The final collection of Nero Wolfe novellas by Rex Stout (1886-1975), Death Times Three, appeared in 1985, a decade after Stout's death. It is an interesting collection, in that all the novellas included therein had previously appeared in two different versions.
Stout's biographer, John McAleer, who wrote the introduction to Death Times Three, makes good cases for each of the novellas. With Bitter End, what Nero Wolfe/Archie Goodwin fan wouldn't prefer a Wolfish adventure to a Foxy one, even if it is a novella versus a novel?
As for Frame-Up for Murder, McAleer argues it is clearly superior to Murder Is No Joke. While on the whole he seems to prefer Counterfeit for Murder to Assault on a Brownstone, he also thinks Brownstone has its unique virtues. Certainly the first two novellas are musts for Wolfe/Goodwin fans and all for are vintage Stout from his best period. I'll be saying more about them here soon.
At the risk of repeating myself, Rex Stout is my favorite author, so of course I have read this book and these novellas. (I have also read the entire biography by John McAleer, and at the same time reread all of the Rex Stout Nero Wolfe books in order. Don't remember much about these novellas though, except for Bitter End. I look forward to more about them here, and maybe I will reread them soon.ReplyDelete
I used to buy the Bantam reprints, pictured here, from Borders (back when we had a Borders). I've never seen this one, but I'll have to see if I can track it down. I don't really mind the Fox novel being boiled down to the Wolfe novella, as I generally prefer Stout's novellas to his novels. There are numerous exceptions, but it does sometimes feel like the form that he was most comfortable with.ReplyDelete
Speaking of Tecumseh Fox, am I the only one who thinks it was a missed opportunity on Stout's part for not putting Fox in The Silent Speaker as the hired detective of the opposing company? Stout's detectives share the same universe, connected through supporting characters and places such as Rusterman's, and can easily imagine Wolfe and Fox have a professional rivalry going on the side. Why else would Wolfe hire Sally Colt (e.g. If Death Ever Slept), but not Fox?ReplyDelete
Stout did one interesting crossover that is not much known: there's a short story in the April, 1955 edition of Manhunt called "His Own Hand" that features Alphabet Hicks and Purley Stebbins.Delete
Noah, what do you think of the Alphabet Hicks novel?Delete
All this talk of Tecumseh Fox makes me want to reread the non-Wolfe novels. They are also a lot of fun.ReplyDelete
I liked THE HAND IN THE GLOVE and was pleased to see Dol Bonner turn up again in some of the Wolfe short stories. Didn't Stout write a standalone book with Inspector Cramer solving a mystery without Wolfe? Has anyone here read that one?ReplyDelete
Red Threads is the book that features Inspector Cramer. I have read it, but many years ago. Don't remember that much about it, but it was not my favorite of the non-Wolfe books.Delete
Sorry to be running so behind with the review piece! I liked The Hand in the Glove too and am planning to do a piece on it. Red Threads is problematical for me, because I get enough of Cramer when he's a supporting character! There's a long section about him third-degreeing a woman, I think, which is unpleasant, although probably accurate enough about police methods back then.ReplyDelete
I've always thought RED THREADS was interesting because the young female protagonist is a fabric designer (and there's a lot in the novel about fabric design) and Stout's wife Pola was also a fabric designer. I doubt there is anything of Pola Stout in the character -- merely that she provided background information, I think. But there's interesting bits that stayed in my mind; the radio performer who can imitate any bird, the little-known fabric called "bayeta", the expensive tissue called "Pasilex" ... and all kinds of information about the Cherokee Nation. (There's one regrettable character to our modern eye, but apparently Stout had personal information.) Not a great mystery, not a great plot, but to my mind one of the few times that Stout ever managed to successfully write a romance as part of a book.Delete