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Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone: Stay at Home – Days 34 and 35

Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone: Stay at Home – Days 34 and 35

So, in 2020, 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 four (April 24) and thirty five (April 25). It helps if you read the series in order, so I’ve included links to the earlier entries.

DAY THIRTY FOUR – 2020 Stay At Home

Don’t worry – I’m not going to start mixing bleach into my milk.

Felix called Wolfe last night. Rusterman’s gets its beef from a small group of cattle farmers upstate. So does Wolfe. The meat packing plant they all use got walloped with a virus outbreak, and it has closed down indefinitely. I’d hears some big pork plants out west were running into this problem, too. Felix was scrambling to line up a new supplier.

“Of course, there may be a slight decrease in quality, in the short term.”

“Nonsense!” Wolfe bristled at the mere thought.

“But Mister Wolfe. We will do our best, of course. But we need meat. If we tell everyone ‘No’ until we find a replacement of equal quality, we will have no meat to serve!”

“Then quit calling me and find someone. And keep me informed.”

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An Anthology for Anthologists: Continuum by Roger Elwood

An Anthology for Anthologists: Continuum by Roger Elwood


Continuum 1-4 (Berkley Medallion paperback editions, 1975-76). Covers by Vincent Di Fate

The accolade “anthologist” is not easily obtained. One can only imagine the effort spent splicing different elements into a cohesive anthology that sits well, and with a theme that attracts buyers.

Roger Elwood (1943-2007) most definitely earned that title, having put together 64 mostly science fiction anthologies between 1964 and 1980. Like many of his peers, he was also an author who published a small number of fiction novels and short stories, not to mention editing the short-lived Odyssey magazine (1976).

This article is not a celebration of Mr. Elwood’s career, though. I want to look at an intriguing oddity from the the past century, a 4-volume anthology series he edited titled Continuum.

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Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone: A Matter of Identity

Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone: A Matter of Identity

I’m back! What? Really? Well, I’m sure SOMEBODY noticed I took a four-month hiatus from my weekly column here at Black Gate. Anywhoo… Last year, I wrote a Nero Wolfe pastiche for The Wolfe Pack fan group. It’s THE place for fans of the corpulent detective. I took “By His Own Hand” – an Alphabet Hicks short story written by Rex Stout – made it a solo case for Archie Goodwin, and reworked it a bit. And… I added one of my favorite pulp ‘PIs’, W.T. Ballard’s Hollywood studio troubleshooter, Bill Lennox (whom I wrote about here at Black Gate). Below is that story, which takes place during Nero Wolfe’s own hiatus. As always, I do my best to emulate Stout’s writing style, and his characters. Writing as Archie is something I enjoy doing very much.

A Matter of Identity – Bob Byrne (based on a short story by Rex Stout)

I

I was sitting at my office desk, eating a sandwich from Mike’s Deli, which was only a couple blocks around the corner. Growing up, I hadn’t been crazy about fried bologna, but that place did it right — with a mustard even Wolfe would approve of. ‘Wolfe’ being Nero Wolfe, my former employer. It had been six months since Arnold Zeck forced him into decamping from the brownstone in the middle of the night. Never one to sit around — and I certainly wasn’t going to be Lily’s kept man — I hung out my shingle as an independent private investigator and took a small office on the tenth floor of a downtown high-rise. I didn’t have any need for a secretary. I could handle the paperwork, and I had plenty of experience paying bills and typing up reports. Maybe if business got too much to handle, I’d bring someone in part-time. But that didn’t look to be a problem just yet.

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A Deleted Excerpt from Immortal Muse, Revealed and Annotated by Stephen Leigh

A Deleted Excerpt from Immortal Muse, Revealed and Annotated by Stephen Leigh

Left, Paperback cover (artist unknown); Right cover art by Tim O’Brien.

A Review of Immortal Muse & Interview with Stephen Leigh Complements this Excerpt.

 

Jeanne Hébuterne / Amedeo Modigliani

with commentary by Stephen Leigh, the author

 

To the reader:

This abandoned and unfinished long draft section may not make a great deal of sense unless you’ve already read IMMORTAL MUSE (DAW Books 2014), an alternate history fantasy novel about exactly what the title implies: a genuine muse who is immortal, who also happens to have been Perenelle Flamel (b. October 13, 1320), the wife of the alchemist Nicolas Flamel.

But here’s a thumbnail sketch of the plot.

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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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