Monday, October 24, 2011

TRIPLE ZECK by Rex Stout - On My Horizon.

I love omnibus collections. They are so handy, best of all they take up less shelf space. I have several collections by some of my favorite authors including a bunch by Agatha Christie.

Though the type within is sometimes a bit smaller than normal, I have reading glasses that make up the difference. The only problem is sometimes they're hard to hold open while you eat.

You guys know how much I love to read Nero Wolfe during meals.

Well, while searching through my collection of Wolfe paperbacks and one omnibus, I noticed I didn't have the three novels which make up the Zeck saga. (Though, of course, I've read them in the past.)




How to describe the odious and powerful Mr. Zeck? Well, as Wolfe tells Archie, warns Archie - Zeck is a man never to be trifled with. He is a man whom Archie must never interfere with or investigate of have anything to do with. Wolfe says Zeck is the most dangerous man he has ever come up against. If Wolfe were to involve himself in a case which even peripherally had anything to do with Zeck, he, [Wolfe] might have to leave the brownstone and go into hiding.

Archie doesn't believe him, but it turns out to be true.

It also turns out that the greenhouse on the roof of the brownstone is vulnerable to machine gun fire.

Worse yet, it also turns out that Wolfe might have to go on a diet!

Zeck is 'the napoleon of crime'. He is Wolfe's Moriarity. His nemesis. His arch enemy.

So, long story short, I found a used copy of TRIPLE ZECK. Don't know what I'm going to do when I run out of Wolfe books to reread. It's become a habit.

I'm turning manic, I know.

Note: illustration by Emilia Dziubak.


  1. It makes a bad day much more worthwhile when you suddenly come across a book, (your Wolfe) that you really know you need in the bookcase.

  2. Yvette,

    What did you think of the Wolfe series on TV?

  3. Dave: Yes, a feeling of triumph! :)

  4. Fred: I liked it a lot though, perhaps not as much as many others did.

    I loved Murray Chaykin as Wolfe - his facial expressions alone endeared him to me. Nobody could look as disgruntled at Chaykin.

    Wolfe spent a great deal of time while on a case, being disgruntled.

    I loved the repetory aspect of the actors. Each week a different one of them would play a client or a witness or the bad guy or whatever.

    LOVED the guy who played Saul Panzer and the guy who played Cramer.

    Wasn't so crazy about Timothy Hutton. He never grew into the part of Archie for me. He was okay, but never OKAY. Know what I mean? The clothes of the era didn't sit on him naturally.

    What did you think about it?

  5. Yvette,

    Having read only a few of the novels, I really can't say as to how they fit the characters in the novels.

    My impression was that Wolfe was pretty much of a spoiled baby who threw tantrums when he didn't get his own way. Several times I thought he really was going to throw himself down and wave his arms and legs about.

    Archie Goodwin: I agree--whatever he was supposed to be doing, he grated on me. Hutton just never fit in. Is Goodwin really that brash and loud-mouthed in the novels? And those clothes and that hat!

    I found it funny that they used the same cast throughout the series and that someone who was a villain in the previous show is now a victim in this episode and a witness in the following episode.

    Even some of the recurring characters switched occasionally: I think the one who usually played Saul was a witness or a suspect in the pilot? and someone else played Saul that time.

    Lots of familiar faces showed up during the series: Joe Flaherty (Second City), George Plimpton, Carrie Fisher . . .

  6. I agree, Fred. Though Archie was, in the books, a snappy dresser. He took pride in hiw clothing and often talked about them.

    He lived in a time when men always wore hats when they went out, at least until they go to the books set in the sixties.

    Archie was no loud mouth, he was though, a smart aleck. But usually only when surrounded or confronted by a dolt. Archie is brilliant in his own way and he has low tolerance (same as Wolfe) for idiots. He is smug because he has something to be smug about. He's supposed to be very good looking.

    But he is devoted to Wolfe and they trust each other implicitely. (spelling?)

    Wolfe can be a baby and Archie holds him to account. But Wolfe is afforded much leeway because he is a genius. He doesn't tolerate much, no discomfort or bad food, for instance. No women. He hates to work and part of Archie's job is to prod him TO work.

    I love the books.

  7. Yvette,

    Yes, I remember wearing a hat much of the time back in the 50s and early 60s, but mostly in the winter though. I lived in Chicago, and a hat during the winter was a good idea. However, after four years in the AF, being forced to wear a hat, I developed a strong dislike for wearing a hat. Now, I seldom wear one, unless it's during the Tucson summer and I'm going to be outdoors for any length of time.

    I wasn't commenting on Goodwin's wearing a hat, but on the choice of Goodwin's hat--it looked too big for him. I thought his ears kept it from falling down over his face. I had to laugh every time I saw him, especially in the early episodes. It wasn't that bad in the later ones, though. Perhaps someone pointed out how silly he looked.

  8. Fred, I think men of 'today' probably don't know HOW to wear a hat or how to feel comfortable in one. By hat, I mean fedoras and such. To me, Timothy Hutton never looked comfortable in his period clothes.

    Half the trick of working in costume is to look as if you're NOT wearing a costume.

    Not every actor can do that.

  9. When I was growing up in Chicago in the fifties, and then New York after that, my father always wore a felt hat in the winter. Very suave look.

    I did not know about Zeck at all. This is new to me, and I haven't read any of the books you mention here, but I'll be looking for them as a I enjoy the Wolfe/Goodwin repartee.

    I agree that Goodwin is a smart aleck. He also does mouth off to Wolfe frequently, sometimes surprisingly to me, as Wolfe is "a genius, not a god," as he reminds Goodwin.

    And Goodwin likes women, but as you say, Wolfe does not. I'm not sure why, but I can't imagine him even dining with a woman without his male companions nearby.

    Unfortunately, I had to return The Rubber Band to the library, but did read its companion book, The Red Box -- liked that one.

    I think I must read a Stout every few weeks as it's just relaxing and fun, no gore, no horror, etc.

  10. Kathy: I feel exactly that way about Stout's books. I must read one every week. Very relaxing. :)

    I love those old felt fedoras. My father wore on in the fifties. I have a pix somewhere about with him in his snazzy hat.

    I rereading THE RUBBER BAND right now.

    I think the Zeck books were meant as a satire of the Moriarity arch criminal trope.

    Can't wait to read them again.

  11. At the Wolfe Pack dinner the other night, the following observation was made - not by me, fortunately: "If Arnold Zeck put on a lot of weight and had to wear oversized suits like Nero Wolfe, that would make him a creep in Wolfe's clothing..."

    I'll be playing the lounge all week... ;-)

  12. Ha! A creep in Wolfe's clothing. Love it.

    I always did wonder if Zeck was a parody.

  13. I must get a Zeck book. Maybe I'll visit Partners and Crime this week.

    I have to find the TV series somewhere.

  14. Kathy: You should. For sure. They'll probably have a copy.

    Netflix has the series, I think. You might even find certain episodes on youtube. You never can tell.

  15. The Omnibus is the reader's best friend. I'm trying to scale back or at least rearrange my books/bookshelves and all those fat Christie, Gardner, Stout book spines do my heart good.

  16. C.W.: I love 'em! I try to pick them up whenever I see one. If it's an author I read, that is. :)

  17. kathy d.,

    I got the complete season's set of Nero Wolfe from the public library.

  18. In New York City? The TV series, I mean.

    Also, on books, folks should read Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin. It just won a CWA dagger.

  19. I'm sitting here and am in the middle of a good book, but suddenly I got a yen for Wolfe/Goodwin banter.

    I now know why one must have an emergency stash, to satisfy the cravings which appear at any time.

  20. I feel exactly the same way, Kathy. I have my emergency stash always at the ready. :)

  21. Yes, you are the Wolfe role model! Have emergency rations, etc.

    I get it now!

  22. I'm reading And Be a Villain. The wit crackles.

    I'm on to find books 2 and 3 of this trilogy.

    Oh, to just wallow in these books.


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