Woonsocket Harris Public Library's teen librarian, Ed Fuqua, and special guest Michaela sit down to discuss Rex Stout's famous armchair detective character, Nero Wolfe. Whether you have read every Nero Wolfe tale or the only detective you know is Sherlock Holmes, you're sure to learn a thing or two.

Ed and Michaela take a deep dive into the history, execution, and portrayal of Wolfe through the years filled with admiration that avid readers will instantly recognize and appreciate. Enjoy this segment of Booktalking with the Woonsocket Harris Public Library.


Ed Fuqua: Hello, I'm Ed Fuqua, a young adult librarian extraordinaire here at Woonsocket Harris Public Library.

Michaela: I'm Michaela, human being here at Woonsocket Harris Public Library.

Ed: We're doing another book talking and this week, we're talking about Rex Stout and his creation, Nero Wolfe.

Michaela: Nero Wolfe. [00:02:00] Yes, the big detective.

Ed: Yes, the big man.

Michaela: He is the big man.

Ed: Absolutely. This is recommended by my wife. She and I are both huge Nero Wolfe fans. There are 33 Nero Wolfe novels that I read, each of them at least once. Some of them more than once. It's that good.

Michaela: Oh, and ton of novellas, so many novellas and short stories.

Ed: Yes, novellas and short stories. He did tons of them. Rex Stout is not as popular as he used to be, and I'm not sure why.

Michaela: I don't know. Even going back, and I read a couple and I listened to a lot of the ones that were adapted for radio, so the radio novellas, I love them so much. I was just enjoying them so much and I was like, "Wow, why did I not know more about Nero Wolfe?"

Ed: He has been raising ear for dialogue. His stories are all character-driven, not plot-driven. The murders are never complicated contrivances you have to figure out. It's all people.

Michaela: No, it's like some minor like, "Oh, yes." He puzzled over this for about five minutes over a beer, came up with the answer, calls up the detective. It's not the big affair like the Christie or a Sherlock Holmes mystery.

Ed: Nero Wolfe the detective does have the theatrical flare.

Michaela: Yes, he does.

Ed: He's way over the top. What a diva. He always tries to gather together the suspects in his office to reveal who the killer is. In his day, Rex Stout was extremely popular. He sold over a hundred million copies of his books.

Michaela: Props to him.

Ed: Nero Wolfe appeared in movies, television shows, radio shows, comic books. The recent A&E series, not recent now, but it was recently when it came out, starring Maury Chaykin and Timothy Hutton as Wolfe and Archie. It was very well done. Stout won the Grand Master Award for the Mystery Writers of America. He was also very active on radio. He appeared as a radio commentator, he pundits behind various topics and he became a household word, a household name.

Michaela: He was a personality.

Ed: He was [00:04:00] a personality. When the book Too Many Cooks came out, they actually had a nationwide tour in which Rex Stout would go on the road in various cities. He had a full stage show, including a line of chorus girls.

Michaela: That's awesome.

Ed: Literally. It was amazing. The people who printed Too Many Cooks also included a special volume that had the 35 recipes from the book that was printed in a limited edition. Today, those are worth their weight in gold. I'm thinking of John Grisham, James Patterson, they don't get nationwide tours with dancing girls.

Michaela: No, they don't get dancing good girls or cookbooks, they don't, neither.

Ed: That is how popular Stout was in his day. His backstory, he doesn't have quite as exciting a life as Agatha Christie did. He was highly intelligent, he was good with numbers and with words. He invented an accounting system for schools for children to keep track of their money, which was successful enough, he was able to actually retire when he was 20.

Michaela: That's awesome.

Ed: However, he lost all of it in the Great Depression.

Michaela: Oh, not awesome.

Ed: He lost everything. He was trying to write the great American novel and he'd written two or three things that didn't sell very well, so now he was forced to actually write for a living, which was tough in the depression. It was the heart of the 1930s, like so many writers, he turned to The Pulps. He was paid a penny a word. You had to churn out a lot of material to survive in The Pulps. He did his best, he wrote for almost every genre of The Pulps. There's a story I read and I don't like to repeat the story too often because I can't verify it. I can only find one source for it.

Now, supposedly, Stout was picking up a check for wonderful short stories that he had sold, and in the office at the same time happened to be Edgar Rice Burroughs, who is picking up a substantially larger check for a Tarzan story he had recently sold. After Burroughs left, Stout said to the editor, "That guy's a terrible writer. How come he's making so much more than me?" The editor explained [00:06:00] that Edgar Rice Burroughs has created Tarzan. He can pop out a Tarzan book every year for the rest of his life and lived very comfortably. If you create a character people love, they'll come back and read it again and again. That's all you have to do.

Stout pondered that for a while, create a character people love. He eventually succeeded. He invented, not one but two absolutely brilliant detective, stuck them together in a brownstone in New York, and write a whole series of mysteries. Wolfe is one of the most unusual neurotic detectives.

Michaela: Oh, yes, he's all over the places.

Ed: He makes Hercule Poirot look perfectly normal. [chuckles]

Michaela: Yes. He gives me very strong Winston Churchill vibes. He's just this big man, he likes his rich food and he loves his beer. He says some like what we would call today as savage, just absolutely savage things.

Ed: He could be incredibly rude to people.

Michaela: Insanely rude, but you just love it. You love every second of it. He's usually being horrendously savage and rude to the characters that you don't love that much or he's got a good rapport with, so it's just like, "Oh, they're friends. That's how they talk to each other."

Ed: One of the mysteries when he finally reveals who the killer is and the person is like trying to explain why it happened, and Wolfe says, "You disgust me. Get out of my sight." [laughs]

Michaela: I love him.

Ed: Wolfe is overweight. We call him big. He's not just impressive.

Michaela: I think Rex had said in one interview that he was between 340 and 390 pounds, which is impressive. He doesn't like to leave the brownstone.

Ed: Yes, he's agoraphobic, doesn't like to leave the brownstone. He preferred not to get out of his chair. He has a specially designed chair made just for him. It's the only chair in the world that he is comfortable in.

Michaela: Yes, he's like, "Why would I ever leave my house with my chair made just for me?" All of the legwork is done by his assistant.

Ed: All the legwork is done by his assistant, Archie Goodwin.

Michaela: Archie. I love Archie [00:08:00] so much.

Ed: Yes, the stories are narrated by Archie, but he's not a Dr. Watson.

Michaela: No, he's not.

Ed: He plays a really super active role in the story. He's a very good detective in his own right. Nero Wolfe, he's overweight, agoraphobic, he is full of phobias. He's afraid of cars. He's apparently afraid if he steps out on the sidewalk, a car will leap off the curb and run him down, so he tries to never leave his house. He makes a policy of never leaving his house on business. He does leave if there's a personal reason to do so, but never on business. His clients or suspects, no matter who they are, no matter how rich they are, the secretary of state one time has to come to Wolfe's house to receive his questioning. He doesn't go to them ever no matter who they are. He loves gourmet food.

Michaela: Yes, well, the only people he has in his house are his assistant, Archie, his cook, and his orchardist.

Ed: Yes, Rich, his cook, and Theodore, who runs the orchids. He loves flowers, orchids. He has his own hothouse on the roof of his brownstone and with Theodore.

Michaela: They said there are 10,000 orchids in the greenhouse in the brownstone. [chuckles]

Ed: Yes, he has an extremely strict schedule that he tries never to break. From 9:00 and 11:00 in the morning and from 4:00 to 6:00 in the evening, he's with the orchids and Theodore up in a greenhouse, and it doesn't matter what is going on. Inspector Cramer is pounding at the door with a warrant for Wolfe's arrest, he doesn't care. He's dealing with his orchids.

Michaela: You know my schedule, come back when it's not orchid--

Ed: You know my schedule, yes, exactly, come back.

Michaela: Come back when it's not orchid time. The dead body will still be dead in 10 minutes, it's fine.

Ed: To him, food is sacred. It is such an important thing. He never discusses business at a meal either. No matter how important something is, all conversation stops about business while they eat, which really frustrates him when he has guests at the house. He thinks that guests are another sacred thing. One of my favorite quotes, "A guest is a jewel on a cushion of hospitality." [00:10:00]

Michaela: Oh, mural.

Ed: Yes, he very much believes that. He also won't eat with a suspect he thinks might actually be the killer, so if he ever sits down and dines with anyone, then you can pretty much guess Wolfe has eliminated them as a suspect. One of my favorite scenes were some golden spiders, where a young boy comes in to hire Nero Wolfe. Wolf indulges him mostly if they needle Archie, and then dismisses him, but the next day, the boy is run over by a car. It looks like a hit and run, but of course, Wolfe knows better.

The boy really did know something, he knew too much. Wolfe's response is, "That boy has eaten at my table." I got this chill down my spine because somewhere in the world, somebody's in so much trouble now.

Michaela: Oh, yes, things that drive him are food, drink, and vengeance. I think the only time he's actually ever left the brownstone on business is the one time that one of his long-lost friends had been murdered and he leaves.

Ed: Oh, yes, Michael Bodley.

Michaela: He goes across continents. He goes out, he does physically demanding things. He hikes up mountains.

Ed: He goes back to Montenegro where he was born, which now is a communist country in that time period, and recreates the days of his youth to avenge when his best friend is murdered. Very heavy, slow-moving, avenging angel, but he does solve it in the end. He does come through.

Michaela: Powered by food, drink, and vengeance, I'm telling you.

Ed: Food, drink, and vengeance, absolutely. There's so much about Wolfe that I really, really love. He likes gourmet food, but he likes any food that is made well. For instance, in one of them, he's exhibiting his orchids at a state fair. When he's there, he goes into a tent run by a Methodist Church as a fundraiser and he gets their fried chicken, which he thinks is superb. He loves the fried chicken so much. He goes into the tent [00:12:00] to personally thank the chef who jots down his recipe for it.

Several other times in the series, he will bring up this fried chicken. At one point, he has someone at his house who has previously proclaimed that America never produced any high-quality food and serves him this fried chicken, which he refers to as chicken ala Methodist.

Michaela: [laughs] Amazing.

Ed: Yes, he is. He is amazing. He loves money. He spends a lot of money, therefore, he needs a lot of money.

Michaela: He charges the ever-living nest out of all of his clients.

Ed: Oh, yes.

Michaela: There's one great one. I think it was the case of the missing daughter where he's trying to solve a murder that has not yet occurred. This girl comes out of nowhere and claims to be this long-lost daughter of this millionaire. Of course, you've got the millionaire, the millionaire's son, this girl proclaiming to be his daughter, so he's like, "I feel like I'm going to get murdered either by my son. I'll die before the will gets changed or this girl who's claiming to be my daughter is going to kill me."

They want to get to know the girl better, so he tells Archie, "Go take the girl out," and Archie goes, "On my salary?" and he goes, "Oh, don't worry, the big man's paying for it. Take her to the nicest club in town. It's part of the investigation, it's fine. Order something nice."

Ed: Oh, yes. He will soak his clients for an enormous amount of money. He does take things pro bono. The boy who dies in golden spiders pays him $4.85. He later turns down a very large paycheck with someone who wants him to steer the investigation in a certain direction because the $4.85 means much more to him than the check he could get from the other guy. One of my favorite studs, I said he's very theatrical, and the silent speaker. A government official is about to make a speech to a group of the top industrialists in the country. However, he's murdered before he can talk to them. [00:14:00] These incredibly rich, powerful people are involved in this murder and Wolfe reads about it in the paper.

It took place just across town in a posh hotel that he's like, "The sum accumulation of wealth in that room was over a billion dollars, Archie, and yet they have not hired me to solve this murder." He finds that intolerable that they're not paying him money to solve a murder, so he sends Archie out to investigate the scene of the crime. "What am I looking for?" "It doesn't matter, investigate." Then he also contacts the FBI to inform them that he'll be sending someone to investigate and so forth. He contacts the police homicide department to find out what they know. Word gets around, "Oh, Nero Wolfe is looking into this."

Three of the industrialists come to demand to know who he's working for and he says, "I cannot tell you, gentleman." Because they're terrified one of their enemies has hired Wolfe to pin the crime on them, they hire him for an enormous amount of money to protect them. All the while, of course, Wolfe has no client, he's just soaking them for money.

Michaela: Excellent.

Ed: They are millionaires, of course, they can afford it. The clients who really get taken to the cleaners are the ones from the league of frightened men, which is one of his best. It's his second Nero Wolfe book. Don't read Fer-de-Lance, the first one. It's not really good. It's just not.

Michaela: It was hard to get through. The later stuff was just so much more fast-moving.

Ed: He became much smoother later once he figured out his formula.

Michaela: He got the groove, he got the flow.

Ed: The League of Frightened Men, he does a reverse murder on the Orient Express. Halfway through the book, I began to guess what was going on, but no, no mystery writer would do that. He goes there. Yes, totally. He loves big words. He tries to drop as many big words as possible. Stout was always searching the dictionary trying to find words for both to use appropriately, he doesn't force words into the conversation. At one point when he and Archie are fighting, because they fight a lot.

Michaela: Yes, they do. Well, they're best friends, of course, they're constantly.

Ed: People accuse Holmes and Watson of being [00:16:00] like a bickering couple, but Wolfe and Archie are a bickering couple.

Michaela: They are, they absolutely are.

Ed: Their arguments are legendary, it's the best things about it. In one of them, Archie starts to lose his temper and Wolfe says, "Are you feeling rancor?" and he says, "If I knew what that meant, I'd be feeling it."


He mostly doesn't like women, he's uncomfortable around them.

Michaela: Which is great because Archie is all about the ladies.

Ed: Archie is the ladies' man.

Michaela: Oh my God, every single woman he encounters, there's just a paragraph of him describing the most-

Ed: Yes, describing her.

Michaela: - obvious features about this woman and how gorgeous she is and just skin like magnolias.

Ed: It's amazing, Archie, we haven't even mentioned him yet. He's the narrator of the story. He is a fast-talking, wise-cracking, American private arm.

Michaela: Sassy.

Ed: Oh, he has a comeback for everybody.

Michaela: Everything. At one point, in the same one that I was talking about earlier just because it's fresh on my mind in the case of the missing daughter, they say, "Archie, don't you think $10 million is a bit of temptation for an ambitious woman?" He's like, "I think so even though I'm not ambitious and I'm certainly not a woman." [laughs] Just as wonderful, I love Archie. I just love him. He has the quickest, snappiest response for everything to the point where you know he's a made-up character because no one is that quick with it.

Ed: Yes, no one is that sharp.

Michaela: No one.

Ed: Yes. What I love about his relationship with women is that he tends to love all women. He'll describe a 60-year-old woman in the same glowing terms as he does a 20-year-old.

Michaela: Yes, he does.

Ed: He likes women with long legs. He likes a woman who can dance, but really he's not that picky.

Michaela: No, he's just a ladies' man, he doesn't discriminate.

Ed: He generally loves women. In one of the cases, their client was African American. One of the women he had to corral into being interviewed by Wolfe was a black woman, and he describes her in the exact same glowing terms as [00:18:00] anybody else they encounter in the story. This is the one that he wrote in the 1950s.

Michaela: Oh, well, there's tons of cases, especially for that time period. Rex Stout being very progressive and very--

Ed: Civil rights was very important to Stout.

Michaela: Yes. For instance, Nero Wolfe, he is an immigrant. There is one paragraph, I think it was at the 4th of July one, I'm blanking on the title. I think it was the picnic at the 4th of July and Nero Wolfe goes on this, not tangent, but has this little speech about, "I am an immigrant and the only reason I am here in this country is because of Americans like you, black and white, who have accepted me into this country, and I hope your brotherhood of Americans keeps accepting people like me." It's wonderful to see positivity about immigration, as well as civil rights in something that was written back in the '50s and the '40s, even some of the earlier ones I think were like late '30s, late '39.

Ed: In Too Many Cooks, it was about a gathering of the finest chefs in the world for this fabulous gourmet dinner, which naturally ends in murder much to Wolfe's chagrin. He actually leaves the house to attend this. There's a murder to be solved, but he mostly wants a recipe for a saucisse minuit, which is much more important than solving the murder. However, the racist sheriff, because it's in West Virginia, really wants to pin the murder on one of the black busboys, which would be really easy for him to do, but Wolfe right away knows that that's not the case and does not hesitate to put the sheriff in his place. In fact, they're the key to solving the mystery.

Again, not to give no spoilers. Wolfe can be lazy and Archie has to goad him into solving murders. He wants to solve murders. He has this keen sense of justice. One of my favorite stories is Some Buried Caesar. This is the one with the fried chicken, where he goes to the state fair. At one point, he's nervous by all the people around him, so he steps into a paddock that's filled with straw, and he looks down and there's a dead body, half-buried under the straw. [00:20:00] Wolfie says, "I see it. Back out slowly, Archie," and before they can leave, someone sees the body and screams and points.

Michaela: [sighs]

Ed: He just sighs. Of course, the sheriff shows up, and of course, the sheriff wants them held as a material witness. He has his brownstone waiting back in New York with his comfy chair, and instead, he's stuck in Upstate New York trying to help this yokel solve a murder.

Michaela: How dare this person get murdered? I tell you.

Ed: However, Some Buried Caesar also introduces one of my favorite recurring characters, Lily Rowan. Did you read any stories with Lily Rowen in it?

Michaela: A couple. I have had a couple with Lily.

Ed: She's amazing. Her relationship with Archie, it's one of the first really sensual, non-monogamous relationships I've ever seen. They have a totally open relationship, they both see other people. Archie says, "I never ask her what she does in her spare time, she never asks me."

Michaela: If this works.

Ed: They meet in Some Buried Caesar. Actually, she's one of the few women who gradually earns Wolfe's respect. In that one, Wolfe is pulling off one of his typically theatrical stunts to trap a killer, but the stunt starts to go awry when it doesn't go the way Wolfe planned and Lily Rowan steps in and immediately adlibs and saved everything from going pear-shaped and he really respects her for that. Quick-witted. In fact, in a really hysterical one where Wolfe goes undercover, if you can believe that.

Wolfe actually goes undercover at one point and pretends not to be Nero Wolfe, and in that, Lily Rowan becomes his eyes and ears temporarily by posing as his girlfriend. At one point, she sits in his lap and actually kisses him on the cheek.

Michaela: You got to sell it.

Ed: To sell the story, yes.

Michaela: You got to sell it.

Ed: He later apologizes for putting her through that. She says, "Don't be silly. I'm the only woman in New York who can say that she's kissed Nero Wolfe."

Michaela: True.

Ed: Absolutely. She's a great character. The series is full of great characters. So much of it is set in the brownstone that every room in the [00:22:00] house becomes as familiar as 221B Baker Street. The red leather chair that Inspector Cramer always sits in, Archie's chair that's off to one side so her can observe things and take notes, but Archie doesn't really take notes because he has a perfect memory. He can reproduce conversations from memory, including vocal intonations. He can actually reproduce an entire conversation for Wolfe. When Archie comes back from interviewing someone when he says, "Do you want the whole bag or just the highlights?"

Wolfe will either say everything or just the highlights and when he says just the highlights, Archie will pick and choose. If he says everything, Archie will literally go through every single word that was spoken in the conversation.

Michaela: And pauses.

Ed: Yes.

Michaela: Don't forget the pauses, very important.

Ed: He does that flawlessly, of course, and then Wolfe absolutely depends on that. Despite being a brilliant detective, Archie is never a step ahead of Nero Wolfe. At some point in the story, Wolfe will lean back in that big chair of his and fold his arms over his massive chest and close his eyes and start to purse his lips, and then you know he's thinking, he's cogitating. He's thinking about something.

Michaela: He's putting it all together.

Ed: He's putting it all together. By the time he opens his eyes again, his eyes will snap open and he'll start issuing orders to people. Because it amuses him to annoy Archie, he will hire Saul Panzer, who's a private guy who works as an extra man when Wolfe needs him. He'll hire Saul to go run an errand and Saul will know who the killer is because he'll know where Wolfe is directing him, but neither one of them tells Archie. Archie is kept in the dark until the last minute. This is probably a device so Archie doesn't tell the reader because we're inside of his head. It's probably just because Wolfe so enjoys annoying Archie and Archie will get back at him in any way that he can.

Saul Panzer is the best operative in New York, even Archie admits he's very, very good at his job. He's just one of the fascinating characters who wanders in and out of the house because the stories are character-driven. It's also humorous that the psychology of the characters, figuring out why people do what [00:24:00] they do is so important, but Rex Stout despised psychiatrists. If a psychiatrist ever showed up in a story, they're always either completely wrong about their theories or they're the killer. He hated them.

Michaela: They're moronic or they're just the killer. They're evil or stupid.

Ed: Yes, and no two ways about it. Wolfe was so popular. You know I love my spin-offs and sequels and things like that. I have a collection of Wolfe stories in some of our libraries, seven full-length mysteries. I also have Rasputin's Revenge, which is the second Auguste Lupa book by John Lescroart. Why is that here, you may ask. The first one was called Son of Holmes dealing with the illegitimate child of Sherlock Holmes and Irene Adler who was raised oddly enough in Montenegro.

Michaela: Montenegro.

Ed: Yes, where he becomes a gourmet chef at an orchid fancier, and he's swept up in the Freedom Fighters Movement and becomes a spy in the First World War. In the second one, he's sent to Russia to take on Rasputin in the court of his arm, and it's pretty obviously Augusta Lupa is Nero Wolfe as a young man because we know that he was a dashing young man. He still has that cheeky romanticism in him, but the harsh realities of the First World War drove that out of him.

Michaela: I was reading early life of Nero Wolfe, you know very little about him and he's a man shrouded in mystery, but one of them, I don't remember if it was a theory or something that Rex Stout had said an interview because it was just, oh my goodness, bombarded with so much Nero Wolfe information. He was called up to be a spy by the Austrians in the First World War, and after seeing what they were doing, he took himself out of that situation and went and joined the Montenegrin Army. He was like, "No, not for them. Not for them at all." No, that's him.

Ed: That is absolutely fascinating.

Michaela: That's him.

Ed: William S Baring-Gould [00:26:00] wrote a biography of Nero Wolfe called Nero Wolfe of West 35th Street, which he creates an imaginary background form filling in what Stout didn't. There's actually a book called The Brownstone of Nero Wolfe, which is in the Downtown Providence Library, which is literally a book about the house. Every single thing that Rex Stout said about the house, including drawing floor plans and everything, which is absolutely fascinating. There's a Nero Wolfe cookbook based on his recipes, and currently, someone is doing a blog where he tries to recreate the recipes as Fitz describes them in the book.

Michaela: Oh my gosh.

Ed: Oh, yes. There's a society known as the Wolfe Pack that meets annually for a gourmet dinner and they put out two collections of essays about Wolfe and Archie. Let's see, my favorite Nero Wolfe quotes. One of them, Inspector Cramer is the police officer who was always a step behind Wolfe. They have an antagonistic relationship. They both respect each other a lot, but also, really kind of hate each other because they're always stepping on each other's toes. At one point when Wolfe drops something and Cramer says, "How long have you been knowing that?" Wolfe says, "Since the beginning, of course," and he explains.

Cramer explodes and threatens to arrest him for withholding evidence, and he says, "Don't be silly. If I see something and the police do not, that does not mean I am withholding evidence."

Michaela: [laughs] I love him. I just love him.

Ed: My second favorite Nero Wolfe quote, and this should be in every mystery book. When he is working for a really rich guy, the guy who's also a politician, he tells him, "I hope you'll be delicate about this investigation," and he says, "Oh, on the contrary, sir, I can only promise the exact opposite. There is nothing more intrusive than a murder investigation. Whatever you're attempting to cover up will undoubtedly be brought to light." [laughs]

Michaela: Good, I like it.

Ed: Oh, yes, there's no stopping Wolfe once he gets on the case. It does it matter what it takes. One thing I noticed doing research for this, a couple of things I discovered, Rex Stout was the writer that other writers admired. He's more popular among his fellow writers, I think, than he is the general public. Other writers respected his plotting, his characters, his snappy dialogue, including writers you might not expect. Ross McDonald who created a whole series of The Lew Archer Mysteries said that Stout perfectly blended the armchair mystery with the hard world detective in a way that no one else before or since has done.

PG Wodehouse in his Bertie and Jeeves series was a huge fan. Bertie grabs every Nero Wolfe book as soon as it arrives on the stands, and there's several books in which he name drops the Nero Wolfe stories as they come out. The thing that surprised me the most was Ian Fleming was a Stout fan.

Michaela: Yes.

Ed: Yes, he was. I had forgotten this because I've read this book. On Her Majesty's Secret Service, where Bond goes in to see M, M is sitting there going, "What is the name of that American detective? The one with the orchids?" and Bond says, "Nero Wolfe, sir." Then M goes on to say how ridiculous the books are and bond says, "I rather like them, sir." It's Bond defending Nero Wolfe against M. Fleming was so impressed that he actually talked to Stout about doing a team-up between their respective characters.

Michaela: That would have been awesome.

Ed: He was probably saying it tongue in cheek, but Stout responded that it would never work because Bond would get all the girls and that would make Archie jealous.

Michaela: [laughs] You're not wrong. Archie would hate James bond. Oh my gosh.

Ed: It's Nero Wolfe, a fantastic detective, the books are brilliant. If you like murder mysteries, they combine the old-fashioned like Agatha Christie-style. At one point, Archie literally makes the quip, "This is like an Agatha Christie mystery." [laugs] When he's lining up people to go into Wolfe's office, he actually tells the reader how much it is like a Hercule Poirot story. [00:30:00] They're extremely well written.

Michaela: Yes, oh my goodness.

Ed: He started writing them the '30s, he kept writing until the '70s, and Archie and Wolfe remain exactly the same. The world chain is around them. They go from talking about the depression to talking about the Vietnam War.

Michaela: Yes, they do not age.

Ed: They never age.

Michaela: They're ageless.

Ed: Yes, but their world is immutable and unchanging. The world moves around them and they are unchanging.

Michaela: Time does not move in the brownstone, the world outside of the brownstone.

Ed: Yes.

Michaela: That's what marches forward.

Ed: It's so convincing you feel like it's actually there. I've never gone to West 35th Street to look for his brownstone, but I already know it doesn't exist. I remember walking down the street in the middle of Manhattan seeing a diner and thinking, "Isn't that where Archie likes to read at?" I immediately thought of that.


Michaela: Like I said, Archie some of the things we said, he's just so quick with it.

Ed: Yes.

Michaela: Nobody is that quickly winded, but just there's something so natural about the characters as well.

Ed: They feel very real.

Michaela: They feel real.

Ed: Yes.

Michaela: Even listening to the teleplays, which was amazing, oh my goodness, every single fistfight you can tell it's just somebody fumbling with a microphone. It's amazing, but even just listening to those, which, yes, you have a real voice, which gives you even more connection, it did it. It just felt like, oh, I'm just hearing about what these guys did last week. That's so great. It does. They feel so real and it's because they are so well written and they are so three-dimensional.

Ed: Absolutely. They're set in their own world yet they're so realistic.

Michaela: Oh, yes.

Ed: Very good. All right, we'll be back next time. We'll cover more mysteries.

Michaela: More mysteries.

Ed: Yes, more mysterious stuff next time. Until then, I have been Ed.

Michaela: I've been Michaela.

Ed: We'll see you until then, be safe.

Michaela: Be happy, be healthy. Bye.

Ed: Bye.


Emily: That concludes today's episode of Rhody Radio featuring a segment from booktalking with the Woonsocket Harris Public Library. You can find the video recording of today's segment, and many more segments at the Woonsocket [00:32:00] Harris Public Library's Facebook page, which we've linked to in our show notes. Give them a like and follow along for more deep dives with Ed and Michaela and other staff at the library. As always, thanks for listening to Rhody Radio. Subscribe wherever you get your podcasts to hear curated content from librarians delivered to you every other Tuesday.

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