Monday, May 26, 2014

Stout Reads: See What Rex Read and How He Rated It

For only $300 apiece (heh) you can get a mystery novel owned--and presumably read--by Rex Stout. There are 22 such books listed on Abebooks by Between the Cover--Rare Books, Inc., all once stored in the carriage house of Stout's home.

Better yet, some of them were rated by him:

Christopher Hale, Rumor Hath It (1945) (B+)
Helen Reilly, Murder on Angler's Island (1945) (B2) (they don't know exactly what the 2 signified)
Christopher Hale, Hangman's Tie (1943) (S) (?)
Ethel Lina White, Her Heart in Her Throat (1942) ("surrender on p59") (Oh, Ethel! TPT)
George Harmon Coxe, Murder for Two (1943) (A-)
William L. Stuart, The Dead Lie Still (1945) (C+)

There are other books, but I didn't see others with ratings.  I have to say Stout's Ethel Lina White comment is hilarious, even though I quite like this author.  I don't believe her later books, from the 1940s, are that good, however.  Have you read any of these books?  Was Rex Stout right that George Harmon Coxe was the best bet?  I'll be talking more about Mr. Coxe soon.


  1. I haven't read any of these books and (sheepishly) haven't read any by Rex Stout either.

  2. Oh, I think I have a copy of Murder for Two and, if that's true, I'll give it a look next.

  3. I agree with Rex about Her Heart in Her Throat. The narrator is a supercilious ninny. I couldn't stand her arch sense of humor and her condescending view of everyone around her. I gave up much earlier than page 59! Whatever happens to her in the book she had coming to her.

    I thought The Dead Lie Still to be one fo the best "vet noir" novels published right after the war. It has a very over-the-top ending straight out of the weird menace pulps so maybe that sealed it's fate as a mere C+ in Stout's estimation. I would give it an A-. My review for Stuart's book is over at The Rap Sheet blog.

    Could the S rating mean satisfactory? How do they know that these letter markings are actual grades for the quality of the book's content? They could just as easily be some kind of purchase code.

    I've read two Coxe books with Kent Murdock and liked both. I have a paperback copy of Hangman's Tie. I'll have to add it to my pile for the summer.

    1. Fascinating, John! You were really right on point with that review! Maybe it was too outre for Stout.

      I like Ethel Lina White but in the 1940s her books go downhill fast, I think.