Quotations:Plot It Yourself

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by Rex Stout (1959)
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  1. Page references for unsigned quotations follow the British 1959 edition of the novel, titled Murder in Style (Collins, The Crime Club, 1959). Page references for quotations submitted by Faterson follow the 1960 Bantam Books edition, in which the novel is 170 pages long. Where there are two page references given, the one in [square brackets] refers to the US edition used by Faterson.
  2. Compare the quote from page 22f, above
  3. Compare the 5th sentence in the quote from page 22f, above
  4. This does not really agree with the description of that situation in chapter 1 of The Black Mountain (1954). Credit goes to our contributor Adonis Guilfoyle for pointing out the inconsistency. [Faterson]

Nero Wolfe in chapter 3, page 22f [1]

  “But there are two others [similarities]. One is punctuation. They are all fond of semicolons and use them where most people would prefer a comma or a dash. The other is more subtle but to me the most conclusive. A clever man might successfully disguise every element of his style but one – the paragraphing. Diction and syntax may be determined and controlled by rational processes in full consciousness, but paragraphing – the decision whether to take short hops or long ones, whether to hop in the middle of a thought or action or finish it first – that comes from instinct, from the depths of personality. I will concede the possibility that the verbal similarities, and even the punctuation, could be coincidence, though it is highly improbable; but not the paragraphing. These three stories were paragraphed by the same person.” 


ib., page 30 [24]

When he [Wolfe] had gone I took the three stories to my desk and spent half an hour studying paragraphing[2], and though Lily Rowan told me once that I am about as subtle as a sledge hammer – at a moment when her diction was not determined and controlled by rational processes in full consciousness[3] – I saw what Wolfe meant.


My status and function are whatever a given situation calls for, and the question who decides what it calls for is what occasionally creates an atmosphere in which Wolfe and I are not speaking.

Archie and Fritz, Chapter 4, page 35

I grinned at him. He regards every woman who enters the house as a potential threat to his kitchen, not to mention the rest of his precinct, and he was particularly suspicious of Dol Bonner, Dol being short for Theodolinda, the only female owner and operator of a detective agency in New York. ‘No,’ I said, ‘she came yesterday on a personal matter. Mr Wolfe keeps phoning to ask her to dinner, and she wants me to get him to stop annoying her.’

He pointed the spoon at me. ‘Archie, if I could lie with your aplomb I would be an ambassador.’

Chapter 5, page 41

So [Wolfe] pulled a mutiny, the first one in three years. His mutinies are not like other people’s. Other people mutiny against the Army or Navy, or some other authority, but he mutinies against himself.

Chapter 5, page 42

That building was a tenement not only as defined in the New York Tenement House Act, but also as what people usually mean when they say ‘tenement’. It was a dump.

Chapter 5, pp. 46-7

‘I said beat it.’ [Kenneth Rennert] took a step. ‘Do you want help?’

I arose and took two steps, and was facing him at arm’s length. ‘Would you like to try?’

I was hoping he would. Wolfe’s mutiny had put me in a humour that would have made it a pleasure to take a swing at somebody, and this character was the right size and build to make it not only a pleasure but good exercise. He didn’t oblige me. His eyes stayed with mine, but he backed up a foot.

‘I don’t want to get blood on the rug,’ he said.

A romantic gesture, chapter 5, page 49

I agreed with [Jane Ogilvy] absolutely. There was nothing I could say that would be worthy of the occasion. Besides, my name wasn’t Porphyro. But I didn’t want to turn and go with no response at all, so I reached to the trellis beside me and picked a red rose, pressed it to my lips, and tossed it to her. Then I went.

Chapter 7, page 73

However, by going to the kitchen I merely transferred from one genius to another. When I offered to spread the paste on the cheesecloth which was to be wrapped around the ducklings, Fritz gave me exactly the kind of look Wolfe has given me on various and numerous occasions. I was perched on a stool, making pointed comments to Fritz about the superiority of teamwork, when there was a bellow from the office.

Archie and Stebbins, chapter 8, page 77

Three flights up I turned to the front, and there, at the open door where Mrs Jacobs and the boy had awaited me on my previous visit, I was awaited again, but not by them. In the dim light I took two steps before I recognised him, then stopped. We spoke simultaneously, and spoke the same words.

‘Not you,’ we said.

Chapter 8, page 79

Purley opened his mouth and shut it again. When I have facts he needs, he would like to force them out by jumping up and down on my belly, but for that I would have to be lying on my back.

Chapter 10, page 97

[Wolfe's] brain works better when he is sitting down and mine when I am on my feet. Not that I would dream of comparing mine with his, though I do believe that in one or two respects – Oh, well.

Chapter 13, page 119

I knew from past experience that Wolfe would have approved, but if I had told him in advance he would have been responsible, me being his agent, and it was fair for him to share the risk of my law-breaking when it was his idea, but not when it was mine.

Chapter 13, page 119

Anywhere and everywhere you go you should always notice the kind of lock, in case it becomes necessary at some future time to get in without help.

ib., page 125 [110]

  I stopped because he [Wolfe] was having a fit. He had closed his right hand to make a fist and was hitting the desk with it, and he was bellowing. He was roaring something in a language that was probably the one he had used as a boy in Montenegro, the one that he and Marko Vukcic had sometimes talked. He had roared like that when he heard that Marko had been killed,[4] and on three other occasions over the years.

Archie and Fritz, chapter 14, page 131

In the kitchen at a quarter to nine Monday morning, as I was pouring a third cup of coffee, Fritz asked me what I was nervous about. I said I wasn’t nervous. He said of course I was, I had been jerky for the last ten minutes, and I was taking a third cup of coffee. I said everybody in that house was too damned observant. He said, ‘See? You’re very nervous’ – and I took the coffee to the office.

Chapter 15, page 137

If I had been the president or the executive secretary the chairs would have been in place; after all, we were expected.

Chapter 16, page 149

Everyone glared at everyone. ‘Tell Sergeant Stebbins,’ I instructed the man, ‘that Archie Goodwin was here. It will please him.’

Wolfe cuts Archie out of the loop again, chapter 17, page 163

‘Next, it wouldn’t hurt if I had some notion of what Saul and Fred and Orrie and Dol Bonner and Sally Corbett are up to. So that when they call in I’ll know what they’re talking about.’

‘They’ll report to me.’

‘I see. Like that again. What I don’t know won’t hurt you.’

‘What you don’t know will make no demands on your powers of dissimulation.’

Cramer behaves himself, chapter 17, page 165

I went to the front and opened the door and got a shock, or rather, a series of shocks. Cramer said, ‘Good morning’, distinctly, as he crossed the threshold, plainly implying that I was a fellow being. Then he dropped his hat on the bench and waited while I closed the door, instead of tramping on to the office. Then he not only told Wolfe good morning, but asked him how he was. Evidently it was Brotherhood Day. I had to control an impulse to slap him on the back or poke him in the ribs.

Wolfe and Archie, chapter 18, pp. 174-5

I spoke. ‘Can I help?’

‘No. It’s done.’

‘A big party, apparently.’

‘Yes. At nine o’clock.’

‘Have the guests all been invited?’


‘Am I invited?’

‘I was wondering where you were.’

‘Working. [...] Is Fritz disabled?’

‘No. He is grilling a steak.’

‘The hell he is. Then the party’s a celebration?’

‘No. I am anticipating events by a few hours. I have a job ahead of me that i prefer not to tackle on an empty stomach.’

‘Do I get some of the steak?’

‘Yes. There are two.’

‘Then I’ll go up and comb my hair.’ I went.

Chapter 19, page 191

Wolfe shook his head again. ‘You are beyond me. Added to your other achievements, you committed three murders in an emergency with such resourcefulness and dexterity that a highly skilled police force is completely at sea. I offer a suggestion. I suggest that you request the District Attorney to arrange for your brain to be turned over to competent scientists. I shall myself suggest it to Mr Cramer of the police. Will you do that?’

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