Quotations:The League of Frightened Men

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by Rex Stout (1935)
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  1. Page references for unsigned quotations follow the 1993 Bantam Books Crime Line edition (The Rex Stout Library). Page references for quotations submitted by Faterson follow the 1963 Pyramid Books edition, in which the novel is 207 pages long.
  2. Contrary to what some believe, this passage does not prove that Nero Wolfe was ever married. In fact, most Nero Wolfe experts seem to reject such a notion. They tend to interpret the passage by separating the husband from Nero Wolfe: i.e., the woman experimented with her murderous design on Nero Wolfe before employing it on her husband – a different person. For a related debate, see page 2 of the A Family Affair thread in the discussion forum. --Faterson (08 Oct 2007, 11:53 CEST)

Chapter 1, page 2 [1]

Wolfe once asked me why the devil I ever pretended to read a book, and I told him for cultural reasons, and he said I might as well forgo the pains, that culture was like money, it comes easiest to those who need it least.

Chapter 2, page 18

‘As you know, the book came. I read it last night.’

‘Why did you read it?’

‘Don’t badger me. I read it because it was a book.’

Chapter 3, page 22

I’m funny about women. I’ve seen dozens of them I wouldn’t mind marrying, but I’ve never been pulled so hard I lost my balance. [...] When I meet a new one there’s no doubt that I’m interested and I’m fully alive to all the possibilities, and I’ve never dodged the issue as far as I can tell, but I never seem to get infatuated. For instance, take the women I meet in my line of business – that is, Nero Wolfe’s business. I never run into one, provided she’s not just an item for the cleaners, without letting my eyes do the best they can for my judgement, and more than that, it puts a tickle in my blood. I can feel the nudge on the accelerator. But then of course the business gets started, whatever it may happen to be, and I guess the trouble is I’m too conscientious. I love to do a good job more than anything else I can think of, and I suppose that’s what shorts the line.

Chapter 3, page 23

If worry about her uncle was eating her, and I suppose it was, she was following what Wolfe called the Anglo-Saxon theory of the treatment of emotions and desserts: freeze them and hide them in your belly.

'If Archie was a woman ...', chapter 3, page 33

‘Archie, I warn you, someday you are going to become indispensible.’ He stirred a little. ‘If you were a woman and I were married to you, which God forbid, no amount of space available on this globe, to separate us, would put me at ease.’

Wolfe makes an impression, chapter 4, page 40

I suspected he wasn’t overwhelmed by prestige as much as he was by avoirdupois, having never seen Wolfe before.

Chapter 5, page 56

He was easing them into it; he was sewing them up. I grinned to myself, ‘Boss, you’re cute, that’s all, you’re just cute.’

Chapter 8, pages 85-6

I would like to say another thing right here, that I know when I’m out of my class. I’ve got my limitations, and I never yet have tried to give them the ritz. [...] When people begin to get deep and complicated they mix me up. But pictures never do. With pictures, no matter how many pieces they’ve got that don’t seem to fit at first, I’m there forty ways from Sunday.

Chapter 8, page 92

The telephone rang. I nearly knocked my glass of milk over getting it. I’m always like that when we’re on a case, and I suppose I’ll never get over it; if I had just landed ten famous murderers and had them salted down, and was at the moment engaged in trying to run down a guy who had put a slug in a subway turnstile, Fritz going to answer the doorbell would put a quiver in me.

Chapter 9, page 101

People who quit living a year ago Christmas and haven’t found out about it yet give me a pain, and all I’ve got for them is politeness and damn little of that.

Chapter 10, page 116

Of course, riding a guy who needed a drink bad and wouldn’t take it was like knocking a cripple’s crutch out from under him, but I didn’t need to remind myself that all’s fair in love and business. Basic truths like that are either born right in a man or they’re not.

Nero Wolfe & Archie Goodwin ib., page 87f

  “The things a woman will think of are beyond belief. I knew a woman once in Hungary whose husband had frequent headaches. It was her custom to relieve them by the devoted application of cold compresses. It occurred to her one day to stir into the water with which she wetted the compresses a large quantity of a penetrating poison which she had herself distilled from an herb. The result was gratifying to her. The man on whom she tried the experiment was myself[2]. The woman –”

He was just trying to keep me from annoying him about business. I cut in. “Yeah. I know. The woman was a witch you had caught riding around in the curl of a pig’s tail. [...]”  


Wolfe puts Archie in his place, ib., page 122

‘God made you and me, in certain respects, quite unequal, and it would be futile to try any interference with His arrangements.’

Chapter 11, page 123

Sometimes I thought it was a wonder Wolfe and I got on together at all. The differences between us, some of them, showed up plainer at the table than anywhere else. He was a taster and I was a swallower. Not that I didn’t know good from bad; after seven years of education from Fritz’s cooking I could even tell, usually, superlative from excellent. But the fact remained that what chiefly attracted Wolfe about food in his pharynx was the affair it was having with his taste buds, whereas with me the important point was that it was bound for my belly. To avoid any misunderstanding, I should add that Wolfe was never disconcerted by the problem of what to do with it when he was through tasting it. He could put it away. I have seen him, during a relapse, dispose completely of a ten-pound goose between eight o’clock and midnight, while I was in a corner with ham sandwiches and milk hoping he would choke.

Birthday present, chapter 12, page 133

I had a nice piece of leather of my own, not as big as Paul Chapin’s treasure box, but fancier. Sitting at my desk around five o’clock that Wednesday afternoon, killing time waiting for a visitor who had phoned, I took it out of my inside breast pocket and looked at it; I had only had it a couple of weeks. It was brown, ostrich-skin, and was tooled in gold all over the outside. On one side the tooling was fine lines about half an inch apart, with flowers stemming out from them; the flowers were orchids; the workmanship was so good that you could tell Wolfe had given the guy a Cattleya to work from. The other side was covered with Colt automatics, fifty-two perfect little gold pistols all aiming at the centre. Inside was stamped in gold: A.G. from N.W. Wolfe had given it to me on October 23rd, at the dinner table, and I didn’t even know he knew when my birthday was.

Archie educates Cramer, chapter 12, page 138

‘Why she phoned you to arrest him – wait till I get a chance to tell Wolfe about it – why she did that, she’s psychopathic. So’s her husband. They’re both psychopathic. That’s Park Avenue for batty.’

Chapter 13, page 149

Wolfe loved that kind of work, every minute of it; when he had gone through a sample and made sure that the a wasn’t off the line and the n wasn’t cockeyed, he grunted with satisfaction. I liked it only when it got results.

Archie's merits, chapter 13, page 154

‘And I’ve been useful too. According to you. Why did you buy the gasoline I burned up yesterday and today if you decided Sunday night you couldn’t get the goods on him? It seems as if I’m like a piece of antique furniture or a pedigreed dog, I’m in the luxury class. You keep me on for beauty.’

Chapter 15, page 178

I can stand a real tough baby, but a bird that fancies himself for a hot mixture of John D. Rockefeller and Lord Chesterfield, being all the time innocent of both ingredients, gives me a severe pain in the sitter.

Chapter 16, pages 190-1

‘I brought him in with his cap on so you could see him that way. Anyhow, all I ever saw was a photograph.[...] And I’m here to tell you, it would have been a pleasure to plug him, and no kinds of comments will be needed now or any other time.’

The House of Men, chapter 16, page 199

Since it was two flights up I took him to Wolfe’s elevator. The door of the south room stood open, and the room was nice and warm. I looked around: the bed had been made, comb and brush and nail file were on the dresser, orchids were in the bowl on the table; fresh towels were in the bathroom. Not bad for a strictly male household.

Chapter 17, page 229

She was quite a person, that Mrs Burton. I was getting so I liked her. Maybe her soul was put away in a box somewhere, but other items of her insides, meaning guts, were all where they ought to be. If I was the kind that collected things I wouldn’t have minded having one of her gloves myself.

Chapter 18, page 243

He came to with a start and looked at me. He blinked. ‘Oh,’ he said, ‘it’s little Nero Wolfe.’

I nodded. ‘Names don’t bother me, but mine happens to be Archie Goodwin.’

Chapter 18, page 246

I can’t very well pretend to be proud of what happened that afternoon at Paul Chapin’s apartment. I pulled a boner, no doubt of that, and it wasn’t my fault that it didn’t have a result that ended a good deal more than the Chapin case, but the opinion you have of it depends entirely on how you use it. I can’t honestly agree that it was quite as dumb as one or two subsequent remarks of Wolfe’s might seem to indicate.

Archie clears his head, chapter 19, page 255

Someone had come in and was standing there, and I looked up and saw it was a flatfoot wearing a silly grin, directed at me. He asked me something and I told him to take his shoes off to rest his brains. He made some kind of reply that was intended to be smart, and I laid my head down on the top of the telephone stand to get the range, and banged it up and down a few times on the wood, but it didn’t seem to do any good.

Archie hears Wolfe is safe, chapter 19, page 257

I let the phone down and pressed it against one of my ribs for a moment, not wanting to make a fool of myself. Then I put it up to my mouth again: ‘Excuse me for asking who it is. It sounded like Nero Wolfe. Where are you?’

Role reversal, chapter 20, page 263

Wolfe, in his chair, looked up and said good morning and asked me how I felt. I told him I felt like twin colts and went to my desk. He said:

‘But, Archie. Seriously. Should you be up?’

‘Yeah. Not only should I be up, but I should have been up. You know how it is, I’m a man of action.’

His cheeks unfolded. ‘And I, of course, am super-sedentary. A comical interchange of roles, that you rode home last evening from the Bronx River Inn, a matter of ten miles or more, with your head on my lap all the way.’

I nodded. ‘Very comical. I told you a long while ago, Mr Wolfe, that you pay me half for the chores I do and half for listening to you brag.’

Wolfe and Archie hedging, chapter 20, page 273

‘What persuaded me that some sort of action was called for was the presence in the envelope of the leather case you had seemed to like.’

He paused for a glass of beer. I grunted, and thought I ought to say something, but all I could think of was, ‘Yeah, I liked it. And you’ve still got it.’

Chapter 21, page 277

Wolfe had eluded the stampede. He had got to his desk and lowered himself into his chair, and Fritz had brought him beer. I looked at him, and was glad I did, for it wasn’t often he felt like winking at me and I wouldn’t have wanted to miss it. He returned my look and gave me the wink, and I grinned at him.

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