Browsed by
Category: Mystery

Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone: 2020 Stay at Home – Days 8, 9, and 10

Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone: 2020 Stay at Home – Days 8, 9, and 10

Hopefully you read posts one , two, and three this series. Over at The Wolfe Pack Facebook Group page, I am doing daily entries from Archie’s notebooks, as he endures Stay at Home with Nero Wolfe in these pandemic days. I’m well over thirty thousand words so far.

DAY EIGHT – 2020 Stay at Home

Sunday is the day things have changed the most here at the brownstone. Normally, Theodore would go to visit his sister, and Wolfe would putter around in the plant rooms, but not the usual nine to eleven and four to six. Fritz would sometimes run errands, including shopping for food. When he stayed in, he usually spent time in his room in the basement, listening to music and reading cookbooks. He had more of those than anyone I’ve ever met. We were all at loose ends on Sunday. But I couldn’t go to a game at the Garden or at the ballpark now, of course, which would have taken care of several hours. In other words, except for Wolfe, the day changed for the rest of us. Which meant all four of us were home together, without our normal routines. That’s a recipe for tension.

Wolfe and I didn’t even make it to lunch. I’ve decided to type up a couple cases from my notes. People seem to like reading them, and they’ve got some spare time at home, so I figured, ‘Why not’? I’ve mentioned before, that when he’s reading, Wolfe doesn’t like what he deems to be unnecessary typing. Granted, it’s not as bad as when I excessively sharpen my pencils, but he prefers quiet. Knowing we don’t have any clients, he would prefer me to do my typing when he’s not in the office. Well, since I’m stuck at home, and he isn’t giving me any work to do, I feel I can be a little more ‘comfortable’ during this lock down. And that includes typing when I want to.

Read More Read More

Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone: 2020 Stay at Home – Days 5, 6, and 7

Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone: 2020 Stay at Home – Days 5, 6, and 7

Hopefully you read posts one and two in this series. Over at The Wolfe Pack Facebook Group page, I am doing daily entries from Archie’s notebooks, as he endures Stay at Home with Nero Wolfe in these pandemic days. As I prepare this, I have done a daily post for 28 straight days, totaling 27,067 words. At just under 1,000 words a day, it’s been quite an effort! I expanded today’s post to three days, since I’ll never catch up, doing one Black Gate post a week.

DAY FIVE – 2020 Stay at Home (SaH)

Did you know that the Latin ‘mortuus’ is the root of mortuary? And that mortuary replaced deadhouse as the name of the place where they kept the dead? I do, because I heard all about it at the evening meal. Wolfe’s dinner table conversation is stuck in morbid.

Archie’s Thought of the Day – You might think that in a household of four males, I would organize a card game to help pass the time. In This household, you would think wrong.

Only one near-battle today. At lunch, Wolfe suggested we let Theodore start joining us for dinner. I flat-out refused. I told him I would eat at my desk first. Writing about it now, I will admit, it was not my finest hour. But there is no way I could enjoy supper, even it being Fritz’s incredible cooking, with Horstmann sitting there with me. I don’t hate him in a Rowcliffe-sort of way, but there’s just something about him that I don’t like. Never have. Sort of like a teammate you don’t like. You tolerate him, but you spend as little time around him as you can. Wolfe saw that I was serious, and he knew trading me for Theodore wasn’t a good deal, so he dropped it.

Read More Read More

Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone: 2020 Stay at Home – Days Three and Four

Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone: 2020 Stay at Home – Days Three and Four

As I explained in the last post, I am channeling my inner Archie Goodwin and writing his notebook entries as he and Nero Wolfe are bunkered down during New York City’s ‘Stay at Home’ order. I’m putting these up over The Wolfe Pack’s Facebook page – highly recommended for Wolfe fans. And I’m taking them two at a time and running them here at Black Gate. Hopefully you’ll enjoy them.

DAY THREE – 2020 Stay at Home (SaH)

It was a day of pure excitement at the old brownstone. Rain cancelled my early morning walk. Fritz vacuumed the second floor. I spent some time with the orchids when Wolfe wasn’t there. I have to admit, he has put together one impressive flower garden up there.

I gave the office a good cleaning. It would make more sense to do that when we had traffic in and out, but now is now. I figured it couldn’t hurt anything, and I certainly didn’t have anything mentally taxing to work on. Of course, the weekly cleaning and oiling of the two guns I kept in my desk went on as scheduled.

Read More Read More

Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone: 2020 Stay At Home – Days One and Two

Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone: 2020 Stay At Home – Days One and Two

Assuming you’re one of the eight people (three of whom are not related to me) who regularly read my posts here at Black Gate, you know that my favorite series of all is Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe. I love John D. MacDonald and Robert E. Howard and harboiled and Solar Pons and Glen Cook and a LOT more: but Wolfe and Archie Goodwin are number one.

When Ohio issued its ‘Stay at Home’ order, it got me to thinking about how Archie and Wolfe would do under New York’s order, which had been issued a day or two earlier. Now, all of the Wolfe fiction I’d written had been set somewhere between the thirties and the sixties. Modern-day Wolfe, with cell phones and whatnot, just doesn’t interest me. But I thought that it made sense to be contemporary, for the lockdown. For the characters, and for us to relate to them. So, here we go!

I’m posting these over on Facebook at The Wolfe Pack’s group page. If you’re on FB, and you like Nero Wolfe, you really should join this group. I’m going to combine two at a time and run them as posts here at Black Gate. Hopefully folks will find something to smile about. And maybe you’ll even become a new Wolfe fan. They’re really great books.

I’ve decided to daily update my notebook with thoughts on Stay at Home (henceforward, SaH). We’ll see which happens first: life returns to normal, or I kill Nero Wolfe in his office.

DAY ONE – 2020 Stay at Home

I don’t think Wolfe even noticed that SaH has begun. Newspaper and mail delivery continued, so his morning routine was unchanged. While special deliveries of some ingredients that Fritz uses to do his magic are going to impact the variety of offerings, the larder is loaded, as it were. The groceries and markets are still open, so Fritz will be able to resupply for at least a while. I may go with him to get supplies as a way to not be stuck here in the brownstone.

Read More Read More

Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone: The ‘Lost’ 1959 Pilot

Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone: The ‘Lost’ 1959 Pilot

Only a few years ago, the ‘lost’ pilot of a 1959 Nero Wolfe television show came out on DVD. Surprisingly, no one posted it on YouTube until March of 2020, while much of America was staying at home during the Corona virus Pandemic. I myself saw it for the first time on March 22, so here we go!

Back in 1959, Edward Fadiman, part of Fadmian Productions, (which also acted for Rex Stout as ‘Nero Wolfe Attractions’), got a pilot episode made through CBS. Unfortunately, it was fated to be a one-episode series (or was it?). TV was still an emerging medium, competing with radio, the silver screen, and the stage. It’s no surprise that the project turned to Broadway for the dual leads. And in this episode, Archie’s star shines at least as brightly as Wolfe’s.

Kurt Kasznar appeared in one episode of a lot of TV shows, which was common in the fifties and sixties. He was a successful stage actor, including roles in The Sound of Music, and Barefoot in the Park. When notices about the pilot project began appearing in early 1959, he was appearing in Look After Lulu. At 280 pounds, he had the build for Wolfe. The press reported that he actually had lost 70 pounds and needed padding for the part! William Shatner was appearing on Broadway in The World of Suzi Wong. He was years away from boldly going where no man had gone before.

Read More Read More

Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone – 3 Good Reasons: Immune to Murder

Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone – 3 Good Reasons: Immune to Murder

ImmuneMurder_IllustrationWelcome to the third installment of 3 Good Reasons. With a goal of eventually tackling every tale of the Corpus, I’ll give three reasons why the particular story at hand is the best Nero Wolfe of them all. Since I’m writing over seventy ‘Best Story’ essays, the point isn’t actually to pick one – just to point out some of what is good in every adventure featuring Wolfe and Archie. And I’ll toss in one reason it’s not the best story. Now – These essays will contain SPOILERS. You have been warned!

The Story

“Immune to Murder” can be found in Three for the Chair. Wolfe and Archie travel to a hunting lodge in the Adirondacks, owned by oil baron O.V. Bragan. Theodore Kelefy, an ambassador to the US from a third-world, oil-rich country, has requested that Wolfe cook some freshly caught trout. Archie goes fishing while a cranky Wolfe begins cooking lunch – and finds the body of Assistant Secretary of State David Leeson; murdered while out fishing. As has happened in other stories involving important persons as potential suspects, the local authorities aim their suspicions at Wolfe and Archie.  Wolfe is forced to solve the case so he can get back home. And also because the killer offends his pride.

3 GOOD REASONS

Classic Curmudgeon

I have read a few criticisms of Maury Chaykin, in the Nero Wolfe Mysteries television show, for yelling far more than Wolfe did. I think that’s a fair assessment. Though, Wolfe certainly could express his anger somewhat loudly, when he wanted. But over the course of the entire Corpus, it didn’t happen as frequently as the tv series would lead you to believe. However: it is still quite believable for Wolfe, and I don’t think it detracts at all from the performance.

Chaykin (who, sadly, passed away in 2010), through his speech, facial movements and body language, absolutely did convey Wolfe’s demeanor as a cranky curmudgeon. Rex Stout, through Archie, gives examples of Wolfe time after time over the forty-ish years of tales. And “Immune to Murder” absolutely opens up with just such an incident.

After a 328 mile drive from the Manhattan brownstone, to River Bend, a sixteen-room mountain lodge in the Adirondacks, Wolfe’s back hurts. Since he always sits totally stiff and erect when traveling in a motor vehicle, “even with me at the wheel,” as Archie says, that’s not a big surprise. But Wolfe, even more cranky than when he’s at home, says he has lumbago and refuses to leave his room and join the dinner group.

Read More Read More

Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone: The Careworn Cuff – Part Three (The Greenstreet Chronicles)

Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone: The Careworn Cuff – Part Three (The Greenstreet Chronicles)

And it’s the final installment in our three-part adaptation of “The Careworn Cuff,” from the old Nero Wolfe radio show staring Sidney Greenstreet. It’s not going to make much sense of you don’t read Part One, and Part Two, first.

The Careworn Cuff – Part Three (of Three)

Chapter Five 

Nero Wolfe TrainI was back at my desk as Wolfe related what I had missed. It seemed that the brownstone had been pretty busy while I was taking Miss Spencer to her temporary lodgings. Wolfe was nearly as good as me at reporting, though, not surprisingly, he tended towards lazy. I had told him to give it all to me.

“So, I awoke to a noise. It was not the front door.”

Wolfe – “Archie?”

Intruder – “No, not Archie.”

“A man moved to the office doorway. I cannot say that I was surprised at who it was.”

Wolfe – “Ah, our impatient and nonmusical friend. I did not hear the bell. You must have come in through a window. I hope you didn’t break anything.”

Wolfe – “How are you Mister…not Porter, of course.”

Intruder – Where’s the girl?”

Wolfe – “That question is beginning to bore me. I don’t know.”

Read More Read More

Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone: The Careworn Cuff – Part Two (The Greenstreet Chronicles)

Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone: The Careworn Cuff – Part Two (The Greenstreet Chronicles)

We’re back this week with the second installment in our three-part adaptation of The Careworn Cuff, from the old Nero Wolfe radio show staring Sidney Greenstreet. If you missed Part One, you really need to read it first. It might not make Part Two any better, but at least it will make sense!

The Careworn Cuff – Part Two (of Three)

Chapter Three

I found four Dorothy Spencers listed in the phone book; any of which might be our non-client. Wednesday morning, while Wolfe was upstairs for his morning session with the orchids, I eliminated three of them. I couldn’t get a hold of the fourth, so she was still a possibility. I had just made another unsuccessful attempt when I heard the elevator, struggling under Wolfe’s seventh of a ton. If I worked as hard as that elevator, I would definitely demand a raise.

“Good morning Archie. Did you sleep well?”

It’s the same greeting, every day, even if we had already talked that morning. He went to his desk, carrying the day’s orchid. I had already changed the water in the vase on his desk. That’s one of my daily duties. He must have finished the Van Doren book in his room this morning. He had a new one tucked under his arm as he entered.

Sitting at my desk, I had watched him cross the room, returning his greeting as he reached his own oversized one. I was silent until he was settled in his chair, the book placed on the desk. I now saw that it was The Age of Reason, by Thomas Paine. I had a pretty good idea that the discussion at lunch was going to involve Colonial America. History was not one of my favorite subjects as a boy, so I would mostly be listen.

It being 11:01, I thought that a little work discussion might be an appropriate subject for some talk in the office. He had started to get his penknife out, to sharpen it. That was one of his daily routines, even though he rarely used it.

I still had one hand resting on the receiver, which was resting in its cradle. “Well, that’s that. Dorothy Spencer is not in. Anyway, she’s not answering her phone.”

He began sharpening his knife on the whetstone. No response. Apparently, he didn’t find work as suitable a topic as I did.

Read More Read More

Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone: The Careworn Cuff – Part One (The Greenstreet Chronicles)

Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone: The Careworn Cuff – Part One (The Greenstreet Chronicles)

WolfeRadio_GreenstreetI’ve previously mentioned the radio show, The Adventures of Nero Wolfe, starring Sidney Greenstreet. And back in 2017, to middling results, I had written up one of those episodes, Stamped for Murder, as a novella. I tried to stay too true to the dialogue, and to Greenstreet’s rather un-Wolfean portrayal. But, you only have to kick me in the head three or four times before I catch on, so I decided to try again. Below is the first installment of a three-part adaptation of another episode, The Case of the Careworn Cuff. This time, I think I did a much better job of emulating Stout, rather than Greenstreet. Read on, and enjoy!

The Careworn Cuff – Part One

Chapter One

Nero Wolfe was the most brilliant, and also the laziest, detective in the world. He rarely left his brownstone on West 35th Street, and never on business. I lived there, eating the amazing grub prepared by Fritz Brenner, a wonderful chef (do NOT call him a ‘cook’) and a gentle soul. But also a good man in a pinch. His war experiences had hardened him more than appearances might indicate, and he had the scars to prove it. The fourth and final occupant was Theodore Horstmann: more on him in a moment.

Wolfe used his brain, which was only slightly smaller than his prodigious waistline, and his even more massive ego, to pay for the upkeep. Which was considerable. I doubt too many other citizens of New York City ate as well as Wolfe did. And he probably could have bought his own brewery with his beer bill. And of course, there were the orchids.

No matter what some detective stories might lead you to believe, crimes can’t be solved solely from an armchair. Another surprise: crimes don’t only take place while you’re a guest at a country estate. Although, there was that affair of the missing rubies while I was staying at Lily Rowan’s Westchester digs. But that’s another story for another session at the typewriter.

Read More Read More

What I’ve Been Reading Lately: January 2020

What I’ve Been Reading Lately: January 2020

Garrett_SweetsilverEDITED“Say, Bob, it’s been an ENTIRE month since you told us what you’ve been reading lately. The suspense is keeping me up at night.” OK – so nobody said that to me. I’ll tell you some of the stuff I’ve taken off of the shelves lately, anyways.

GLEN COOK – SWEET SILVER BLUES

I’ve already written about Glen Cook’s terrific hardboiled, fantasy PI series featuring Garrett. It combines Raymond Chandler, Nero Wolfe, and Terry Pratchett in a terrific fashion. I have a hard time imagining a better series. I’ve talked to a couple fellow Black Gaters about a round-robin look at several books in the series: So many ideas, so little time.

I’m working on this essay on Sunday evening, mere hours ahead of deadline, because I spent a couple hours yesterday re-reading book one, Sweet Silver Blues, instead of sitting at the keyboard and writing. I like it quite a bit, but it’s in book two, Bitter Gold Hearts, that the series really settles in. I’ve read most of the series at least twice before over the years. A few of my friends didn’t care for 2013’s Wicked Bronze Ambition, the last (but hopefully not final) book. It’s definitely not one of my favorites, but it’s still Garrett, and I hope there will be at least one more.

This is one of my favorite series’ in both the fantasy and private eye genres. HIGHLY recommended. And I’m also a huge fan of Cook’s The Black Company, which is light years away in tone and style. He’s simply a very good writer. Black Gate buddy Fletcher Vredenburgh did a fantastic walk-through of the entire series last year.

JOHN D MACDONALD

John MacD has been my favorite author for about three decades now. I enjoy his standalones, his short stories, and his Travis McGee books. I’ve written about him several times, and if all I did was write for Black Gate (sadly, I need to pay my bills and other such nonsense), you’d be reading a LOT about him here.

Earlier this month, after holding off for over twenty-five years, I finally watched the 1970 adaptation of Darker ThanAmber, with Rod Taylor as Travis McGee. Then, I went and re-read the book over the next couple of days. Taylor grew on me as the movie progressed, and they followed the book fairly faithfully. The final fight scene between McGee and Terry was really something to see.

I think this is a better version of a McGee novel than the 1983 film starring Sam Elliot (why in the world would you transplant McGee to California?!).

Read More Read More