I’m trying to be responsible and work….

On course planning and other things but I keep getting distracted. Archie Goodwin has that effect on a reader:

“I used as few French and miscellaneous fancy words as possible in writing up this stunt of Nero Wolfe’s but I couldn’t keep them out altogether, on account of the kind of people involved. I am not responsible for the spelling, so don’t write me about mistakes. Wolfe refused to help me out on it, and I had to go to the Heinemann School of Languages and pay a professor 30 bucks to go over it and fix it up. In most cases, during these events, when anyone said anything which for me was only a noise, I have either let it lay–when it wasn’t vital–or managed somehow to get the rough idea in the American language.”

                                                                                                                                                                                                  -Archie Goodwin in the forward of Too Many Cooks by Rex Stout

If you haven’t heard of Archie Goodwin, he is the narrator and Dr. Watson figure for a series of mystery novels by Rex Stout, which began in the 1930s and ended with Stout’s death in the mid-1970s. While the sarcastic Goodwin narrates, he is the “legman” for Nero Wolfe, an eccentric orchid collector, gourmet, and detective who seldom leaves his NYC brownstone. Someone on Goodreads called it the Mycroft Holmes-meets-Sam Spade series in an attempt at derisiveness. However, if you like both of those, the comparison  is fairly apt and not at all negative. I just read 1965’s The Doorbell Rang, where Wolfe is offered $100,000 to stymie FBI harassment of a wealthy widow who criticized J. Edgar Hoover. I had no idea this was a fairly controversial plot for the 1960s (according to Internet rumor, Wolfe fan John Wayne had a falling out with Rex Stout over this one and the FBI compiled a file on Stout, who they assumed was a Communist). Anyhow, my favorite part of these novels is Archie Goodwin’s voice, with its sly sense of humor.

The main characters don’t age, although there are a few contemporary references in the series, which is nice. I’m always slightly depressed by the aging of classic characters in series mystery novels, personally. The end of Tommy and Tuppence was a painful thing for me in high school, y’all. There was a Nero Wolfe television adaptation a few years ago, starring the late Maury Chaykin as Wolfe and Timothy Hutton as Archie Goodwin. It’s brilliant, perfectly cast and faithful to the books.

Oddly enough, I can’t find any of the books at my local B&N, so I’ve had to order them or dig up copies at my library. I think the library’s copy of The Doorbell Rang might actually be from 1965, but I’m not sure. It certainly looks like old paper.


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Speaking of old paper, I just ordered a perfume that is supposed to smell like old books, Demeter’s Paperback. I’m wondering how this one will turn out. I love how books smell–you know that inky paper scent in bookstores? I’m hoping it smells something like that, although other online reviewers have guessed that vintage Bantam books were the inspiration. Anyone know what those smell like?

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One thought on “I’m trying to be responsible and work….

  1. bg51 says:

    I’m a fan of Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin. Like you, my favorite is Archie Goodwin. Wolfe alone would not make a good story. Like a lot of the famous fictional detectives, a sidekick is a key element for illuminating the story. As to how to find books, I recommend shopping on ebay and similar sites. I’ve bought a lot of the Stout books that way. I usually look for them in batches; the shipping is not cost effective for one book at a time.

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