Not-quite-Ready-for-Prime-Time Department
Rex Stout
(1886-1975)

"Compose yourself, Archie. Why taunt me? Why upbraid me? I am merely a genius, not a god."
--Nero Wolfe humbly confesses, in Fer-de-Lance.

At first glance, Rex Stout's NERO WOLFE might seem out of place among the hard-bitten, world-weary, pavement-pounding P.I.s to which this site is usually devoted. Massively overweight, a cranky, agoraphobic and sedentary gourmet who virtually never leaves his Manhattan brownstone, Wolfe is in nearly every sense an armchair detective. And yet, Stout provided a real shot in the arm to the then-fledgling genre when he published his first Nero wolfe novel in 1934.

Wolfe and his investigator/bodyguard/secretary ARCHIE GOODWIN are just as much "eyes" as their predecessors Holmes and Watson – but with a big helping of the American P.I. genes that defined the sub-genre.

Over Wolfe's 40-year literary lifespan (with several additional adventures written by Robert Goldsborough in the 1980s), the fat genius and his sharp-eyed, smart-mouthed assistant bring down murderers, blackmailers, wartime traitors, and even (on one memorable occasion) leave J. Edgar Hoover out in the snow. These are men who make a good living at a difficult and dangerous business, not minor lords, plucky spinsters or churchmen who just happened to be at the garden party when the butler was stabbed.

Rex Stout was born in Indiana in 1886 to Quaker parents and raised in Kansas and by most accounts was quite the precocious child, reading the Bible cover to cover (twice!) before he was four, and becoming state spelling champion at the age of thirteen. After a brief time at Kansas University, he joined the navy, and served on President Roosevelt's yacht from 1906 to 1908. He worked as a bookkeeper, a salesman, a hotel manager and a store clerk, while trying to crack the burgeoning pulp market, cranking out tales of science fiction, romance and adventure. Ever practical, Stout teamed up with his brother, and established a business whose success would enable him to continue with his writing.

The first of his forty-seven Nero Wolfe books, Fer-de-Lance was published in 1934, to much popular and critical acclaim, and by the start of World War II, Stout was a full-time writer. He was also a tireless promoter of the war effort, banking on his popularity by giving speeches, hosting radio shows and chairing the Writers War Board. After the war he actively worked for groups including Friends for Democracy, Society for the Prevention of World War III and Writers Board for World Government. Not surprisingly McCarthy's HUAC committee came sniffing around, but Stout managed to avoid appearing before them. Stout also 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 honored with the MWA Grand Master Award.

One thing which does set the Wolfe books apart from many others in the P.I. genre is their somewhat bouncy tone; the stories usually have reasonably happy endings. In fact, Stout's last Nero Wolfe novel, A Family Affair, written at the height of the Watergate scandal, is probably the darkest of the Wolfe stories. Stout seems to have been mightily ticked off at Nixon and his cronies.

Besides books featuring private eyes Dol Bonner, Alphabet Hicks and Tecumseh Fox, Stout wrote several non-series books, including Under the Andes (1914), How Like a God (1929), and the political thriller The President Vanishes (1934).

NOVELS

...

SHORT STORIES

COLLECTIONS

COMIC STRIP

  • NERO WOLFE
    Written by John Broome (credited to Rex Stout)
    Artist:
    Mike Roy

FILM

  • MEET NERO WOLFE
    (1936, Columbia)
    Based on the novel Fer-de-Lance by Rex Stout
    Directed by Herbert Biberman
    Starring
    Edward Arnold as NERO WOLFE
    with Lionel Stander as Archie Goodwin
    .
  • THE LEAGUE OF FRIGHTENED MEN
    (1937, Columbia)
    Based on the novel by Rex Stout
    Directed by Alfred E. Green
    Starring
    Walter Connolly as NERO WOLFE
    with Lionel Stander as Archie Goodwin

RADIO

  • THE ADVENTURES OF NERO WOLFE
    (1943, NBC Blue)
    Based on characters created by Rex Stout
    Produced by Himan Brown
    Starring
    Santos Ortega as NERO WOLFE
    .
  • NERO WOLFE
    (1945-46)
    Based on characters created by Rex Stout
    Starring Francis X. Bushman as NERO WOLFE
    and Elliot Lewis as Archie Goodwin
    .
  • THE ADVENTURES OF NERO WOLFE
    Based on characters created by Rex Stout
    (1950-51, NBC)
    Starring Sydney Greenstreet as NERO WOLFE
    and Gerald Mohr as Archie Goodwin
    (later replaced by Luis Van Rooten, Wally Maher, Harry Bartell, Herb Ellis, and Larry Dobkin. In the same one-year run!)
    .
  • REX STOUT'S NERO WOLFE
    (1982, CBC Radio)
    Based on novellas and short stories by Rex Stout
    Adapted and Produced by Ron Hartman
    Music by Don Gillis
    Starring Mavor Moore as NERO WOLFE
    and Don Francks as ARCHIE GOODWIN

TELEVISION

  • NERO WOLFE
    (1977, Paramount Pictures)
    Pilot
    Based on the novel The Doorbell Rang, by Rex Stout
    Written and directed by Frank D. Gilroy
    Music: Leonard Rosenman
    Starring Thayer David as NERO WOLFE
    and Tom Mason as Archie Goodwin
    .
  • NERO WOLFE
    (1981, NBC)
    14 60-minute episodes
    Based on novellas and short stories by Rex Stout
    Executive producers: Ben Roberts, Ivan Goff
    Starring William Conrad as NERO WOLFE
    and Lee Horsley as ARCHIE GOODWIN
    .
  • LADY AGAINST THE ODDS
    (1992, NBC)
    First aired April 20, 1992)
    Based on characters created by Rex Stout
    Starring Crystal Bernard as DOL BONNER
    .
  • NERO WOLFE: THE GOLDEN SPIDERS. .Buy this video
    (March 5, 2000, A&E)
    Made-for-TV movie/pilot for series
    2 hours
    Based on characters created by Rex Stout
    Directed by Bill Duke
    Starring
    Maury Chaykin as NERO WOLFE
    with Timothy Hutton as ARCHIE GOODWIN
    .
  • NERO WOLFE
    (2001-02, A&E)
    Series
    Based on characters created by Rex Stout
    Starring Maury Chaykin as NERO WOLFE
    with Timothy Hutton as ARCHIE GOODWIN

REFERENCE, ETC.

  • At Wolfe's Door: The Nero Wolfe Novels of Rex Stout (1990, by J. Kenneth Van Dover)..Buy this book
    First published in 1990, this new edition of the indispensable guide features additional material. Includes synopses of every mystery novel and short story. Each entry includes commentary and short essays, and comments on Stout's place in the genre.
    .
  • The Nero Wolfe Cookbook (1996, by Rex Stout, and the editors of Viiking Press)..Buy this book
    Collection of recipes culled from the Nero Wolfe books, with plenty of period photos and quotes from the books.

  • Rex Stout: A Majesty's Life (2002, by John J. McAleer)...Buy this book
    Reprint of Edgar-winning biography. Features an intro by P. G. Wodehouse.

RELATED LINKS

  • The Nero Wolfe Club
    The Yahoo Nero Wolfe discussion group.
    .
  • Nero Wolfe: A Social Commentary on the U.S.
    An essay by Thrilling Detective Web Site contributor Marcia Kiser.
    .
  • James A. Rock and Company
    This publisher has several Stout-related offerings, with loads of info about the McAleer Biography, the Van Dover book, and the Rex Stout Interview.
    .
  • The Wolfe Pack
    The official site of the long-running (since 1969!) Nero Wolfe fan club. A real labour-of-love site, from web master Carol Novak. Tell her I said "Hi!"
    .
  • A&E's Nero Wolfe
    Official A&E site offered listings, program information, recipes, quizzes, contests and more for their TV series. I'm not sure how long this site will stay up, now that the show's been canned.
    .
  • David Patty's Nero Wolfe Site
    A great collection of paperback covers of the Wolfe canon and several Wolfe parodies.
    .
  • The Art of Nero Wolfe
    Mike Roehrman's fine-looking site devoted solely to the cover art of the Nero Wolfe canon. A book-by-book account, complete with cover scans.
    .
  • John Webb's Nero Wolfe Home Page
    Lots of quotes and a superb collection of links.
    .
  • Muffy's Nero Wolfe Home Page
    A lot of fan stuff, including a chronological listing of Wolfe's cases, a description of the layout of Wolfe's office, Q&A, and much more.
    .
  • Avenarius' Book of Quotations: Rex Stout
    Interesting collection of quotes from the man behind the Man. Or at least, it would have been, except for the lawyers and a little thing called copyright laws.

(C) 1999-2002, by Don B. Hilliard and Kevin B. Smith, with further contributions from Marc LaViolette, James A. Rock, Eric Jamborsky, Alex Avenarius, Mike Harris, Brian Baker (television), Jean Quinn-Manzo (comics) and Stewart Wright (radio).


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