Nero Wolfe

Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe

Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe

It’s so easy in life to stop exploring, especially as you get older. You think “if it’s really good, I would have checked it out by now” and just stick with the things you know instead of poking around looking at new things.

This is one of the reasons I try to constantly challenge myself with new projects that will force me to develop new skills and learn about stuff that I hadn’t really looked into before. For example, right now I am engrossed in working on a murder mystery novel, so I’ve been spending the last few months immersing myself in the detective genre. I’ve been reading, watching and listening to detective stories of all kinds as a way to give myself a crash-course in the field. While my mother and wife both adore mystery stories, they’ve always been something I could take or leave, so I never studied them too closely or made a real survey of the genre before now.

One name that I’ve heard for most of my life was Nero Wolfe, but since the crime novel wasn’t my thing, I pretty much ignored this name that kept popped up over and over again. Again, I figured if he was really that big a deal or that good, I’ve have come nose to nose with him at some point before now.

Boy, was I wrong.

Created by author Rex Stout in 1934 for a series of novels, Nero Wolfe is likely the fattest, laziest and most unlikable detective you’ll find. The trick is, he’s also utterly brilliant, and when circumstances force him to use that brilliance to solve cases, there are few who can escape his grasp. His adventures are actually told by his personal secretary, Archie Goodwin, who does all the actual legwork in Nero’s cases (Nero’s too lazy to leave his home) and feeds all the information back to his boss to use  to solve the cases. Archie is everything Nero is not- athletic, charming, and with a strong sense of justice, which he uses to drag his boss into cases.

The real charm of these stories is the interaction between these two men, whose relationship is almost adversarial, but who at heart have a great deal of respect and admiration for each other. It’s this interaction which made me fall in love with Nero and Archie, especially when acted out by Sydney Greenstreet and Harry Bartell in the radio drama series called The New Adventures of Nero Wolfe from 1950-1951.

Two stories I highly recommend giving a listen to are Room 304, which has amazing dialogue, and Calculated Risk, which is a nice little thriller. They’re about 28 minutes each, and I promise you they’re 28 minutes you won’t regret! Give them a listen, and perhaps you’ll become a fan too!

Rob