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Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone: Stay at Home – Days 32 and 33

Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone: Stay at Home – Days 32 and 33

So, last year, as the Pandemic settled in like an unwanted relative who just came for a week and is still tying up the bathroom, I did a series of posts for the FB Page of the Nero Wolfe fan club, The Wolfe Pack. I speculated on what Stay at Home would be like for Archie, living in the Brownstone with Nero Wolfe, Fritz Brenner, and Theodore Horstmann. I have already re-posted days one through thirty. Here are days thirty two (April 21) and thirty three (April 23). It helps if you read the series in order, so I’ve included links to the earlier entries.

DAY THIRTY TWO – 2020 Stay At Home

I saw the death totals today. New York is number one, hands down. We’ve had more deaths than the next fourteen states combined. Seven out of every hundred people confirmed to have the virus, die from it. So I won’t be taking any taxi rides just yet. Or hopping on the subway.

While I admit I miss my twice-a-week session at the barbershop – preferably on days without a cop murder on site – I don’t see the need to increase somebody else’s risk of dying because I’m not happy with my sideburns. I do look forward to getting shoe shines again, though I am more than capable of doing my own.

And by the way: don’t think that Lily and I are drifting apart. We call every other day. I just don’t see the need to jot that down regularly.

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Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone: 2020 Stay at Home – Day 31

Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone: 2020 Stay at Home – Day 31

So, last year, as the Pandemic settled in like an unwanted relative who just came for a week and is still tying up the bathroom, I did a series of posts for the FB Page of the Nero Wolfe fan club, The Wolfe Pack. I speculated on what Stay at Home would be like for Archie, living in the Brownstone with Nero Wolfe, Fritz Brenner, and Theodore Horstmann. I have already re-posted days one through thirty. Here is day thirty one (April 20). It helps if you read the series in order, so I’ve included links to the earlier entries.

Day Thirty One – 2020 Stay at Home (SaH)

During breakfast, Fritz told me that some items were becoming scarce, or even no longer available. Granted, we didn’t exactly buy off-the-shelf goods from chain supermarkets. But it was inevitable that some things would become harder to find. Especially since Wolfe’s taste ran to imported items. Fritz assured me we were well-stocked with Greek honey.

Milk can still be found, but he did say that once in while he might have to try two or three stores. I thanked him for his efforts to keep calcium supplies up. He said that with more and more meat processing plant workers getting sick, fresh meat was soon going to become more scarce. I told him I knew that he’d do his best, but Wolfe would just have to adapt, like the rest of us. He certainly would complain about it, though.

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Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone: 2020 Stay at Home – Day 30

Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone: 2020 Stay at Home – Day 30

So, last year, as the Pandemic settled in like an unwanted relative who just came for a week and is still tying up the bathroom, I did a series of posts for the FB Page of the Nero Wolfe fan club, The Wolfe Pack. I speculated on what Stay at Home would be like for Archie, living in the Brownstone with Nero Wolfe, Fritz Brenner, and Theodore Hortsmann. I have already re-posted days one through twenty-nine. Here is day thirty (April 19). It helps if you read the series in order, so I’ve included links to the earlier entries.

DAY THIRTY– 2020 Stay at Home

Saul called after dinner. I took my coffee into the front room and talked to him from there. I made a mental note to ask him about the online poker game. “Need a professional to step in and bail you out on that bank job? My rates are very reasonable.”

“I’ll keep you in mind if I need to farm out any work to the minors.”

“Phsaw. Fred can handle those. What are you up to? Done with the bank thing?”

“That wasn’t too tough. I’ve taken this week off and stayed in the house. Good thing I don’t have to tail anybody. There’s not much cover out there.

I laughed. The current environment would definitely challenge his tailing skills, which were better than anybody else’s that I knew.

“How is Mister Wolfe doing?”

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Revealing the Cover — and an Excerpt — from Robert V. S. Redick’s Sidewinders

Revealing the Cover — and an Excerpt — from Robert V. S. Redick’s Sidewinders

We’re big fans of Robert V. S. Redick here at Black Gate. I’ve lost count of how many of his books our staff has enthusiastically reviewed over the years but… whew, it’s a lot. That’s why we’re so excited at the impending release of Sidewinders, the second volume in The Fire Sacraments series (following Master Assassins, which we covered — you know it! — right here back in 2018).

As if we weren’t excited enough already, Black Gate website editor emeritus C.S.E. Cooney sent us this blurb for the book and I have to tell you, it wound us up pretty good. Have a look.

Sidewinders. I love this book, goddamnit. Robert V. S. Redick gives a fantasy reader everything her fiendish heart craves: plagues, prophets, demonic possessions, a desperate dash through desert dunes, giant spiders, giant cats, creepy children, plenty of vulgarity and sex, and an all-too-brief glimpse of paradise. So sure, if you like that kind of thing, go for it. Read this book. It’s for you. But wait, there’s more. For your not-so-average fantasy reader, your not-so-run-of-the-mill genre-lover, I beg you, look to Sidewinders. For it will give you ambiguity and delicacy. It will not spare you of its irony — and, oh, such irony! Its pages will impart so profound and aching an empathy that it just might leap off the page and follow you into your daily life. There is such courage in Robert V. S. Redick’s Sidewinders — such courage and fury and passion and hope. Truly a breathtaking work.

—C.S.E. Cooney, author of the forthcoming Saint Death’s Daughter, on Sidewinders

Talos Press will be publishing Sidewinders on July 6, 2021. Wunderkind PR were kind enough to send us a high-resolution sneak peek of the cover to share with you — and also a tasty excerpt from Chapter One of the book.

Without further ado — check out the gorgeous cover, featuring artwork by Mack Sztaba!

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Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone: 2020 Stay at Home – Days 24 and 25

Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone: 2020 Stay at Home – Days 24 and 25

So, last year, as the Pandemic settled in like an unwanted relative who just came for a week and is still tying up the bathroom, I did a series of posts for the FB Page of the Nero Wolfe fan club, The Wolfe Pack. I speculated on what Stay at Home would be like for Archie, living in the Brownstone with Nero Wolfe, Fritz Brenner, and Theodore Hortsmann. I have already re-posted days one through twenty-one. Here are days twenty-four (April 14) and twenty-five (April 15). It helps if you read the series in order, so I’ve included links to the earlier entries.

DAY TWENTY FOUR – 2020 Stay at Home

The doorbell rang. I’ve certainly typed that many times in my accounts of Nero Wolfe’s cases. But it was something that wasn’t happening much lately. Other than food deliveries for Fritz, visitors were few and far between. Wolfe didn’t even bother acknowledging it, knowing it wouldn’t be a potential, and certainly uninvited client. I moved out into the hall and heard Fritz in the kitchen, still cleaning up from lunch.

Looking through the one-way glass, I was surprised to see the not-quite-as familiar lately profile of the head of Homicide West, Inspector Cramer. He was calling something out to his driver and turned when he heard me open the door two inches, the chain still on.

“I’m sorry, sir. Wolfe & Goodwin Investigations is temporarily closed. Our esteemed governor does not feel that private detectives provide an essential service in these troubled times. May I suggest you visit your local precinct station? Of course, it is a step down in quality of service, but those dedicated public servants are open 24/7.”

“You’ll clown at your own funeral, Goodwin. The only good thing about this lockdown is I haven’t had to listen to you for three weeks. Open up. I want to talk to Wolfe.”

“Now hold on. We’ve kept this place virus free. Who knows where you’ve been? Let me see if I can let you in.”

“Cut the crap-” I’m sure the next word was ‘Goodwin,’ but it was muffled by the door, which I had closed on him.

I stopped at the doorway to the office. “It’s the man about the chair.” That was my favorite code name for the inspector.

He looked up from his book. “What?”

“Yes sir. It seems that the New York police force cannot function without your assistance. Since we’re not on a case, he can’t be coming here to yell at us, a pastime which he greatly enjoys, as you well know. I’d guess he’s really stuck on something, and wants you to bail him out.”

“That man can still be a nuisance.”

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Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone: 2020 Stay at Home – Days 22 and 23

Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone: 2020 Stay at Home – Days 22 and 23

So, last year, as the Pandemic settled in like an unwanted relative who just came for a week and is still tying up the bathroom, I did a series of posts for the FB Page of the Nero Wolfe fan club, The Wolfe Pack. I speculated on what Stay at Home would be like for Archie, living in the Brownstone with Nero Wolfe, Fritz Brenner, and Theodore Hortsmann. I have already re-posted days one through twenty-one. Here are days twenty-two (April 12) and twenty-three (April 13). It helps if you read the series in order, so I’ve included links to the earlier entries. I enjoy channeling Archie more than any other writing which I do.

DAY TWENTY TWO – 2020 Stay at Home

No Easter parade. No church services. No family dinners at fancy restaurants. Things were very different this year. And speaking of fancy restaurants;

I don’t think I have mentioned that Rusterman’s is still open – sort of. A lot of places had simply locked up when the lock down order came. Sit-down dining was prohibited, so they decided not to struggle on. I’m sure a lot of them hoped that this whole thing would pass in a few weeks and they could reopen.

Quite a few restaurants shifted to carry-out and/or delivery only. And many of those couldn’t meet costs, and they closed: Probably for good.

And others have made it so far and are still trying to make it through. Rusterman’s is one of that group. Rusterman’s was run for years by Marko Vukcik, Nero Wolfe’s boyhood, and best, friend. Wolfe and I traveled all the way to Albania to find Marko’s killer and bring him to justice. In Marko’s will, Wolfe was made a trustee of the restaurant and for many years, he guided it well, though he eventually resigned that duty. Unfortunately, Rusterman’s, while still fine dining, went through a decline in the early 2000s, and Wolfe resumed his trusteeship. As you can imagine, he was quite demanding and the quality rose to previous levels.

We had ordered a dinner from Rusterman’s one Sunday, to support the cause and make sure it was still up to par. Wolfe found reason to grumble, but I thought it was fine. Delivering high-level cuisine can’t be easy.

Felix Martin was the manager, while William Dumfrey had come over from The Roosevelt to take on head chef duties. Leo ran the wait staff. I mention their names, because all of them were sitting in the office. I had put the red chair in the front room and moved three yellow chairs a proper social distance apart – and away from Wolfe’s chair and mine. Leo apparently didn’t feel far enough away, so he moved to the sofa.

Felix had called that morning and said that they needed to meet with Wolfe. I suggested a video conference, but they insisted on coming to the Brownstone. I don’t know that I could have convinced Wolfe to zoom, or skype, an entire discussion, so it was probably for the best.

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Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone: 2020 Stay at Home – Days 20 and 21

Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone: 2020 Stay at Home – Days 20 and 21

So, last year, as the Pandemic settled in like an unwanted relative who just came for a week and is still tying up the bathroom, I did a series of posts for the FB Page of the Nero Wolfe fan club, The Wolfe Pack. I speculated on what Stay at Home would be like for Archie, living in the Brownstone with Nero Wolfe, Fritz Brenner, and Theodore Hortsmann. I have already reposted days one through fifteen. Here are days twenty (April 10) and twenty-one (April 11). It helps if you read the series in order, so I’ve included links to the earlier entries. I enjoy channeling Archie more than any other writing which I do.

DAY TWENTY – 2020 Stay at Home

I tried calling Inspector Cramer after breakfast, but he was out. Apparently my fellow New Yorkers are still committing homicide. I’ll call the station later in the day. I’d like to visit a crime scene and try to do some detecting.

I had more success calling the hospital to check on Bill Gore. I found out that he had gotten through the worst of it and recovered enough to be sent home. I wasn’t going to call him up, but it was good to know he had survived the virus.

It’s Good Friday. I am not religiously inclined, but I will say that I’m glad that those who are, received some hope today. That commodity seems to be in pretty short supply these days. New York City has had more deaths than all but four entire countries. Instead of 32,000 fans watching the Mets at Citi Field, they’re digging mass graves out on Hart Island. If somebody wants to believe that a man dying on a cross is good for mankind, then that’s one death I’ll tip my hat to. Just don’t expect me to kneel.

I’m generally a pretty orderly guy, and I keep my stuff neat and tidy. I don’t like messy. This lock down has given me the opportunity to really organize my things. I was moving a couple boxes around and started looking through some of my old notebooks. I saw my notes on the Adam Nicoll murder. I might type that one up if we’re stuck at home for another couple months. That’s one I worked on while I was self-employed during Wolfe’s ‘great hiatus.’ He had simply vanished as he put operation ‘Get Zeck’ into effect, without even telling me. I opened up shop for myself and kept reasonably busy until Wolfe suddenly reappeared. Lily was the source of the Nicoll case. Indirectly.

I have a Facebook account. I don’t use it much, and I could, and often do, live without it. But I do post occasionally – Often related to baseball. Today, someone left a comment on my post, letting me know they were going to snooze me for 30 days. Now, you don’t have to like what I say. It’s a free country. Well, lately it hasn’t been as free as usual, but still: Why in the world would you tell me, on my own post, that you’re snoozing me? Whether you see my posts or not isn’t going to change my day. Just do it. It reminds me of the Pharisees preaching in the Temple square, so everyone would see them. Hey – I didn’t say I haven’t read the Bible. You don’t grow up in rural Ohio and not get some religion lessons.

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Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone: 2020 Stay at Home – Days 18 and 19

Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone: 2020 Stay at Home – Days 18 and 19

So, last year, as the Pandemic settled in like an unwanted relative who just came for a week and is still tying up the bathroom, I did  a series of posts for the FB Page of the Nero Wolfe fan club, The Wolfe Pack. I speculated on what Stay at Home would be like for Archie, living in the Brownstone with Nero Wolfe, Fritz Brenner, and Theodore Hortsmann. I have already reposted days one through fifteen. Here are days eighteen (April 8) and nineteen (April 9). It helps if you read the series in order, so I’ve included links to the earlier entries. I enjoy channeling Archie more than any other writing which I do.

DAY EIGHTEEN – 2020 Stay at Home

After lunch, I suggested that Fritz prepare some food for Doc Vollmer. I suspected he was volunteering at a local hospital, in addition to treating panicked patients in his practice. I felt a bit guilty, realizing I hadn’t checked on how he was doing at all. Fritz agreed we should feed him. Inviting a doctor over to dinner during a Pandemic was a terrible idea, of course. So Fritz planned a dinner that I could take down and leave on their porch. Helen Gillard had gotten married, and Julia Fellson was now his secretary and assistant. I told Fritz to make enough for both of them. I’m sure she could use a nice meal as well.

I called Julia later and found out that the doctor would be home around nine o’clock, if he didn’t get stuck at the hospital, which was often the case. She said that he was still healthy, but clearly running out of energy. Lately, she had gotten insistent he come home and get some rest, since he began seeing patients at 8 AM there in the brownstone. I thanked her and gave Fritz the update.

About 8:45, I called Vollmer’s office and got Julia. She was just closing up shop. He’d gotten home earlier than usual, but patients had shown up. I told her not to leave and that she was about to get a present on her doorstep. A picnic basket of Fritz’s food, with a bottle of wine and a note, was ready to go. He only lives a half a block away, so I was there in a shake. Julia was watching from the bay window in the front. I waved, showed her the basket, put it on the stoop, and blew her a kiss. She laughed and cried. I couldn’t imagine the daily strain she was under. I started walking back and heard the door open. I turned and she waved and said, “Thank you Archie, you’re a dear. And so are Fritz and Nero Wolfe.”

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Goth Chick News Presents: “Tots:” A Wonderfully Uncomfortable Short Story by Peter Schneider

Goth Chick News Presents: “Tots:” A Wonderfully Uncomfortable Short Story by Peter Schneider

Flights, edited by Al Sarrantonio (Roc, 2004). Cover by Steve Stone

In December I told you about my magical meeting with Peter Schneider, author and owner of boutique publisher Hill House Press. During the course of one of our many conversations since, Peter let me know he had written a short story called “Tots,” which he thought I would like. It had originally appeared in a 2004 collection called Flights: Extreme Visions of Fantasy edited by horror and science fiction writer Al Sarrantonio. In the introduction for “Tots,” Sarrantonio states that Peter’s sense of humor is reminiscent of National Lampoon. When Peter sent me a copy of original manuscript of “Tots,” I absolutely agreed. I’ll also add that it’s just the right amount of wrong and knew I had to share it with you.

So, reprinted here with Peter’s permission, I am excited to share…

TOTS

By Peter Schneider

It is 2:45 a.m., in the parking lot of one of the massive superstore shopping centers that have sprung up like a series of mushrooms across the country.  But the action at this time of the morning isn’t in the Barnes & Noble or Home Depot–it’s in an isolated corner of the lot, surround on two sides by security fencing and hemmed in on the remaining sides by a variety of vehicles, circled like wagons and facing inward with their headlights shining.  The halogen illumination reveals a ring, roughly twelve feet in diameter, crudely outlined on the pavement with a can of purple spray paint.  Outside the circle perhaps fifty or sixty people, mostly men but including a smattering of well-dressed women, stand and watch.  Money changes hands here–big money.  But their attention right now is on the two combatants standing within the ring, long and deadly sickle-like blades strapped securely to their right arms.  One fighter takes a tentative step in the direction of his foe and raises his hand in preparation to strike.  He’ll have to get in closer, however–his four-year-old arms aren’t long enough to deliver a killing blow from such a distance.

This is the world of totfighting.

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Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone: 2020 Stay at Home – Days 14 and 15

Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone: 2020 Stay at Home – Days 14 and 15

So, last year, as the Pandemic settled in like an unwanted relative who just came for a week and is still tying up the bathroom, I did  a series of posts for the FB Page of the Nero Wolfe fan club, The Wolfe Pack. I speculated on what Stay at Home would be like for Archie, living in the Brownstone with Nero Wolfe, Fritz Brenner, and Theodore Hortsmann. I have already reposted days one through thirteen. Here are days fourteen (April 4) and fifteen (April 5). It helps if you read the series in order, so I’ve included links to the earlier entries. I enjoy channeling Archie more than any other writing which I do.

 

DAY FOURTEEN – 2020 Stay at Home (SaH)

Okay – it’s been two weeks and things are starting to get a little…close, around here. I’m the only one of us who spent a lot of time away from the brownstone, so I’m feeling the strain the most. Of course, I’m the one who goes out for ‘essential’ errands, like taking Wolfe’s laundry to the cleaners. And I try to take a walk at least every other day. Fresh air, stretching my legs, and seeing other human beings – properly social distanced – has been the best medicine.

Fritz hasn’t needed help with the food provisions yet, though I’ve offered. And I have enjoyed watching Bogart movies with him. Last night we saw To Have and Have Not. He liked the suspense and the adventure, and I’d say that he was rather smitten with Lauren Bacall. I admired her spunk when she poked fun at Dolores Moran’s flirting with Bogie. Reminded me of a certain blonde I know. I told him the story that the movie came out of a bet. Ernest Hemingway bet Howard Hawks that the director couldn’t make a good movie out of his worst novel. So Hawks changed a few things around, cast Bogart, and made that film. For my money, Hawks won the bet hands down.

Tonight, I think we’ll watch They Drive by Night. I have a sneaking suspicion Fritz will be hooked by Ida Lupino’s courtroom scene.

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