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  • Sue Hawley

Why Archie Goodwin will be your best friend, too.

Have you ever heard of Rex Stout? If not, you’re probably not alone. My siblings and I were fortunate enough to be raised reading his books- my mother had excellent taste in books. On the rare occasion I discover one of his books I’ve never read, it’s heaven! He was a prolific writer and even poet, but he is most known for creating the distinctive characters of Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin.

Nero Wolfe is a unique man. He weighs 1/7 of a ton (you are welcome to do the math), he seldom leaves his brownstone (which I totally understand!) in New York City, and he loves gourmet food prepared by his live-in cook Fritz. He has daily appointments with his orchids on the top floor of him home and seldom breaks his routine. So if you need to see him on business, be aware that from 9am-11am and 4pm-6pm, he is tending to his precious flowers and almost always refuses to be disturbed under any conditions.

Wolfe also hates to work and does so only when Archie, his right hand man, goads him into taking a case to keep the bank account fat. Women are a mystery to Wolfe and he has been known to bolt from the office if a female begins to cry. He trusts Archie’s wisdom and knowledge concerning women as they baffle him completely.

We know Wolfe from Archie Goodwin. He narrates every story and our view of the great detective is filtered through Archie’s attitude and insight about his boss. No one knows more about Wolfe than Archie, and even he doesn’t know everything. Archie has numerous responsibilities including detecting, bookkeeping, correspondence, germination records for Wolfe’s orchids, plus keeping his boss working when the bank accounts becomes thin. He lives on the third floor of the brownstone and has threatened to leave more than once out of total frustration with Wolfe. Unless Mr. Stout wrote a book I've missed, Archie never followed through with those threats.

Rex Stout made his characters so rich, complete, and interesting readers kept coming back for more. A cookbook based on Nero's gastronomic delights was even published in the 70's! You can find his works in bookstores today along with all the great mystery writers of the 20th century. I reread his books as much as Agatha Christie even though I know ‘who did it’ from the first sentence. The pleasure is in the well-crafted story- Archie’s narration is a hoot and I can’t imagine my life without the brownstone and it’s occupants.

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