“Apologia Pro Vita Sua”

By Rex Stout

The following poem, written by Rex Stout, appeared in the August 21, 1935 issue of The New York Times, in conjunction with the then-recent publication of his second Nero Wolfe mystery. At the time, Stout was still relatively unknown, and must have been feeling a little sensitive about being pegged as a mere  “mystery monger.”  “Apologia Pro Vita Sua” is Latin for “A defense of one’s own life.”

Anyway, here’s how the Times introduced it:

Rex Stout, whose mystery novel “The League of Frightened Men” has served as the basis for a United Front of highbrows and mere readers of The Saturday Evening Post, explains himself as follows. Taking a clause from our review as his text — “the fact that Rex Stout was a legitimate novelist before he took up the trade of mystery monger” — he writes:

Once I lived in humble hovels
And wrote a few legitimate novels.
Now, tiring of the pangs of hunger,
I ply the trade of mystery monger.

Murder, mayhem, gun and knife,
Violent death, my staff of life!

I wrote, through eating not bewhiles,
Of fate profound and secret trials.
Now—calmed the empty belly’s fury.
I write of guilt and trial by jury.

Suspense, excitement, thrills, suspicion,
Sources of excellent nutrition!

I took men’s souls on bitter cruises,
Explored the heart and necked the Muses.
But now to me I say: poor critter,
Be fed, and let who will be bitter.

Clues, deductions right and wrong,
O Mystery! Of thee I mong!

Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

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