Sunday, March 18, 2012


Today we're kicking off a week of ASOTV showcases featuring some of the Great Detectives of Literature - as seen on TV. Whenever possible, we'll also have mention of their place in the Wold Newton Universe, an ally of the Toobworld Dynamic. (But we're not connected to the work of Philip Jose Farmer and Win Scott Eckert.) We'll see if such O'Bservances can be applied to their televersions in Earth Prime-Time as well....


Rex Stout

'A Nero Wolfe Mystery'

Maury Chaykin

Earth Prime-Time


From Wikipedia:
Nero Wolfe is a fictional detective, created in 1934 by the American mystery writer Rex Stout. Wolfe's confidential assistant Archie Goodwin narrates the cases of the detective genius. Stout wrote 33 novels and 39 short stories from 1934 to 1974, with most of them set in New York City. Wolfe's residence, a luxurious brownstone on West 35th Street, features prominently in the series. Many radio, television and film adaptations were made from his works.

The Nero Wolfe corpus was nominated for Best Mystery Series of the Century at Bouchercon 2000, the world's largest mystery convention, and Rex Stout was a nominee for Best Mystery Writer of the Century.

Archie Goodwin, the narrator of the stories, frequently describes Wolfe as weighing "a seventh of a ton" (about 286 pounds or 130 kilograms). At the time of the first book, 1934, this was intended to indicate unusual obesity, especially through the use of the word "ton" as the unit of measure. In 1947 Archie writes, "He weighs between 310 and 390, and he limits his physical movements to what he regards as the irreducible essentials

"Wolfe's most extravagant distinction is his extreme antipathy to literal extravagance. He will not move," wrote J. Kenneth Van Dover in "At Wolfe's Door: The Nero Wolfe Novels of Rex Stout":

He insists upon the point: under no circumstances will he leave his home or violate his routines in order to facilitate an investigation. The exceptions are few and remarkable. Instead of spreading the principles of order and justice throughout his society, Wolfe imposes them dogmatically and absolutely within the walls of his house — the brownstone on West Thirty-Fifth Street — and he invites those who are troubled by an incomprehensible and threatening environment to enter the controlled economy of the house and to discover there the source of disorder in their own lives.

Wikipedia describes the key point regarding Wolfe's position in the WNU:
In 1956, John D. Clark theorized in an article in the "Baker Street Journal" that Wolfe was the offspring of an affair between Sherlock Holmes and Irene Adler (a character from "A Scandal in Bohemia"). Clark suggested that the two had had an affair in Montenegro in 1892, and that Nero Wolfe was the result. The idea was later co-opted by William S. Baring-Gould and implied in the novels of Nicholas Meyer, but there is no evidence that Rex Stout had any such connection in mind. 

Certainly there is no mention of it in any of the stories, although a painting of Sherlock Holmes does hang over Archie Goodwin's desk in Nero Wolfe's office. This suggests that in the Nero Wolfe universe, Sherlock Holmes is a real person, not a fictional one.

Some commentators, noting both physical and psychological resemblances, suggest Sherlock's brother Mycroft Holmes as a more likely father for Wolfe. Commentators have noted a coincidence in the names "Sherlock Holmes" and "Nero Wolfe": the same vowels appear in the same order. In 1957 Ellery Queen called this "The Great O-E Theory" and suggested that it derived from the father of mysteries, Edgar Allan Poe.

Some Wold Newton theorists have suggested the French thief Arsène Lupin as the father of Nero Wolfe. They note that in one story Lupin has an affair with the queen of a Balkan principality, which may be Montenegro by another name. Further, they note that the name Lupin resembles the French word for wolf, loup.

From the source:
"I suggest beginning with autobiographical sketches from each of us, and here is mine. I was born in Montenegro and spent my early boyhood there. At the age of sixteen I decided to move around, and in fourteen years I became acquainted with most of Europe, a little of Africa, and much of Asia, in a variety of roles and activities. Coming to this country in nineteen-thirty, not penniless, I bought this house and entered into practice as a private detective. I am a naturalized American citizen."

Maury Chaykin's portrayal of Nero Wolfe was not the first time the character was seen on TV - in an earlier series, William Conrad played a modernized televersion of Wolfe.  However, since the A&E series was set in the proper time period, then it has been given the position of being the official portrait of Nero Wolfe.

However, I am willing to entertain the theory that Conrad's televersion is Nero Wolfe, Jr.......


1 comment:

Unknown said...

John Lescroat also wrote a couple of holmesian pastsiches in which the main character is implied to be Holmes's son, and bears a startling resemblance to Wolfe.