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  1. #1
    HoraHoraHora! Thorlief's Avatar
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    Wink Stout's Nero Wolfe

    I dont know if any of you ever read it, but when I'm looking for some pure relax nothing is better than Nero Wolfe. Thank god Stout wrote so much books and short stories you can never run out of something to read. Plus his writing is excellent: fast paced, smart, intelligent, never boring; he fills his books with interesting characters, and Nero Wolfe's personality is as huge as his belly.

    for those who dont know who Nero Wolfe is: he lives in New York but he's European; he comes from a small rural village in Montenegro and despite the fact he's been living in the USA for years, never managed to appreciate what a true American likes. He's huge, about 260 lbs, and his only hobby is breeding orchids. He's of course a PI, and probably the best and most expensive one. All the handwork is done by his assistant, Archie Goodwin, a smart talking, fast moving all-american guy from Ohio. When Nero accepts a case, Archie is sent to gain hints, interrogate people and basically do whatever a PI should do if alone...then Nero analyzes everything and solves the case with his terrific intelligence
    Archie is the exact opposite of Nero: Nero never (almost) leaves his home, women scare him expecially when they cry, and he eats nothing but top-rated recipes prepared by his personal cook Fritz; Archis loves women, he's athletic and rather intelligent, hot-dogs don't scare him and hes frequently irritated by Nero's lazyness.


    I happen to like even what is considered to be the weakest Nero story, "The black mountain"; in which he travels back to his native Montenegro to track back who killed his best friend

    One thing that bugs me sometimes is Archie's slightly racist attitude: he calls black, italian and chinese people in some unfunny ways, he basically makes fun of the English and Japanese and in the first book of the serie he calls an Argentinian guy "a filthy bastard" just to point out that he's half latin half american. It does never get too far tho; Nero is way more tolerant than his assistant -maybe because he's himself a immigrant-, but I'd have liked him to slap Archie more often because of his stupid remarks; ye also have to consider most of the books were written in the '40-'50. Anyway, its never funny to read "chimps" or "shines" or "italian guys who looked like small demons" (this last line may be incorrect, I dont remember it very well but it sounded similar)

    but besides that, nothing is more entertaining than a good Nero Wolfe novel, at least imho. Only just Sherlock Holmes

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by Thorlief View Post
    for those who dont know who Nero Wolfe is: he lives in New York but he's European; he comes from a small rural village in Montenegro and despite the fact he's been living in the USA for years, never managed to appreciate what a true American likes. He's huge, about 260 lbs, and his only hobby is breeding orchids. He's of course a PI, and probably the best and most expensive one. All the handwork is done by his assistant, Archie Goodwin, a smart talking, fast moving all-american guy from Ohio. When Nero accepts a case, Archie is sent to gain hints, interrogate people and basically do whatever a PI should do if alone...then Nero analyzes everything and solves the case with his terrific intelligence
    I also really like the series. I'd say that while everything you say above is true, in its way, there's also another side to every point.

    For instance, Wolfe is from Montenegro, but he's a naturalized American citizen and deeply loyal to his adopted country. (It's telling that despite his reluctance to leave his home, he ventures out to vote each and every election day.)

    Also it's hinted throughout the series that Wolfe led a deeply adventurous life in his youth, trekking around Europe and having all kinds of close shaves and fights. (And despite his weight and sedentary lifestyle, he can still move damn fast when the situation calls for it.) What Archie views as laziness could also be viewed as the world-weariness of a man completely exhausted by multiple harrowing adventures and determined to rest for the remainder of his life.

    I happen to like even what is considered to be the weakest Nero story, "The black mountain"; in which he travels back to his native Montenegro to track back who killed his best friend
    I recently read that for the first time, after having already read most of the other Nero Wolfe stories.

    If one accepts the fictional premise that these are slightly altered reports of real events and cases, then this is one of several cases where I strongly suspect Archie of cleaning up the ending to make it more palatable for readers.

    One thing that bugs me sometimes is Archie's slightly racist attitude: he calls black, italian and chinese people in some unfunny ways, he basically makes fun of the English and Japanese and in the first book of the serie he calls an Argentinian guy "a filthy bastard" just to point out that he's half latin half american. It does never get too far tho; Nero is way more tolerant than his assistant -maybe because he's himself a immigrant-, but I'd have liked him to slap Archie more often because of his stupid remarks; ye also have to consider most of the books were written in the '40-'50. Anyway, its never funny to read "chimps" or "shines" or "italian guys who looked like small demons" (this last line may be incorrect, I dont remember it very well but it sounded similar)
    Archie is more guilty of buying into ethnic sterotypes than serious racism, though. I can't recall him ever discounting or underestimating someone because of their ethnicity.

    EDIT: Is it just me, or are the short stories better than the novel length Wolfe mysteries? I think shorter, tighter stories made for better writing from Stout.

  3. #3
    HoraHoraHora! Thorlief's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MatthewC View Post
    I also really like the series. I'd say that while everything you say above is true, in its way, there's also another side to every point.

    For instance, Wolfe is from Montenegro, but he's a naturalized American citizen and deeply loyal to his adopted country. (It's telling that despite his reluctance to leave his home, he ventures out to vote each and every election day.)

    that's very true. I also recall this novel, probably called "In the best families" in which Wolfe wants to help the government because of the Watergate, and basically hating what Nixon did shows up how much he loves the USA. In "Too many cooks" he humiliates poor Jerome Berin teaching him a lesson about American cousine...its just that some of his attitudes could be seen as European

    Also it's hinted throughout the series that Wolfe led a deeply adventurous life in his youth, trekking around Europe and having all kinds of close shaves and fights. (And despite his weight and sedentary lifestyle, he can still move damn fast when the situation calls for it.) What Archie views as laziness could also be viewed as the world-weariness of a man completely exhausted by multiple harrowing adventures and determined to rest for the remainder of his life.

    yeah but Archie also could ask Nero why the heck he's a IP if he doesnt want to work ;D , but being him a all-nerves, fast moving dude it must be a pain to see his boss acting like that

    I recently read that for the first time, after having already read most of the other Nero Wolfe stories.

    If one accepts the fictional premise that these are slightly altered reports of real events and cases, then this is one of several cases where I strongly suspect Archie of cleaning up the ending to make it more palatable for readers.

    interesting, what do you mean exactly?

    Archie is more guilty of buying into ethnic sterotypes than serious racism, though. I can't recall him ever discounting or underestimating someone because of their ethnicity.

    stereotypes or not, its still kind of bothering. You know, I love Archie; he's skilled at everything, plus he's not the typical tool all muscles and no brain..he's got a helluva brain actually. Only Saul can match his...but sometimes his fast tongue gets over the top, and thats where I dont like him

    EDIT: Is it just me, or are the short stories better than the novel length Wolfe mysteries? I think shorter, tighter stories made for better writing from Stout.

    short stories are better, the pacing is quite perfect and Archie's perspective is indeed made for short stories..but they end too quickly :D. Seriously, it sucks when you happen to like a story that much and it's over in 15 minutes (thats the amount of time I need to read one of em)

  4. #4
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    I absolutley love the series; maybe my favourite detective series and characters of all time.

    I don't agree that the short stories are better than the novels, because I find that the novels read so quickly I don't get bogged down at all. The short stories are great as well, though.

    And I think MatthewC is right about the racism; as distasteful as they seem now, Archie's attitudes were actually pretty mild for someone of his social and educational background of that time. And you'll notice that the worst remarks are in the earliest books, from the 30's, and that as the series progresses through the decades, Archie's attitude moves forward as well, keeping up with the times (actually a little ahead, considering his personality, etc).

    But anyway, the main thing is wwhat a great series this is. Some of the best entertainment and just pure fun I've ever found in all my years of reading.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by MatthewC
    If one accepts the fictional premise that these are slightly altered reports of real events and cases, then this is one of several cases where I strongly suspect Archie of cleaning up the ending to make it more palatable for readers.
    Quote Originally Posted by Thorlief
    interesting, what do you mean exactly?
    I mean, did Nero "really" contrive this incredibly risky and unlikely-to-work scheme to get Zov back to the states so that he could be arrested... or did Wolfe in fact kill the man in Montenegro, and Archie made up the ending because he didn't want to admit Wolfe had killed a man in cold blood?

    Or what about the one where they finally confront the crimelord Zeck (In the Best of Families) and have it out once and for all? As I remember, that one ended very conveniently with another guy in the same room shooting Zeck, Zeck killing the guy who killed him, and both Nero and Archie managing to walk away with clean hands. It seems a much likelier scenario that Nero or Archie killed Zeck, but Archie could hardly admit to murder (however justified).

    There were a few suspicious suicides throughout the series too, where villains confronted with their misdeeds decided to suddenly committ suicide rather than stick it out through a trial they might win.

    Of course this is all a bit of a literary game on my part, as there was no Archie Goodwin or Nero Wolfe, and whatever Stout wrote in his stories is as real as it gets. But if you choose to play around with the idea that these are case reports written by Archie, it's interesting to look at places where one can suspect Archie of fudging the facts so as to avoid admitting to certain things or simplifying outcomes.

  6. #6
    HoraHoraHora! Thorlief's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MatthewC View Post
    I mean, did Nero "really" contrive this incredibly risky and unlikely-to-work scheme to get Zov back to the states so that he could be arrested... or did Wolfe in fact kill the man in Montenegro, and Archie made up the ending because he didn't want to admit Wolfe had killed a man in cold blood?

    Or what about the one where they finally confront the crimelord Zeck (In the Best of Families) and have it out once and for all? As I remember, that one ended very conveniently with another guy in the same room shooting Zeck, Zeck killing the guy who killed him, and both Nero and Archie managing to walk away with clean hands. It seems a much likelier scenario that Nero or Archie killed Zeck, but Archie could hardly admit to murder (however justified).

    There were a few suspicious suicides throughout the series too, where villains confronted with their misdeeds decided to suddenly committ suicide rather than stick it out through a trial they might win.

    Of course this is all a bit of a literary game on my part, as there was no Archie Goodwin or Nero Wolfe, and whatever Stout wrote in his stories is as real as it gets. But if you choose to play around with the idea that these are case reports written by Archie, it's interesting to look at places where one can suspect Archie of fudging the facts so as to avoid admitting to certain things or simplifying outcomes.

    uhm..I never thought about it, really. I tend to read Archie's notes as fast as I can because I never considered em to be that important.
    It really brings me to re-read some stories and reconsider some parts, it could actually be like what you said...expecially Zeck's death. Although I'm not judging the surprisingly anticlimatic final confrontation (at least for me..I wanted more Zeck and I wanted Nero to build a better plan to slap him in jail for the rest of his life...or on the chair), it sure had the perfect scenario for a justified execution by Archie, or Nero himself, without consequences expecially on their reputation-that would have been the most important thing for Nero and Archie-. Yes, I dig it.

  7. #7
    Suprmetrician Matthew E's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MatthewC View Post
    I mean, did Nero "really" contrive this incredibly risky and unlikely-to-work scheme to get Zov back to the states so that he could be arrested... or did Wolfe in fact kill the man in Montenegro, and Archie made up the ending because he didn't want to admit Wolfe had killed a man in cold blood?

    Or what about the one where they finally confront the crimelord Zeck (In the Best of Families) and have it out once and for all? As I remember, that one ended very conveniently with another guy in the same room shooting Zeck, Zeck killing the guy who killed him, and both Nero and Archie managing to walk away with clean hands. It seems a much likelier scenario that Nero or Archie killed Zeck, but Archie could hardly admit to murder (however justified).

    There were a few suspicious suicides throughout the series too, where villains confronted with their misdeeds decided to suddenly committ suicide rather than stick it out through a trial they might win.

    Of course this is all a bit of a literary game on my part, as there was no Archie Goodwin or Nero Wolfe, and whatever Stout wrote in his stories is as real as it gets. But if you choose to play around with the idea that these are case reports written by Archie, it's interesting to look at places where one can suspect Archie of fudging the facts so as to avoid admitting to certain things or simplifying outcomes.
    I had similar thoughts once after reading Agatha Christie's Curtain: Poirot's Last Case.
    matthewe.com: updates on the superhero novel-in-progress Ded & Sac, the Superhero of the Day, and more.

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    long before Monk, there was the agoraphobic Nero Wolfe. A wonderful way to wittle away the hours.

    God rest ye, Stout.

  9. #9
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    I like the A&E Nero Wolfe Series so much that I have started reading the novels.

    First Book I choose to read is "The Silent Speaker".
    Interesting so far.

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