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!