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 The Mother Hunt (1963) 
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New post The Mother Hunt (1963)
Faterson wrote:
You're invited to use this topic to discuss the quotations from The Mother Hunt (1963) – a Nero Wolfe novel by Rex Stout.

You may also use this thread for general discussions about this literary work; you do not necessarily need to discuss specific quotations.

Or, if you'd like to talk about anything else related to Nero Wolfe, Archie Goodwin, or Rex Stout, feel free to create a new discussion topic.


Seeing as I have re-watched the episode, am reading the book for the third or fourth time, and have just posted a few quotes for general consumption, I thought I would initiate my very first thread! :D (Apologies for any faux pas I may have made with the quotes or this topic!)

I adore this story, and find Lucy Valdon to be a truly unique damsel in the corpus, as she doesn't fit neatly into the two categories of women that Archie dallies with - she's wealthy and independent and yet not a murderess or a manipulator, and she's also pleasant and delightfully feminine but far from stupid or pathetic; Archie does not patronise her, as he does with flighty, vague women, and yet is not intimidated by her. A perfect match! He even cancels a weekend away with Lily to be with her, sacrificing fire crackers and a toy cannon to watch Lucy play the piano and feed her baby ... :)

As a bonus, there is Wolfe's silent fear that Archie may succumb to Lucy's tender charms, and complete a happy family with her :wink:

(And good heavens, I've just noticed that this novel was actually written in 1963, the beginning of the decades I hate - the exception that proves the rule, or am I just blinded by the costuming on the episode?)

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Thu, 12 Jul 2007, 20:40
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New post Re: The Mother Hunt – a 1963 Nero Wolfe Novel
AdonisGuilfoyle wrote:
I thought I would initiate my very first thread!

Congratulations on having done so :!: Fantastic contributions from you today, Adonis, both here in the forum and in having launched The Mother Hunt collection of quotes.

AdonisGuilfoyle wrote:
(Apologies for any faux pas I may have made with the quotes or this topic!)

No need to worry, any potential errors can always be cleaned up later by any site visitor. :)

I for one take care to go over every Rex Stout quotation that is ever posted on this site, comparing it with the printed version to ensure absolute accuracy. (Well, at least that's the ideal goal.) So, earlier today, I went through some quotes posted in the If Death Ever Slept collection, improving a few details here and there.

For example, I like inserting the paragraph mark () to indicate where a quoted sentence opens or closes a paragraph. That's because from the linguistic point of view, it's often significant what sentences open or close paragraphs. Opening and closing sentences often carry more significance than sentences within the body of a longer paragraph. The other contributors are, of course, free to ignore such minuscule linguistic details and leave it up to me to take care of them. :wink:

Hopefully, everyone has noticed that all modifications, site-wide, can be monitored on the Recent changes webpage. You only need to click on the diff link next to any modification to see exactly what was added or modified on a particular webpage. For example, this morning I added a quote of my own to the If Death Ever Slept collection: here's the diff link for that particular modification. And, quite a handful of additional If Death Ever Slept quotes will be added by me in the next few days.

Of course, each individual file has its own History page, as can be seen on the example of The Mother Hunt history (that's the hist link on the Recent changes webpage).

You, Adonis, probably already know about all these technical features. I'm only summarizing them for those who may not yet be familiar with wiki software.

One advantage this site has over Wikipedia that uses the same software as we do, is that this site does send out email notifications. So, for example, if you create your own account on the wiki pages, in addition to the account here in the discussion forum, the advantage would be that you can subscribe to any individual quotations webpage. For example, if you'd like to receive an email notification whenever the webpage for The Mother Hunt quotations is modified, all you need to do is click the watch tab at the top of The Mother Hunt quotes webpage. That's just one benefit of registration. 8)

AdonisGuilfoyle wrote:
(And good heavens, I've just noticed that this novel was actually written in 1963, the beginning of the decades I hate - the exception that proves the rule, or am I just blinded by the costuming on the episode?)

It might be the latter. :P I only have time tonight to say (it's past 10 p.m. and I still haven't finished today's work) that The Mother Hunt didn't strike me as especially remarkable. I was impressed a lot more by other 1960s novels, such as A Right to Die, The Doorbell Rang, Death of a Doxy, and, yes indeed, even Death of a Dude.

On the other hand, The Mother Hunt seemed a definite improvement (thanks to increased liveliness) over the immediately preceding 1960s novels, the (as they appeared to me) merely mediocre The Final Deduction (1961) and Gambit (1962).

As I perceive it (which is exactly opposite to Adonis's perception), Rex Stout was setting out on his final, grand uphill (not downhill :!:) climb as a writer, starting perhaps right here in 1963 with The Mother Hunt and continuing through all the other later novels listed above. (I'd say that the only weak novel of that period is The Father Hunt of 1968.) Put differently, Rex Stout ended his amazing writing career on a high note – he managed to stay at the top until very last, the final 1975 Wolfe novel A Family Affair. (That's very different from many other long-lived writers, say, Agatha Christie whose late Hercule Poirot novels are atrocious and next to unreadable.)


Thu, 12 Jul 2007, 22:07
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New post Re: The Mother Hunt – a 1963 Nero Wolfe Novel
Faterson wrote:
As I perceive it (which is exactly opposite to Adonis's perception), Rex Stout was setting out on his final, grand uphill (not downhill :!:) climb as a writer, starting perhaps right here in 1963 with The Mother Hunt and continuing through all the other later novels listed above. (I'd say that the only weak novel of that period is The Father Hunt of 1968.) Put differently, Rex Stout ended his amazing writing career on a high note – he managed to stay at the top until very last, the final 1975 Wolfe novel A Family Affair. (That's very different from many other long-lived writers, say, Agatha Christie whose late Hercule Poirot novels are atrocious and next to unreadable.)


To tell the truth, I have never really thought about how old Stout must have been when writing the novels, but the fact that he was in his eighties when writing the later books makes a kind of sense - there are certain 'indulgent' scenes, shall we say, which are explained, as with the Jill Hardy 'Now get up and put your arms around me' interlude in 'Death of a Doxy' :? An old man having fun by still writing through a young, handsome detective, I think! :wink:

I'm not really interested in Stout - I would perhaps be curious to learn how much of himself he put into Archie and Wolfe, but that's a subjective opinion. I don't have him on a pedestal as an author - I find Raymond Chandler to be just as sharp and ingenious - but I am forever grateful that he gave us the brownstone on West 35th Street and those who live there! :)

I didn't mind The Father Hunt, although I can't remember a thing about it apart from Archie meeting the client through Lily, and I love The Doorbell Rang for the clever characters, such as Rachel Bruner and her secretary, so I guess the latter novels do strike some form of mineral, if not gold, on occasion. But I still only read for the characters - Archie, Wolfe, Cramer, etc. My grading system is negative, I'm afraid - I don't care two hoots about the story, usually, but clunky dialogue or unlikely behaviour from our heroes can throw me, as Danielle will testify to - I still haven't read 'Too Many Clients', and if I take on 'Please Pass the Guilt', it will be out of desperation, when I finally come to the end of the corpus! :shock:

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Sat, 14 Jul 2007, 13:57
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New post Re: The Mother Hunt – a 1963 Nero Wolfe Novel
AdonisGuilfoyle wrote:
I'm not really interested in Stout - I would perhaps be curious to learn how much of himself he put into Archie and Wolfe

It seems pretty clear to me that Rex Stout is both Wolfe and Archie. Stout was a veritable genius in his own right, with IQ over 190, and used to earn his money by devising accounting systems in his young days.

Geniuses often display characteristics that seem completely self-contradictory, yet they are united in a single human being. It's simply the breadth of every genius's character.

So, this was easy for Stout: he simply divided his own persona, his own psychology, into two halves, exaggerated each of the seemingly contradictory halves, and called one half Nero Wolfe, and the other half Archie Goodwin. 8)

AdonisGuilfoyle wrote:
I don't have him on a pedestal as an author - I find Raymond Chandler to be just as sharp and ingenious

Well, Chandler was indubitably another genius. But, unlike most literary critics, I find Rex Stout, in his best books, to be a slightly better writer than Chandler. That may be a personal preference. But, I find Chandler a weeny bit one-dimensional, compared to Stout. Of course, what has caused the most damage for Stout in the eyes of literary critics is that he was so prolific. Chandler wrote only a handful of novels in his entire life, and most of them are excellent. In contrast, even disregarding dozens of non-Wolfe books, Stout wrote 47 Nero Wolfe volumes, most of which seem mediocre and forgettable. :( (Like you said about The Father Hunt – we may have read it, but we frequently no longer remember anything about it.)

I for one have a higher esteem for Dashiell Hammett than for Raymond Chandler. :) Again, it's because Hammett seems to be a more versatile writer than Chandler. Whereas all of Chandler's novels are more or less varieties of the same one basic theme, Hammett's novels (he wrote even fewer of them than Chandler) display a surprising variety: the brutal Red Harvest is very different from the archetypal, but much gentler private-eye noir tale The Maltese Falcon, the marital mystery comedy The Thin Man, or my personal top favourite Hammett novel, the political mystery drama The Glass Key that can also be seen as examination of true friendship.

Anyway :!: All three of them – Stout, Hammett, and Chandler – are true classics and any differences in value judgments over them will probably be of purely personal, subjective nature. :wink:

AdonisGuilfoyle wrote:
I still haven't read 'Too Many Clients'

Hmm, I liked that novel, although it's not among the best ones. It includes strong sexual and romantic motifs, that make Too Many Clients more memorable than most stories in the Canon. I realize these motifs may be those that seem most discouraging to you, Adonis. The novel might well be classified as another of those “old man (74) having fun writing from a young man's perspective” type of stories. :oops:


Last edited by Faterson on Sun, 15 Jul 2007, 11:01, edited 1 time in total.

Sat, 14 Jul 2007, 18:45
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New post Marlowe vs. Archie
Faterson wrote:
Well, Chandler was indubitably another genius. But, unlike most literary critics, I find Rex Stout, in his best books, to be a slightly better writer than Chandler. That may be a personal preference. But, I find Chandler a weeny bit one-dimensional, compared to Stout. Of course, what has caused the most damage for Stout in the eyes of literary critics is that he was so prolific. Chandler wrote only a handful of novels in his entire life, and most of them are excellent.

I for one have a higher esteem for Dashiell Hammett than for Raymond Chandler. :) Again, it's because Hammett seems to be a more versatile writer than Chandler. Whereas all of Chandler's novels are more or less varieties of the same one basic theme, Hammett's novels (he wrote even fewer of them than Chandler) display a surprising variety: the brutal Red Harvest is very different from the archetypal, but much gentler private-eye noir tale The Maltese Falcon, the marital mystery comedy The Thin Man, or my personal top favourite Hammett novel, the political mystery drama The Glass Key that can also be seen as examination of true friendship.


I've read most of Chandler's novels - onto Lady in the Lake, now - and would have to agree that the stories are usually variations on a theme - and incredibly complex, too! :? (It's the tying up - or not - of all the previously unconnected loose ends that throws me.)

I would also say that Marlowe isn't as 'human' as Archie, but whereas both Chandler and Stout excel at that clipped, 'hardboiled' style of detective narration, it is Chandler who wears the crown in my opinion; I sometimes find the odd gem in the corpus that puts me in mind of Chandler - Archie describing one woman's lipstick and nail varnish as resembling the undercoat of paint on a bridge - but Chandler wields simple yet effective imagery with ease, to the point where I often find myself hung up on a particular word or a phrase when reading his books!

I've also read Hammett's The Thin Man - love the dialogue in that - and The Maltese Falcon (and I thought when watching the film that Sydney Greenstreet would have made the perfect Wolfe, but after listening to his reading of the role on the OTR episodes, I've since changed my mind - far too close to bursting into a mad, cackling villain routine! :shock: ), but I think Chandler is my favourite.

Who is your ideal screen Marlowe, by the way, if you have one? I think James Garner was born for the role, and that Elliott Gould should have known better! (I'm still cringing at the thought.)

faterson wrote:
Hmm, I liked that novel, although it's not among the best ones. It includes strong sexual and romantic motifs, that make Too Many Clients more memorable than most stories in the Canon. I realize these motifs may be those that seem most discouraging to you, Adonis. The novel might well be classified as another of those “old man (74) having fun writing from a young man's perspective” type of stories. :oops:


Yep, it fits the profile :wink: It's not the story as a whole, although I don't think Stout's foray into 'noir' was at all successful, based on that novel; it's Archie's attitude toward women. I discussed this with some very helpful, and was told off by some not so helpful, members of the Nero Wolfe community last year: how do you interpret the bottle of champagne he sends to the husband and not the wife? I just could not, and still cannot, get rid of the sickly feeling that he was actually condoning the cuckolded husband asserting his 'authority' by beating his wife; I've heard the 'dark sarcasm' explanation, but I don't buy it.

And then there's Meg - instead of merely removing her hand, as the honourable Timothy Hutton plays it in the episode, Archie damn near suffocates her, to teach her a lesson! :shock: I know Archie can get a little obnoxious with women, and rough with them when they interfere with his 'program', but I thought a line was crossed in 'Too Many Clients', and I therefore think I can live without reading the book. I suppose it's a nod to Stout, in a way - Archie has become so dear a character, and so 'real' a personality, that I don't want to slur my image of him! :wink:

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Sat, 14 Jul 2007, 21:06
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New post Re: Marlowe vs. Archie
AdonisGuilfoyle wrote:
I've read most of Chandler's novels - onto Lady in the Lake

I find The Long Goodbye to be clearly Chandler's finest novel, and The High Window his weakest novel. (That's still a lot better, though, than many Nero Wolfe novels.) :twisted: The Lady in the Lake is a superb novel, too, but not on a par, in my opinion, with the best Rex Stout novels, such as Fer-de-Lance, The Silent Speaker, or In the Best Families. 8)

AdonisGuilfoyle wrote:
incredibly complex, too! :? (It's the tying up - or not - of all the previously unconnected loose ends that throws me.)

Ah, it's a well-known fact that Chandler's skills regarding the whodunnit angle of his works were as limited as Rex Stout's skills. We don't read Chandler's and Stout's works because of the mystery and detection angle in them, after all. That is secondary both in Chandler and in Stout. (Hammett, too.)

AdonisGuilfoyle wrote:
whereas both Chandler and Stout excel at that clipped, 'hardboiled' style of detective narration, it is Chandler who wears the crown in my opinion

In this particular regard, absolutely. What Chandler's books lack in comparison to Stout's is the clash of varying psychologies, brought to you by Wolfe vs. Archie. :lol: Chandler's books are all about a single psychology – that of the narrator, and that can get tiresome at times.

Also, although both Chandler and Stout are masters of comedy, I find Stout's comedic skills to be even greater than Chandler's.

So, while Chandler has the edge on Stout as far as hard-boiled narration goes, Stout seems superior over Chandler in terms of comedy.

In sum total, as stated in the previous post, it's all pretty much even. Both Stout and Chandler are classics of American literature and there's no big use arguing over which of the two is “better”.

What is disconcerting to me, however, is that while Chandler is widely recognized by literary critics as a true classic, Rex Stout, I fear, is not being given enough credit by “serious” literary criticism.

One of the goals of this online Book of Quotations, then, is to present quotations from and analyses of Rex Stout's works, with the ultimate aim of increasing Stout's reputation among “serious” literary scholars.

(Needless to say, this online Book of Quotations will also present quotations from all works by Chandler, Hammett, Agatha Christie, etc. All good writers, not only mystery writers, in any of the world's languages, are welcome on these webpages.)

AdonisGuilfoyle wrote:
Chandler wields simple yet effective imagery with ease

Yes. A writer I love who was able to imitate, and perhaps even triumph Chandler in terms of metaphoric imagery (especially the simile), while remaining his own man (not a mere imitator), was Ross Macdonald. I recommend his private-eye Lew Archer novels heartily.

AdonisGuilfoyle wrote:
The Maltese Falcon (and I thought when watching the film that Sydney Greenstreet would have made the perfect Wolfe

I was appalled by John Huston's film version of The Maltese Falcon. I loved the novel, and hated the movie. Humphrey Bogart is one of my best-loved actors (in masterpieces such as The Petrified Forest, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, Key Largo, and Dark Passage), but Bogie was terribly miscast as Sam Spade (a blond devil?! :roll:) in The Maltese Falcon and also as Phil Marlowe. (I also thought To Have and Have Not was an awful failure to capture Hemingway's original novel, despite Faulkner's screenplay.)

AdonisGuilfoyle wrote:
Who is your ideal screen Marlowe, by the way, if you have one?

I do, and at least to my mind, there's no question about it: Powers Boothe is the Phil Marlowe, just as Jeremy Brett is the Sherlock Holmes, and Timothy Hutton is the Archie Goodwin. :D

(I don't think Maury Chaykin is the definitive Nero Wolfe – Not Quite Fat Enough, among other things.) :wink:

AdonisGuilfoyle wrote:
I think James Garner was born for the role, and that Elliott Gould should have known better! (I'm still cringing at the thought.)

Oh, I very much prefer Powers Boothe over James Garner. I don't think Garner is really the Marlowe type. Here are a few pictures of Boothe as Marlowe: one, two, three. That's exactly how I've always pictured Phil Marlowe in my mind, even before I saw those TV movies. Not just Powers Boothe's looks are spot-on in the TV series, but also his demeanor, manner of speech, etc. (I realize there are other viewers who disagree.)

Elliott Gould was a fun choice for Marlowe, and as such can be enjoyed, I think. He certainly has the intellectual capacity to play Marlowe, so in that respect, he wasn't miscast – in other respects, he probably was. :lol:

AdonisGuilfoyle wrote:
how do you interpret the bottle of champagne he sends to the husband and not the wife? I just could not, and still cannot, get rid of the sickly feeling that he was actually condoning the cuckolded husband asserting his 'authority' by beating his wife; I've heard the 'dark sarcasm' explanation, but I don't buy it.

I'll be paying increased attention to that particular scene when I re-read the novel in future. I didn't really notice it the first time around. Also, I detest all manners of political correctness. Times and mores change, and what may be unacceptable behaviour for a man in 2007 may have been perfectly OK in 1960. I simply won't codemn anyone's behaviour from 1960 by judging it with 2007 standards.

AdonisGuilfoyle wrote:
I therefore think I can live without reading the book.

:shock: Hope you're kidding! :wink: I for one can't imagine voluntarily not reading, and re-reading, any Nero Wolfe book, even those I intensely disliked the first time around, such as Where There's a Will. There's always the chance I'll appreciate the volume more thanks to a repeated reading.


Sun, 15 Jul 2007, 12:16
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New post Re: Marlowe vs. Archie
Faterson wrote:
What is disconcerting to me, however, is that while Chandler is widely recognized by literary critics as a true classic, Rex Stout, I fear, is not being given enough credit by “serious” literary criticism.


I think it's more a lack of publicity for Stout, at least on this side of the pond - when I tell people what book I'm reading (a popular conversation starter!), the response for Stout is usually 'Who's he?' And adding, 'Nero Wolfe, a private detective', doesn't usually help, either, unless people have seen an odd episode of the series :roll:

faterson wrote:
A writer I love who was able to imitate, and perhaps even triumph Chandler in terms of metaphoric imagery (especially the simile), while remaining his own man (not a mere imitator), was Ross Macdonald. I recommend his private-eye Lew Archer novels heartily.


I shall add Macdonald to my list - I'm always on the look-out for new titles! :)

faterson wrote:
I do, and at least to my mind, there's no question about it: Powers Boothe is the Phil Marlowe, just as Jeremy Brett is the Sherlock Holmes, and Timothy Hutton is the Archie Goodwin. :D

(I don't think Maury Chaykin is the definitive Nero Wolfe – Not Quite Fat Enough, among other things.) :wink:


Never seen or heard of Powers Boothe - he looks a bit, ah, '80s' :? I thought you were going to say Dick Powell or Robert Montgomery. But I'm definitely with you on Jeremy Brett and Timothy Hutton; Hutton, especially, still amazes me, because he captures every aspect of Archie's character - the thuggish bodyguard (his KO of Hagh in Prisoner's Base is one of the best screen punches I can recall - don't know if it was just the sound effect, but I still flinch when he wallops him one! :wink: ); the smooth ladies man (and it's interesting that his his response to Lucy in Mother Hunt - 'And are you [an expert on women]?' , 'Some would say so, yes' - is not in the book! :wink:; the proud and precise assistant of Nero Wolfe ... He can do it all, with a neat sense of comic timing and a very expressive face. I don't think he will be matched or beaten.

And I like Chaykin as Wolfe because he's not fat enough, bizarrely - it makes the references to his romantic past somewhat more believable when I imagine Chaykin as Wolfe, and also provides the character with a little more independence from Archie, who paints him as an immobile mountain lodged behind his desk. Chaykin is more 'energetic' as Wolfe in the series. Also, I'm sure today's interpretation of 'fat' is not as grotesque and apparent as it was when Stout first started writing his novels - Chaykin is 'solid' with a gut, not a human dome!

faterson wrote:
I'll be paying increased attention to that particular scene when I re-read the novel in future. I didn't really notice it the first time around. Also, I detest all manners of political correctness. Times and mores change, and what may be unacceptable behaviour for a man in 2007 may have been perfectly OK in 1960. I simply won't codemn anyone's behaviour from 1960 by judging it with 2007 standards.


True, but it's a difficult rule to adhere to, especially concerning domestic violence. And I think Archie's approval is also warping one aspect of the character - yes, Archie will throw water in a woman's face, or chop her arm with his hand to make her drop something, or take a strange delight in 'restraining' hysterical clients, but I would have thought his 'humane, romantic and thoroughly admirable' sense of chivalry would have had him protecting the victim of a bully, not cheering on her attacker? I think Timothy Hutton played it right, and Stout took the ambiguity of the situation too far.

faterson wrote:
:shock: Hope you're kidding! :wink:

Ask me again, when I get to the end of the corpus! :wink: There are thankfully enough books that I do like - The Mother Hunt, Best Families, Prisoner's Base, Caesar, etc - to save me from suffering through other unremarkable instalments, merely because they are written by the same hand.

And would it be best to transplant the end of this thread in to a generic topic on Stout?

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Sun, 15 Jul 2007, 13:02
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