There’s Rex, and no one else


Rex Stout

A couple days ago I finished reading Robert Goldsborough’s Archie Meets Nero Wolfe. I thought it was pretty fair and it was fun to see how the author set up that first meeting and case, culminating with Wolfe hiring Goodwin. I was talking with a friend about the book a little later and his opinion was it wasn’t too good. He didn’t even finish it. He said Archie’s ‘voice’ was wrong; his personality off. He didn’t even get to the part where Wolfe entered the book. A second friend, who is a real Wolfe aficionado, didn’t know of it, but said if he had he wouldn’t have read it. He said “Were I Wolfe, I’d have declined to review the book on the grounds that it would ruin my digestion.”

Well, I thought that was pretty interesting. I couldn’t quite agree that it was that far off, so I decided to immediately read a Stout Wolfe book and see.

Boy, were they right. After reading “Booby Trap” in the two novelette paperback Not Quite Dead Enough I was amazed at how vanilla Goldsborough’s portrayal was. I admit I hadn’t read a Wolfe in eight months, maybe longer. Maybe that was it.  Archie Meets Nero Wolfe was authorized by the Stout people who own the rights, so they must have thought it was okay, but it certainly doesn’t stand up to the real thing as written by Rex Stout.

There don’t seem to be many pastiches of Wolfe the way there are with Holmes. Maybe this is because of control of Rex Stout’s heirs, I don’t know, but it strikes me as a good thing. If you want to enjoy a Nero Wolfe story or novel, there are a lot of them to choose from. Go for the genuine article, because when it comes to Nero Wolfe, nobody writes him like his inventor, Rex Stout.

About Rick Robinson

Enjoying life in Portland, OR
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8 Responses to There’s Rex, and no one else

  1. I think Bob G. does a very good job on his Wolfe novels — I liked the first batch he did back in the ’80s/’90s, and thought ARCHIE MEETS NERO WOLFE was very entertaining. Archie’s voice seems younger in it, and that’s appropriate. I’ve read Bob’s follow-up, publication of which hasn’t been announced yet, and it reads more like full-blown Stout. That is not to say that these novels are as good as Stout. He was a genius, and the series is endlessly re-readable (not so much his non-Wolfe stuff). But Stout doesn’t seem to be writing novels, anymore, and Bob’s grasp of the characters, their world and the general approach is sound.

  2. I remember reading the Wolfes Goldsborough did all those years back and enjoying them. As already expressed, they weren’t Stout though. I’ll probably give this one a try at some point.

  3. Richard says:

    Max Allan Collins, you make some good points. Yet I think for now I’ll stick with the oldies I have on the shelf.

    Randy, when I read Murder in E Minor back when, I was glad to have a new Wolfe, any new Wolfe. Now, I’m not so sure.

  4. Purists like Art Scott and Steve Stilwell will never accept Goldsborough’s books. Agatha Christie didn’t want anyone mucking around with Poirot or Miss Marple–that’s why she killed them off. However, Max Allan Collins channels Mickey Spillane so convincingly, I’m totally swept away by their collaborations.

  5. Richard says:

    I agree with you on Collins’ Spillane books, George. I thought the Goldsborough book was okay, but not as good as what Stout wrote and that was what I was trying to say in the article.

  6. I appreciate these generous comments about my Spillane books. These are in a different, perhaps unique category, because they are collaborations — so far I have always been working with hundred pages or more of Mickey’s, and often notes and rough outlines to back them up. There were six Hammer substantial manuscripts, and I am about to start the final one. After that, if some publisher wants them, there are three shorter (40 pages or so) novel beginnings that I would tackle. There are also shorter fragments I’m developing into short stories, with an eye on an eventual Hammer collection.

    I really like Bob’s work. It is more workmanlike than Stout, but I think it’s great fun to have new stories about these characters by someone who obviously knows and cares about the original books. It doesn’t take anything away from Stout. If anything, it enchances him.

    Stout fans might want to check out my upcoming Hard Case Crime, SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT, third in my Jack and Maggie Starr comics industry-related mysteries. This is where I am paying homage to Stout in style and approach.

  7. Richard says:

    Max Allan Collins – I really like the Starr books a lot! They are great fun and portray historical times that are of interest to me. I just can’t get enough, each time I finish the latest one I begin hoping for another. I’ve reread each, just for a Starr “fix”.

  8. cgramlich says:

    Have never really gotten into the Wolfe stories so this is all news to me.

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