[an asterisk * denotes a collection of novelettes]
[two asterisks ** denote a volume or item that does not feature Archie Goodwin and Nero Wolfe]
Seven quotations by Rex Stout (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7) have been chosen as mottoes for this Book of Quotations. Beside the current webpage, you might want to take a look at this alternative overview of links to Rex Stout texts, quotations, audio recordings, and the mottoes.
New Version of This Webpage!
You are currently viewing the old version of this webpage. The entire Avenarius’ Book of Quotations is currently (started in 2007) being re-made into a wiki (using the same software as Wikipedia). The wiki format of Avenarius’ Book of Quotations will enable all visitors of these pages to add favourite quotations of their own to all collections already available, or to create their own collections of favourite excerpts from whatever works and authors they deem worth quoting.
Please visit the all-new Rex Stout profile webpage in the wiki format! You are free to contribute to the new version of this page yourself! All the content from this, the old version of the Rex Stout page, will be transferred to the new version of the page over time. In fact, feel free to go ahead and do so yourself if you can spare a minute. Plus, exciting new content has already been added to the Rex Stout page in the new format, so make sure to check it out.
Here is a list of collections of Rex Stout quotations already included in Avenarius’ Book of Quotations:
Fer-de-Lance (1934) [95 KB + 14 KB]
Too Many Cooks (1938) [39 KB + 6 KB]
The Black Mountain (1954) [11 KB]
Collections of quotations from the following Rex Stout volumes are forthcoming:
The League of Frightened Men (1935)
The Rubber Band (1936)
The Red Box (1937)
Some Buried Caesar (1939)
** Red Threads (1939)
** Double for Death (1939)
Over My Dead Body (1940)
Where There’s a Will (1940)
* Black Orchids (1942)
* Not Quite Dead Enough (1944)
The Silent Speaker (1946)
And Be a Villain (1948)
The Second Confession (1949)
* Trouble in Triplicate (1949)
In the Best Families (1950)
* Three Doors to Death (1950)
Murder by the Book (1951)
Prisoner’s Base (1952)
* Triple Jeopardy (1952)
The Golden Spiders (1953)
* Three Witnesses (1956)
If Death Ever Slept (1957)
* Three for the Chair (1957)
Champagne for One (1958)
* And Four to Go (1958)
Plot It Yourself (1959)
Too Many Clients (1960)
* Homicide Trinity (1962)
The Mother Hunt (1963)
A Right To Die (1964)
The Doorbell Rang (1965)
Death of a Doxy (1966)
The Father Hunt (1968)
Death of a Dude (1969)
Please Pass the Guilt (1973)
A Family Affair (1975)
* [Death Times Three] (1985)
There are, in all, 33 Nero Wolfe / Archie Goodwin full-length novels, published by Rex Stout inbetween 1934 and 1975. (See the complete list of Nero Wolfe full-length novels further down on this webpage.) That is a span of 41 years; Rex Stout was between 48 and 89 years old when he wrote his famous yarns! In addition to the 33 full-length Nero Wolfe novels, there are 14 collections of Nero Wolfe / Archie Goodwin short novels (novelettes) that, combined, contain 41 Nero Wolfe short novels. (See the complete list of Nero Wolfe novelettes further down on this webpage.) That means an average of one Nero Wolfe short novel per one year of Nero Wolfe writing! In total numbers, there are 74 various Wolfe/Goodwin yarns published in 47 various volumes. Isn’t that interesting?
However, two pairs from among the 41 novelettes are, in each instance, two different versions of the same story. ›Frame-Up for Murder‹ (1958/1985), which might well be nominated for the best Wolfe short story ever written, is an expansion of ›Murder Is No Joke‹ (1958); and ›Assault on a Brownstone‹ (/1985) is an early, very differently plotted version of ›Counterfeit for Murder‹ (1959/1962). Even so, all four of these stories are worth reading; I mean, worth rereading as nearly everything Stout ever wrote about Wolfe.
Quotations from the following Nero Wolfe novelettes are forthcoming:
›Assault on a Brownstone‹ (/1985)
›Bitter End‹ (1940/1985)
›Before I Die‹ (1947/1949)
›Black Orchids‹ (1942)
›Booby Trap‹ (1944)
›Christmas Party‹ (1957/1958)
›The Cop-Killer‹ (1951/1952)
›Cordially Invited to Meet Death‹ (1942)
›Counterfeit for Murder‹ (1959/1962)
›Death of a Demon‹ (1961/1962)
›Die Like a Dog‹ (1954/1956)
›Door to Death‹ (1949/1950)
›Easter Parade‹ (1957/1958)
›Eeny Meeny Murder Mo‹ (1962)
›Fourth of July Picnic‹ (1957/1958)
›Frame-Up for Murder‹ (1958/1985)
›Help Wanted, Male‹ (1945/1949)
›Home to Roost‹ (1952)
›Immune to Murder‹ (1955/1957)
›Instead of Evidence‹ (1946/1949)
›Man Alive‹ (1947/1950)
›Murder Is No Joke‹ (1958)
›The Next Witness‹ (1955/1956)
›Not Quite Dead Enough‹ (1942/1944)
›Omit Flowers‹ (1948/1950)
›The Squirt and the Monkey‹ (1951/1952)
›Too Many Detectives‹ (1956/1957)
›When a Man Murders‹ (1954/1956)
›A Window for Death‹ (1956/1957)
Where there are two years of publication given, the first digit denotes the year of publication in a magazine, while the second digit denotes the first publication of that story in book form, in one of Rex Stout’s customary collections of novelettes. The one digit in square brackets denotes the year of writing of a novelette that only got published for the first time in Rex Stout’s posthumous collection of novelettes, Death Times Three. There are in total 14 Nero Wolfe collections of novelettes, including the posthumous volume; 11 collections contain 3 Nero Wolfe novelettes each, while And Four to Go contains (guess how many!) novelettes and the earliest two collections, Black Orchids and Not Quite Dead Enough, contain only a pair of short novels each.
Four additional sections of quotations will be set up on this site:
Rex Stout’s Miscellaneous quotations
Rex Stout’s Worst quotations
Quoted By Rex Stout
Others About Rex Stout
Rex Stout and Pola Stout photographed in 1944
Return to Top
The Other Rex Stout
After studying all of Wolfes, I wouldn’t like to neglect the many writings Rex Stout produced prior to his days of Nero Wolfe fame. After all, Stout was almost in his fifties when, in 1934, he came up with that fabulous first Wolfe novel, Fer-de-Lance. (In fact, it may well be the finest Nero Wolfe volume of them all!) And, Stout had exhibited signs of genius since his earliest childhood; his IQ was in the 190s.
Rex Stout’s non-Wolfe writings may be roughly divided into the following four groups:
A common error in perception of Rex Stout’s writings is to confuse, or mingle, the second with the third category in the list of the four groups of non-Wolfe writings just given above. Yet Rex Stout’s (four, it seems) “serious” genre novels (beginning with How Like a God, 1929), written in the late 1920s and early 1930s, just before Stout commenced his Nero Wolfe œuvre in Fer-de-Lance (1934), must be very different in nature, and possibly also in quality of writing, from his juvenilia: stories from “pulp” magazines of the 1910s decade or adventure novels such as Under the Andes (1914).
There is a gap of a decade and a half between the two sets of stories. It is preposterous to judge one set after only reading a sample from the other set. Yet this is commonly done, in ignorance, by many Nero Wolfe enthusiasts who quickly dismiss any non-Wolfe book by Rex Stout simply because it does not feature Wolfe, or because it (the adventure novel Under the Andes, to give an example) is esteemed to be of low quality and, on the basis of this single work written by Stout when he was in his late 20s, these readers believe they can judge and dismiss (without having read) How Like a God, written when Stout was 43 (!) years old, after his Paris stay of several years – and only a few years prior to his first and exquisite Wolfe novel, Fer-de-Lance.
It is important to note that Rex Stout’s four “serious” genre novels had been praised by contemporary literary criticism (both ›The New York Times‹ and ›The New York Herald Tribune‹ lauded How Like a God, 1929), even though the novels failed to catch the attention of a wide reading public. It is high time for these four “serious” Rex Stout novels to be re-examined and re-assessed (in terms of literary quality) today, in the 21st century. I can only speak in conjectures here; for while it is next to impossible to get one’s hands on all Nero Wolfe volumes in Central Europe, you can entirely forget about finding, or even borrowing for a few days, Rex Stout’s non-Wolfe & non-mystery & non-juvenilia writings here; this is yet another obstacle facing Rex Stout scholars in these parts of Europe.
Return to Top
Non-Wolfe Mystery Novels
** The Hand in the Glove (1937, featuring Dol Bonner)
** Red Threads (1939, featuring Inspector Cramer in a supporting role)
** Double for Death (1939, featuring Tecumseh Fox)
** The Mountain Cat Murders (1939)
** Bad for Business (1940, featuring Tecumseh Fox)
** The Broken Vase (1941, featuring Tecumseh Fox)
** The Sound of Murder (1941, featuring Alphabet Hicks)
Here again one encounters a common error in judgment on the part of the reading public: the superb novel Red Threads (on a par with the best of Wolfes!) is often termed “an Inspector Cramer mystery”. Yet that is wrong, for Cramer only appears as a supporting cast member in Red Threads, and is even less noticeable here than in most Nero Wolfe stories. Red Threads is an exquisite romantic mystery novel and the role of a (non-professional) detective is performed by a native-American character (not Tecumseh Fox – Fox only sports a native-American name). The only other non-Wolfe mystery volume I’ve been able to find and read thus far (August 2004) is Double for Death featuring Tecumseh Fox; despite Stout’s own praise for this novel’s plot, I found the book dull and, indeed, a waste of time to read. It is difficult to guess what the remaining five non-Wolfe mysteries by Stout might be in terms of literary quality: disappointments like Double for Death, or hidden gems like Red Threads?
According to several web sites (for instance, an outstanding Czech Rex Stout bibliography), there are two non-Wolfe short mysteries from the 1950s that have never been published in book form: ›Tough Cop’s Gift‹ and ›By His Own Hand‹, the latter featuring Alphabet Hicks (the stories’ alternate titles can be located in this list). I am unable to verify this claim as the stories are not accessible.
Return to Top
“Serious” Rex Stout Novels
** How Like a God (1929)
** Seed on the Wind (1930)
** Golden Remedy (1931)
** Forest Fire (1933)
A commentary on these novels is above. I may have got the number of this sort of Rex Stout novels wrong, may have included what shouldn’t be in this category or omitted what should have. (There currently seems to be no way to verify the categorization, as the books are unavailable.) If you can correct an error in the categorization of Rex Stout’s writings on this webpage, please drop a line to firstname.lastname@example.org .
Return to Top
Rex Stout, aged 20,
on board of the presidential yacht Mayflower, 1906
Adventure Novels / Juvenilia
** Her Forbidden Knight (1913)
** Under the Andes (1914)
** A Prize for Princes (1914)
** The Great Legend (1916)
** The President Vanishes (1934)
** O Careless Love! (1935)
** A Question of Proof (1935)
** Mr. Cinderella (1938)
** [Justice Ends at Home, and Other Stories] (1977)
Once more, I am not certain whether all the titles listed above really belong in this category; I have not read any of them, although the full text of Under the Andes can be downloaded for free from the Internet. (Nevertheless, it appears hazardous to read the novel before one has acquainted oneself with all the Nero Wolfes!) Similarly available are the full texts of nine Rex Stout juvenilia short stories, expertly prepared for Internet presentation in 1998 by Geoffrey Sauer (disclaimer for all external links on this webpage and web site):
** ›The Mother of Invention‹ (1913)
** ›An Agacella Or‹ (1914)
** ›The Pay Yeoman‹ (1914)
** ›Rose Orchid‹ (1914)
** ›A Tyrant Abdicates‹ (1914)
** ›Jonathan Stannard’s Secret Vice‹ (1915)
** ›Warner and Wife‹ (1915)
** ›The Rope Dance‹ (1916)
** ›An Officer and a Lady‹ (1917)
The reputation of these items of juvenilia or adventure varies. Under the Andes and A Prize for Princes (both re-issued on paper in book form in recent years, and purchasable via online bookstores like Amazon) are, by some accounts, supposed to be trashy. But are they? Let each reader find out for himself or herself by examining the links above. At the very least, some Amazon reviewers said they were delighted by the quality of writing found in the short stories from the “pulps” (see the nine links above) that were posthumously collected and published (with a foreword by John McAleer) in book form in 1977 under the title Justice Ends at Home, and Other Stories.
Return to Top
Rex Stout Miscellanea
** <Rex Stout’s Top 10 Favourite Mysteries> (1938-47?/1951/1956)
** ›Watson Was a Woman‹ (1941)
** The Illustrious Dunderheads (1942, edited by Rex Stout)
** Rue Morge, No. 1 (1946, edited by Rex Stout)
›Why Nero Wolfe Likes Orchids‹ (1963/1977)
** The Nero Wolfe Cookbook (1973, by Rex Stout and the editors
of Viking Press)
** ›An Informal Interview with Rex Stout‹ (/1977)
[Corsage: A Bouquet of Rex Stout and Nero Wolfe] (1977)
It would be downright criminal for you to miss Rex Stout’s hilarious, then-scandalous speech ›Watson Was a Woman‹, given in 1941 at a ›Baker Street Irregulars‹ meeting – especially when the full text of the speech is only a click away from you. It is unclear as to what exactly might be contained in the two volumes edited by Stout; they are out of reach of the researcher. The Nero Wolfe Cookbook is a collection of Fritz Brenner recipes culled from the canon, garnered with lots of period photographs and, on every page, quotations from Stout’s original Nero Wolfe stories. ›Why Nero Wolfe Likes Orchids‹ is an essay that first appeared in ›Life‹ magazine (19 April 1963) and was written by Stout under the penname ‘Archie Goodwin’. Corsage, a small-print and limited-edition publication (by Jim Rock) of 1977, beside a reprint of the Goodwin essay contains the transcript of an original “informal” interview with the 86-year-old Rex Stout, conducted by Michael Bourne on 18 July 1973 in Stout’s home in New York; and the first appearance, in book form, of the premier Nero Wolfe & Archie Goodwin novelette, ›Bitter End‹ (magazine publication in 1940).
Further, as Stout was a politically and socially active person (especially during and after World War II and during the McCarthy era), appearing, for instance, as the master of ceremonies of the anti-fascist ›Speaking of Liberty‹ radio program (for the first time in 1941), it is likely that there remains a (perhaps substantial) number of Rex Stout texts (or transcripts) that to this day have not been collected in their entirety and thus still await publication.
Return to Top
• John McAleer: Rex Stout: A Majesty’s Life. An Edgar-winning bottomless treasury of information on the man behind the Man. Jacques Barzun called this “the definitive account by a master biographer”. Originally published under the title Rex Stout: A Biography (1977, Little & Brown, Boston), now in its second edition (2002, James A. Rock & Co., Publishers), the 668 pages are compulsory reading for Rex Stout enthusiasts.
• J. Kenneth Van Dover: At Wolfe’s Door : The Nero Wolfe Novels of Rex Stout. A slim but well-liked guide to all 74 Nero Wolfe stories, featuring non-spoiler synopses and essays on the canon. First published in 1991 (Borgo Press, San Bernardino, California), today in its second edition (2003, James A. Rock & Co., Publishers).
• William Stuart Baring-Gould: Nero Wolfe of West Thirty-Fifth Street: The Life and Times of America’s Largest Private Detective (1969, Viking Press, New York). A mock-biography of Nero Wolfe (up to 1968), featuring a brief note by Rex Stout.
• Ken Darby: The Brownstone House of Nero Wolfe / As Told by Archie Goodwin (1983, Little & Brown, Boston). This one managed to gain some notoriety.
• Guy M. Townsend (ed.): Rex Stout: An Annotated Primary and Secondary Bibliography (1980, Garland Pub., New York)
• David R. Anderson: Rex Stout (1984, F. Ungar, New York)
Return to Top
Nero Wolfe Discussion Mailing Lists
• The Wolfe List – the oldest of them all, founded in January 1996 by the late Terry Hagley, today (2005) suffering from its old age: no web archive, sporadically updated homepage. Around 200 Rex Stout fans discuss the 74 Nero Wolfe stories in chronological sequence, helped by promptings from a volunteer discussion-leader (you may become one of them). To join the list, send the word “subscribe” (without the quotes) in the body of the message to email@example.com .
• Wolfenistas – founded by the late Bill Johnson in March 2000 as a web-based Nero Wolfe Club in the aftermath of A&E’s production of The Golden Spiders, the mailing list today focuses on the literary Wolfe. There are 480 subscribers as of August 2005 (up from 334 in January 2004). Join them by sending an empty email to the address firstname.lastname@example.org .
• Pfui Pfighters – founded in August 2002 by the untiring Lovin’ Babe! aka Jessie Strader in protest against the A&E network’s cancellation of its Nero Wolfe TV series, today (August 2005) the list numbers 362 subscribers (up from 253 in January 2004). It focuses on the issue of “finding a new [TV] home for Wolfe”. Even if you don’t happen to be a fan of the much-loved – though not by everyone (the top complaint being that the A&E Wolfe yells too much) – Michael Jaffe, Timothy Hutton, and Maury Chaykin show, you may consider joining the list by sending an empty email to the address Pfightemail@example.com , as contributions here (similarly to other Nero Wolfe virtual discussion venues) are often delightfully worded and erudite.
• Archie FF – list for fan fiction based on the character of Rex Stout’s Archie Goodwin, the narrator of Nero Wolfe stories. Discussion is also welcome. You can join by sending an empty email to the address ArchieFFfirstname.lastname@example.org .
• A&E message board – no mailing-list, but a web-based forum set up by A&E for fans to discuss the network’s Nero Wolfe TV series that was, however, cancelled in August 2002 after only two seasons. 21 out of the 74 Nero Wolfe stories managed to be filmed by A&E; see the full list of episodes.
• West 35th Street Yahoos – a short-lived, now defunct Nero Wolfe book discussion and fan fiction group, founded in August 2005 by Hickory Caesar Grindon and later that year deleted without trace by same. Wolfe volumes were discussed in chronological order on a “Book-of-the-Month” basis – one book per month. This was, of course, similar to what the traditional, long-standing Wolfe List has been doing for years; eventually Grindon may have thought the new group was a mere duplication, perhaps diluting the energies of Nero Wolfe fans across the cyberspace. However, since this Yahoogroup used to be managed by Yahoo’s machines rather than erratic human administrators, it was a winner in terms of usability when compared to the oldest Wolfe list.
Return to Top
Rex Stout in WWW
• The Wolfe Pack at nerowolfe.org – the recently redesigned official site of the ›Wolfe Pack‹, a fan club (since 1978) for the fictional detective, Nero Wolfe, and author Rex Stout
• Merely A Genius... – Winnifred Louis’s fan site dedicated to Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe series. Includes biographical information, a list of related sites, and an annotated bibliography of Nero Wolfe short stories and novels that features dozens of delightful quotations from the Corpus. On the same site, don’t miss Wolfe’s reading list and Ms. Louis’s amusing account of her cooperation with Michael Jaffe’s staff during the TV production of The Golden Spiders. ›Merely a Genius...‹ is the Google search engine’s long-standing no. 1 resource on the Internet for Rex Stout – you’ve gotta go there!
• thrillingdetective.com – see the Nero Wolfe section of Kevin Burton Smith’s unique web site, presenting a detailed Rex Stout bibliography and a comprehensive listing of Nero Wolfe films and TV and radio productions.
• Gazette of the Arts – see the Nero Wolfe section of the not-so-well-designed but informative site by a former friend of mine, now foe, Jim Rock, the publisher of Corsage, At Wolfe’s Door, and John McAleer’s Rex Stout biography. Mr. Rock’s delightfully vituperative email denouncing the present writer’s perceived activities can be found at the top of a webpage devoted to the issue of Rex Stout copyright.
• Dave Patty has a new site called Nero Wolfe – Cover Art, Parodies, and Other Things Wolfean, to complement his earlier The Nero Wolfe Site Index that notably features cover scans of hundreds of editions of Rex Stout books
• Miroslav Kromiš’s exhaustive, meticulous Czech bibliography of Rex Stout – states both Czech and English titles (including all alternative titles) and publication years of all of Rex Stout’s works. Curiously, the page is to be found on a site devoted to examining “trash literature” (brak); Kromiš, though, argues for a positive vision of “brak”, mentioning that Karl May’s novels impress him as being more profound than Sartre’s!
The page is no longer being updated because, as Kromiš says, after the 1990s Nero Wolfe publishing boom in the Czech Republic, the 2001 first Czech appearance of Three for the Chair made the Nero Wolfe corpus completely available in Czech translations, so the need to track missing volumes is no longer felt. Some of Stout’s best-known works have been translated into Czech more than once – by various translators. It took 61 years to publish the entire Nero Wolfe corpus in Czech, the first Czech Nero Wolfe having appeared in 1940 (Some Buried Caesar, none-too-skilfully translated by the famed Czech anarchist A. J. Šťastný). The Czech translator who made Wolfe famous among Czech (and Slovak) readers was František Jungwirth (his first Czech Wolfe was A Right to Die in 1967).
In contrast, there was no Nero Wolfe publishing boom in Slovakia in the 1990s, although a few new Slovak Stout (and even Robert Goldsborough) translations did appear; Goldsborough’s Murder in E-Minor, in fact, is the only non-original Wolfe story that is only available in Slovak, and not in Czech language.
• an equally admirable Italian bibliography of Rex Stout – all 74 Wolfe stories listed in the chronological order in which they appeared in Italian translations. Original English titles are also included (scroll down the page!) along with a list of principal characters for each Wolfe story. On the same site, an outstanding webpage documenting the first-ever Nero Wolfe TV series (10 episodes), made in Italy in the late 1960s; you may even watch a short videoclip of the Italian Wolfe (Tino Buazzelli) and the Italian Archie (Paolo Ferrari). (Read further comments; check out also info on a 21st century Russian Nero Wolfe TV series.)
• a treasure trove for German-speaking Nero Wolfe fans is Lutz‑R. Busse’s Gazette-BS site. All those detailed summaries of his cases are probably something Archie would gladly read over his breakfast instead of the regular New York Gazette for a change!
• Muffy Barkocy’s Nero Wolfe site, featuring a day-to-day time-line of Nero Wolfe’s cases that goes as far back as 1930, with Nero Wolfe buying a brownstone and hiring Goodwin as assistant
• The Nero Wolfe Database – Dan Dapkus’s online reference of characters and plots in the Nero Wolfe series
• Nero Wolfe & Archie Goodwin at Home – John Clayton’s meticulous plans and 3D representations of the house at 815 (?) West 35th Street, including nice albeit not too precise 3D sketches of Wolfe’s office
• Orchidées de canon – a collection of images of the orchids cultivated by Nero Wolfe. See also Orchids named after Nero and the introductory page on the same site.
• The office of Nero Wolfe, Licensed Private Detective – the “official” homepage (a 2-webpage advertisement imitation)
• written in English, a Finnish biographical sketch and bibliography of Rex Stout by Petri Liukkonen, also reprinted here
• a Dutch bibliography, from Nico van Embden’s exhaustive crime & mystery fiction website, of Rex Stout novels and short stories collections
• a British bibliography of Rex Stout’s works from FantasticFiction.co.uk, showing many book covers and an overview of Stout editions, many of them available for (costly) purchase.
• Lawrence A. Coon’s Nero Wolfe Character Search and Nero Wolfe Book Search, in early stages of development but looking promising
• The Van Dine School – a chapter (featuring an essay on Rex Stout, about halfway down the webpage) from Michael E. Grost’s monumental Internet project, A Guide to Classic Mystery and Detection, that contains reading lists and essays on great mysteries, mainly of the pre-1965 era.
• Glenn Dixon’s three Nero Wolfe stories, Three Strikes, from Gregory Smith’s site (new web address in 2006!); you may also read Glenn Dixon’s introduction to the stories
• OTRCat.com (Old Time Radio Show Catalog), a site dedicated to the preservation of the golden era of radio (old time radio). The site offers vast resources about nostalgic radio shows. Besides listening to thousands of old time radio episodes online (including Adventures of Nero Wolfe), visitors can stream or download full episodes in MP3 format as well as read detailed descriptions of the performers and series broadcast in the era (1920s–1959). In the “daily downloads”, there are the broadcasts of the day throughout history (from the last 50-70+ years).
• the top 100 Google links for:
Be forewarned that a large number of the Archie Goodwin top 100 links refer not to our man-about-town but to his namesake, a US comic-book writer (1937–1998). When Mr. Goodwin the artist was born in 1937, his parents’ bookshelves may have included Fer-de-Lance, The League of Frightened Men, and The Red Box.
Return to Top
Looking for Wolfe
Collections of quotations from all works by Rex Stout will be continually added to this Book of Quotations as the volumes become available for study to the webmaster. I started reading Rex Stout in English in 1989, as soon as the Iron Curtain fell down – to wit, the barbed wire that used to mark the south-western (Austrian) frontier of my home city of Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia, back then still Czechoslovakia (click for more geographical details). The endless extent of the coiled barbed wire could be observed from my family’s garden, situated on a hilltop in that edge of Bratislava. The barbed wire, my hate of it, and of the people who concocted and guarded it with machine-guns, along with the shimmering view across the Danube river of the sprawling free country (not guarded by anyone) beyond the wire, are some of the permanent images and emotions of my childhood.
So, as an 18-year-old I for the first time set out to travel to Vienna – a laughable 40 miles away, but Communists would not let people cross the Austrian border prior to November 1989. One of the first things I searched for in the famous Viennese shopping street of Mariahilferstraße was an English-language bookstore; and there, a Rex Stout book in original English. In my teens I had only known Stout from Czech and Slovak translations of mixed (mostly poor) quality; Slovak libraries (and those in the neighbouring countries) have never, to this day, carried Rex Stout in English. Wolfe would sooner read Shakespeare in a Bulgarian translation than I would read Wolfe in any other language than English now that I’ve managed to learn English – to a great extent thanks to studying Rex Stout’s exquisitely idiomatic prose in the original language. Ironically, the only Stout volume that that Viennese English-language bookstore had available back then in November 1989 was the final (posthumous) volume 47 of the Nero Wolfe œuvre: Death Times Three. (That collection of novelettes was fairly new in those days, having for the first time appeared in 1985.)
Of course my burning desire right then was to find and read all 47 Nero Wolfe volumes in the original language as soon as possible. Little did I suspect what seemingly impossible task this would turn out to be. It took me nearly 15 years to get hold of the remaining 46 Nero Wolfe volumes, while search for other works by Rex Stout had to be abandoned as futile.
The Internet was instrumental, to an amazing degree, in my finally having been able to locate all of the long sought-after Nero Wolfe volumes, most of them in only 9 months’ time in 2004. In January 2004, a vastly expanded update of this webpage first appeared on the Internet; some of those who read my original January 2004 lamentation on this webpage were so moved by compassion as to send me, in all, no less than 16 totally new (for me) Wolfe volumes in only 9 months’ time, all the way from Indiana, Britain, Singapore, California, Florida, and Colorado, whereas prior to the appearance of this webpage I had to go without a “new” Wolfe for a bunch of years, so that I was actually forced to start re-reading some of my “old” Wolfe volumes.
In this way Nero Wolfe, enamoured of inertia though he may be, has to travel thousands of miles around the globe nowadays, so that he can meet all those who need him. Fortunately – as always – he has Archie to keep his company. I wish we could all visit them in the Brownstone instead!
Among my benefactors have been Mary Holm aka “WordDance”, Rich Friedman aka “Schwartz”, Suzi Johnson aka “Stampsuds”, Donald L. Smith aka “The Man About the Chair”, Sim Li Chuan, Bevis Benneworth, S. G. Wolfram aka “May Hawthorne”, and Debby Montague. Thank you all! The Wolfe search is finally over! (You may read more on how difficult it is to get hold of English language books in Slovakia in the archived January 2004 and August 2004 versions of this section of the webpage.)
A vision I have is that one day in this digital age (preferably sooner than in year 2046 when all of Stout’s copyright finally expires), the complete works of Rex Stout will be available for download on the Internet, for anyone anywhere in the world who intends to study them. Prior to year 2046, whether such downloads are to be free or whether they are to be purchased (for a moderate fee, it is hoped – and a fee that can be paid even by those who are denied the possession of Western credit-cards), must be decided by the copyright holder, the Rex Stout Estate. At any rate, the research of Rex Stout’s writings should not be hampered, in this high-tech age, by the embarrassing medieval circumstances in which Rex Stout scholars, particularly those outside the US, are currently forced to operate.
Today’s Rex Stout scholars are paying the price for Stout’s longevity; had the grandmaster’s life been shorter, his copyrights would have expired long ago. Rex Stout’s contemporaries, such as DH Lawrence and F Scott Fitzgerald, are today (2004) out of copyright or are moving outside it – just because they died much sooner than Stout! There is no logic to the circumstance that DH Lawrence’s famous Lady Chatterley’s Lover, first published in 1928, is today outside of copyright, while Rex Stout’s premier Nero Wolfe novel, Fer-de-Lance, first published only 6 years later in 1934, is to be protected by copyright until 2046. Legal justifications exist for all of this – logic and common sense nevertheless protest. The copyright issue seems to be an illustration of the perversity of life; it’s as if tuberculosis or alcoholism were damnation in more ways than one: not only did Lawrence, Fitzgerald, etc. etc., die prematurely, but their heirs have likewise been punished by not being able to enjoy their ancestor’s royalties for as long a time as a healthy artist’s survivors. Rex Stout’s health was no less phenomenal than his intellect; thank heavens Stout did live long enough to write all the Wolfe yarns he wrote.
Pictures on this webpage were found freely floating on the Internet, with no exclusive copyright attached to them; however, should you know of its existence, please notify the webmaster.
Return to Top
Rex Stout (1886–1975) is the creator of the famous and phenomenally fat armchair detective genius Nero Wolfe and his almost equally famous assistant Archie Goodwin. Wolfe is an updated version of Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, while Archie is a modern, gritty, and wise-cracking Dr. Watson. Archie is just as much Wolfe’s as Dr. Watson’s antithesis.
Stout was born on 1st December 1886, in Noblesville, Indiana, to a Quaker family (the sixth of their nine children). A genius in his own right, he twice read the Bible cover to cover before he was 4 years old, and read all of Shakespeare’s plays and memorized all the sonnets between the ages of 7 and 12 (at 86, he could still quote the sonnets letter-perfect). Stout became the state spelling champion at the age of 13, and was early recognized as a prodigy in arithmetic.
He only briefly attended a university; then he spent two years serving as naval officer. Later he devised a school banking system that was installed in 400 cities throughout the USA. The proceeds enabled Stout to leave for Paris in 1927, devoting himself to writing “serious” fiction (How Like a God, 1929) – as opposed to the stories of romance and adventure that he had been producing in his late twenties. The picture below shows Stout in 1916, aged 30, shortly after his literary career began.
Though the few “serious” novels he had published received favourable reviews, Stout did not gain renown until he turned to detective fiction. He only wrote his first Nero Wolfe mystery in 1934, at the age of 48! It was titled Fer-de-Lance and is among the finest books Stout ever came up with.
Thirty-two more Wolfe & Archie full-length novels were to follow; plus thirteen collections of novelettes (typically, each volume including three short mysteries). All in all, there were 73 Wolfe & Archie stories published in Stout’s lifetime; his final novel, A Family Affair, was printed a month before he died on 27th October 1975, in Danbury, Connecticut, at the age of 88. Ten years later another Wolfe novelette was discovered and for the first time published in Death Times Three, a posthumous collection of short novels – thus bringing the total number of Wolfe & Goodwin stories up to 74.
Stout was also a distinguished political activist. His obituary in the ›Long Island Press‹ (quoted elsewhere on this webpage) called Stout “an early ‘one-worlder’ and antifascist” who since 1941, when he was master of ceremonies of the ›Speaking of Liberty‹ radio program, had been prompting the idea of world government. Stout headed the ›Writers War Board‹ from 1941 to 1946, was president of the ›Society for the Prevention of World War III‹, and chairman for more than 20 years of the ›Writers Board for World Government‹. He managed to escape Senator McCarthy’s fangs even though in 1954, in The Black Mountain, Nero Wolfe explicitly compares McCarthy to the likes of Hitler, Franco, and Malenkov.
On the professional stage, Stout served several terms as an officer of the ›Authors’ League of America‹ and one term as president of the ›Mystery Writers of America‹. In 1958 he was honoured with the MWA Grand Master Award – even though he claimed that each Nero Wolfe novel took him exactly 39 days to write and that he never edited, rewrote, or even reread any of them!
A prolific writer, Stout wasn’t able to maintain the same high standard of writing throughout his career; there were several ups and downs. Generally the early Wolfe novels tend to be more appreciated by readers – even though in his latest years Stout turned in some exquisite novels. When he’s at the top of his craft, he deserves to be ranked among not merely America’s leading mystery writers, but leading humorous writers as well: Archie Goodwin has been critically appraised (by Jacques Barzun) as “the lineal descendant of Huckleberry Finn”.
Among Stout’s finest achievements (beside Fer-de-Lance) are Too Many Cooks, Some Buried Caesar, The Silent Speaker, In the Best Families, Plot It Yourself, The Doorbell Rang, and Death of a Dude. At least one non-Wolfe mystery also deserves high credit: Red Threads. It is written in the vein of Jane Austen – the writer Rex Stout admired most of all.
Return to Top
The aim of the Rex Stout section of this site is the offering, one day, of a selection of quotations from the entire Nero Wolfe Corpus of Rex Stout’s work – and beyond, including his less known “serious” genre novels. However, on 4th April 2002, an attorney representing Rex Stout’s estate requested that all Rex Stout quotations files be removed from this site; the webmaster promptly obliged his request (read more about this).
It is hoped that the current (August 2004) status-quo will soon be improved and Rex Stout quotations will once again be offered online for the enjoyment of site visitors. After all, this site is entirely non-profit and the offering of brief Rex Stout quotations online has the single aim of making Rex Stout’s name more popular among readers around the world. (On average there are about 30 unique visitors to this site each day from around the world; see statistics.) The effect of presenting such brief Rex Stout quotations online cannot be harmful to the interests of the Rex Stout Estate in any imaginable way; if anything, it will further the sales of Rex Stout’s books, new or second-hand, by whetting the site visitors’ appetite for the enjoyment of Rex Stout’s books in their entirety. It is trusted that the Rex Stout Estate will see that this is so and, in days to come, will not object to the presentation of brief Rex Stout quotations online.
Return to Top
The Complete List of
the 33 Nero Wolfe
& Archie Goodwin
1) Fer-de-Lance (1934)
2) The League of Frightened Men (1935)
3) The Rubber Band (1936)
4) The Red Box (1937)
5) Too Many Cooks (1938)
6) Some Buried Caesar (1939)
7) Over My Dead Body (1940)
8) Where There’s a Will (1940)
9) The Silent Speaker (1946)
10) Too Many Women (1947)
11) And Be a Villain (1948)
12) The Second Confession (1949)
13) In the Best Families (1950)
14) Murder by the Book (1951)
15) Prisoner’s Base (1952)
16) The Golden Spiders (1953)
17) The Black Mountain (1954)
18) Before Midnight (1955)
19) Might As Well Be Dead (1956)
20) If Death Ever Slept (1957)
21) Champagne for One (1958)
22) Plot It Yourself (1959)
[aka Murder in Style]
23) Too Many Clients (1960)
24) The Final Deduction (1961)
25) Gambit (1962)
26) The Mother Hunt (1963)
27) A Right To Die (1964)
28) The Doorbell Rang (1965)
29) Death of a Doxy (1966)
30) The Father Hunt (1968)
31) Death of a Dude (1969)
32) Please Pass the Guilt (1973)
33) A Family Affair (1975)
Return to Top
The Complete List of
the 41 Nero Wolfe
& Archie Goodwin
( = Short Novels = Short Stories )
in 14 Novelettes Collections
I) Black Orchids (1942)
1) ›Black Orchids‹ (1942)
2) ›Cordially Invited to Meet Death‹ (1942)
II) Not Quite Dead Enough (1944)
3) ›Not Quite Dead Enough‹ (1942)
4) ›Booby Trap‹ (1944)
III) Trouble in Triplicate (1949)
5) ›Before I Die‹ (1947)
6) ›Help Wanted, Male‹ (1945)
7) ›Instead of Evidence‹ (1946)
IV) Three Doors to Death (1950)
8) ›Door to Death‹ (1949)
9) ›Man Alive‹ (1947)
10) ›Omit Flowers‹ (1948)
V) Curtains for Three (1951)
11) ›Bullet for One‹ (1948)
12) ›Disguise for Murder‹ (1950)
13) ›The Gun with Wings‹ (1949)
VI) Triple Jeopardy (1952)
14) ›The Cop-Killer‹ (1951)
15) ›Home to Roost‹ (1952)
16) ›The Squirt and the Monkey‹ (1951)
VII) Three Men Out (1954)
17) ›Invitation to Murder‹ (1942)
18) ›This Won’t Kill You‹ (1952)
19) ›The Zero Clue‹ (1953)
VIII) Three Witnesses (1956)
20) ›Die Like a Dog‹ (1954)
21) ›The Next Witness‹ (1955)
22) ›When a Man Murders‹ (1954)
IX) Three for the Chair (1957)
23) ›Immune to Murder‹ (1955)
24) ›Too Many Detectives‹ (1956)
25) ›A Window for Death‹ (1956)
X) And Four To Go (1958)
26) ›Christmas Party‹ (1957)
27) ›Easter Parade‹ (1957)
28) ›Fourth of July Picnic‹ (1957)
29) ›Murder Is No Joke‹ (1958)
XI) Three at Wolfe’s Door (1960)
30) ›Method Three for Murder‹ (1960)
31) ›Poison a la Carte‹ (1960)
32) ›The Rodeo Murder‹ (1960)
XII) Homicide Trinity (1962)
33) ›Counterfeit for Murder‹ (1959)
34) ›Death of a Demon‹ (1961)
35) ›Eeny Meeny Murder Mo‹ (1962)
XIII) Trio for Blunt Instruments (1964)
36) ›Kill Now – Pay Later‹ (1961)
37) ›Murder Is Corny‹ (1962)
38) ›Blood Will Tell‹ (1963)
XIV) [ Death Times Three ] (1985)
39) ›Bitter End‹ (1940)
40) ›Frame-Up for Murder‹ (1958)
41) ›Assault on a Brownstone‹ 
For a comprehensive list of alternative novelettes titles, and to learn the titles and issues of magazines where each novelette originally appeared, please consult Kevin Burton Smith’s superb bibliographies on his thrillingdetective.com site.
Return to Top
There are endless arguments among Nero Wolfe fans concerning weighty issues such as whether Archie’s desk is located to the right or to the left of Wolfe’s desk; whether Wolfe needs to turn his head in order to observe Fritz entering with the beer, and the like. The solution for such disputes is provided by Rex Stout himself, in the sketch of Wolfe’s office that Stout made in 1949. For copyright reasons, it is not possible to reproduce a scanned picture of Stout’s drawing itself – however, I took care to re-draw Stout’s sketch digitally so that it accurately represents Stout’s sketch as published in the Bantam Books ›The Rex Stout Library‹ edition of Fer-de-Lance (1992, page 289).
Clicking the sketch above will enlarge it for comfortable viewing and painful re-drawing of your mental image of Wolfe’s and Archie’s workplace. As to myself, I saw the sketch too late: I had, since childhood days, always imagined Archie with Wolfe on his right side as Archie faces visitors scattered in the one red and many yellow leather chairs. So, whenever I (re)read a Nero Wolfe story today, I’m sticking with my original mental image of Wolfe’s office in defiance of Rex Stout’s own, albeit “correct” image – that’s literature, and the freedom it affords to the reader as opposed to television or movies.
Return to Top
The Voice of Rex Stout
What about listening to the grandmaster’s voice in a genuine audio recording? Remember, in the 1940s Stout used to be what today would probably be termed a “radio talkshow host”.
You have two options: for $20, you may buy (from James A. Rock & Co., Publishers) an original audio cassette recording of ›An Informal Interview with Rex Stout‹, offering “over an hour of wonderful insights on life, writing, and the genesis of Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin” and “representing a window on his definitive thoughts on life, literature, and his own work”. The interview was conducted by Michael Bourne, the editor of Corsage, on 18 July 1973 in Stout’s home in New York, at a time when Stout was aged 86. A transcript of the interview is available from the same publishers.
The other option: in 2002, a fellow Nero Wolfe fan emailed me an MP3 he stumbled across in a newsgroup: the full-length audio recording of the 29 August 1939 instalment of a radio quiz-show called Information, Please, in which Rex Stout appeared as a member of the guests panel. Only three days later, an event occurred that would change the history of this planet and disrupt Rex Stout’s writing career – the smooth production of one Nero Wolfe novel per year. You may download the entire recording (over 28 minutes, 6.5 megabytes), or just two highlights: Rex Stout commenting on Sherlock Holmes stories (4:24 minutes, 1.76 megabytes) and on presidential beards and moustaches (2:35 minutes, 1.03 megabytes). The wit exhibited by Mr. Stout in answering the quizmaster’s questions is goodwinesque indeed. Well worth the download(s)!
(For the webmaster’s commentaries on Stout’s appearance in the radio quiz-show, see the following three emails sent to Nero Wolfe mailing lists in August 2002: 1, 2, 3.)
Return to Top
Wolfean Still Life by Kevin Gordon
(you may purchase the painting here)
creator of Nero Wolfe
(obituary first printed in
© Long Island Press;
Tuesday, 28th October 1975)
DANBURY, Conn. (AP) – Rex Stout, who made a lifelong career out of chronicling the feats of the fat, orchid-growing, gourmandizing detective Nero Wolfe and his sidekick Archie Goodwin, died yesterday at 88.
Although Wolfe was as fictional as the address of his Manhattan brownstone in the West 30’s – his street number would have put him in the middle of the Hudson River – to millions of murder-mystery fans Wolfe was as real as Sherlock Holmes.
Wolfe’s creator died at the hillside home he built here in 1930 – making sure it was over the line from New York so he wouldn’t have the ultraconservative Hamilton Fish as his representative in Congress.
“So what did I get?” he asked sadly a few years ago. “Clare Boothe Luce.” Stout apparently found the Connecticut congresswoman almost as far removed as Fish from Stout’s own liberal philosophy.
In more that 40 novels, Wolfe was almost always aloof from politics, making exception to let Archie air his feelings on former President Nixon and the Watergate affair in his last adventure, the best-selling A Family Affair.
But author Stout was noted – aside from Nero Wolfe novels – for his tendency to jump into a variety of political issues.
An early “one-worlder” and antifascist, Stout pursued his ideas to the lecture platform and the halls of government.
Since 1941, when he was master of ceremonies of the ›Speaking of Liberty‹ radio program, Stout had prompted the idea of world government.
A Quaker who spoke out for an early entry into World War II and against a soft peace for Germany, Stout also was active on the ›Voice of Freedom‹ and ›Our Secret Weapon‹ radio programs during the war and headed the Writers War Board from 1941 to 1946.
He also was president of the Society for the Prevention of World War III and chairman for more than 20 years of the Writers Board for World Government.
In a highly publicized dispute with writer Dorothy Thompson, Stout resigned from his post with Freedom House, but later was reconciled – after Miss Thompson quit as president of Freedom House – to become its treasurer in 1957, a post he held for many years.
Stout, who wrote more than 55 books, claimed each Nero Wolfe took 39 days to write and that he never rewrote or even reread them.
Stout is survived by his second wife, the former Pola Weinbach, and two daughters, Barbara Selleck and Rebecca Bradbury.
Return to Top
A poster for the A&E
Nero Wolfe TV series (2001/2) starring
Timothy Hutton and Maury Chaykin
VHS covers for the Russian
Nero Wolfe TV series (2001/2):
Before I Die, The Silent Speaker, and Man Alive (top to bottom)