I re-read these stories over the last couple of weeks during lunch and/or dinner. Nero Wolfe makes for great meal time companionship if you enjoy reading at meals. I do. Since mine are paperbacks, the books are easy enough to hold and maneuver - unless you're eating finger food, in which case oh well, try and prop the book up someway or other. Nero Wolfe is worth the trouble.
Though I've already finished my challenge requisites for the Vintage Mystery Challenge hosted by Bev at MY READER'S BLOCK (and was very nicely awarded a Dorothy Sayers book by Bev, for my trouble), I'm still reading and rereading vintage when and where the time is right. Suffice to say, the time is usually never wrong. Though Bev, John and Les usually put me in the shade when it comes to reading vintage. Still, I muddle through. HA!
Don't forget to check out Bev's blog to see what the other Challenge participants have been up to.
Four Short Story Collections:
NOT QUITE DEAD ENOUGH (1944) - two novellas.
TROUBLE IN TRIPLICATE (1949) - three short stories
CURTAINS FOR THREE (1950) - three short stories
AND FOUR TO GO (1958) - four short stories
Stout wrote other story collections of course, but these are the four most recently re-read by yours truly.
AND FOUR TO GO
Fourth of July Picnic
Murder Is No Joke
Four mysteries, three set during three separate holidays. Most appropriate this time out was Fourth of July Picnic in which Wolfe is actually persuaded to go to a labor organization picnic and give a speech. Of course murder follows Wolfe and Archie wherever they go and this time it's no different.
This collection also has the classic story, Christmas Party, in which Wolfe disguises himself as Santa to spy on Archie when he suspects Archie may be about to get married.(!?). In truth, the whole Santa idea is rather appalling, but Stout makes it work. Hilariously. Think of it as a satirical swipe at his own creation.
CURTAINS FOR THREE
The Gun With Wings
Bullet For One
Disguise For Murder
One of the stories, Disguise For Murder concerns a strangler in disguise, this time most emphatically NOT Nero Wolfe. Though the killer does manage to pull the wool over Archie's and our eyes. Wolfe, though, is onto the killer's identity, improbably as it may seem, almost from the very beginning. Well, that's what a genius is for.
This is one of two stories (there may be a third fled from memory) in which I can remember a murder occurring in Wolfe's office. Oh, the ignominy! This time during an ill-advised garden party tour of the orchids on the roof.
Another story in this collection, Bullet For One, also concerns a disguise. This time a disguise and a horse and murder on a canter in Central Park. Oh, and a chase near the end involving NYC's finest mounted police and Archie on foot.
TROUBLE IN TRIPLICATE
Before I Die
Help Wanted, Male
Instead of Evidence
Wolfe and Archie are at odds (wouldn't be the first time) in Before I Die and Wolfe, most likely to spite Archie, but with Wolfe, one never knows - invites Dazy Perrit, criminal kingpin into the brownstone and actually takes on a case for him. After the end of WWII, meat shortages have rendered Wolfe grumpier than ever and black market meat may be the actual raison d'etre behind Wolfe's intent. Archie, rightly perturbed, suspects this is the case that may get them both killed and dumped in the river.
Help Wanted, Male is only the second story I remember in which Wolfe hires a man to impersonate him. The other more famous example is in THE DOORBELL RANG (1965) one of Stout's most brilliant books. In that novel, the impostor has to fool the FBI, but in this short story, the imposter's job is to hang around the office and wait to get killed.
NOT QUITE DEAD ENOUGH
Not Quite Dead Enough
Both these novellas take place during WWII. Archie has, of course, enlisted, but to his chagrin, is being kept state-side to work the intelligence angle and help manage Nero Wolfe when Wolfe is called to work for Army Intelligence. In this first story, Archie is actually sent back to the brownstone to request Wolfe's help on an urgent Army matter. Once Archie enters the old brownstone, his home and place of employment for many years, he gets the shock of his life.
In their own inimitable and totally preposterous fashion, Wolfe and Fritz are preparing themselves to go fight the Germans.
I was thinking that if you're not that familiar with Wolfe and Archie and I know there are several of you out there, then these short stories might get you into the fold - might be a good way to introduce the few stragglers who haven't yet made Wolfe's acquaintance. No time like the present.
For a complete list of all the Nero Wolfe books by Rex Stout, please check the best website for this sort of thing, fantasticfiction.com.
10 Interesting Things About Rex Stout - link here He really did have a very intriguing life.