Alphabet Hicks

Created by Rex Stout


Best known as “that guy that created Nero Wolfe,” Rex Stout managed to squeeze out a few other enjoyable gumshoes, including ALFRED “ALPHABET” HICKS, a disgraced young lawyer who blames an excess of both pride and ethics for his disbarment during his very first year of practice.

Suddenly out on his keister, he’s scrapes by as a security guard, a nightwatchman and finally a New York City cabbie and part-time private detective in his one appearance, the cleverly titled Alphabet Hicks (1941; later known as “The Sound of Murder”). One night, Judith Dundee, one of his fares, recognizes him and promptly asks for his help. Seems her fat cat husband, a plastics manufacturer, has accused her of industrial espionage. It turns into a corker of a case, just chockfull of pulpy goodness: numerous murders, babes stuffed in car trunks, missing chocolate, a phonograph recording that turns out to be a key piece of evidence, and more quirky characters than you could shake a stick at–the quirkiest of them all being Hicks himself.

Over-educated to a fault (thank you, Harvard Law), and more than a little impressed with himself (your mileage may vary), Alphabet got his nickname from his peculiar (and pretentious) habit of dishing out business cards featuring only his name and a string of seemingly nonsensical letters. Which of course prompts everyone to ask what they stand for.

The answer is usually some nonsense like “Melancholy Spectator of the Psychic Bellyache of Mankind” (M.S.O.T.P.B.O.M.) or “Lover of Peace Unless Someone Starts a Fight” (L.O.P.U.S.S.A.F.).

Oh, the hilarity!

Other private eyes created by Stout include Dol Bonner and Tecumseh Fox.



Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

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