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.
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.
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.
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.
And so 2020 comes, mercifully, to an end. We all dealt with issues that impacted our lives – beyond just ‘The Pandemic.’ In January, my wife and I separated. I also left my job of twelve years. December brought a dissolution to start the month, and a hard drive failure to finish it (and no, even though I’ve had two of them fail before, I still didn’t adequately back things up – I’m working on fixing that). For much of 2020, the Pandemic was actually my fourth-biggest daily concern. What a year!
But as you read this, 52 Monday mornings have come and gone, and my byline was there every week. With literally every single part of my life turned upside down, I didn’t miss a deadline. I managed to run A (Black) Gat in the Hand for the third straight year. With some help from various talented friends, we’re up to 68 installments. (Black) Gat is something of an adopted child here at the World Fantasy Award-winning Black Gate, but I think it’s a great addition to the world of hardboiled commentary. I can pretty much guarantee it will be back in 2021.
Discovering Robert E. Howard, and Hither Came Conan, were outstanding series’ in which I gathered a bunch of friends, old and new, to share their expertise and comments, on Robert E. Howard topics. In late 2019, I had started recruiting folks for a similar series featuring the novels of my all-time favorite writer: John D. MacDonald (REH is number two).
But then my home and work life exploded like a nuclear bomb (January really was an apocalyptic month), and that project fell by the wayside. Like those movie projects which are set to go, then hit a major road bump and simply never recover (like DiCaprio’s Travis McGee project), I don’t know if I’ll get that back on track. But I’d still like to. I think that John MacD is one of the greatest writers of the 20th Century – in any genre.
And after that series was queued up and ready to go, the plan was for another group-REH series. Hither Came Conan was going to be succeeded by Flintlocks & Rapiers: Solomon Kane. Another gathering of knowledgeable REH folks were going to each be assigned a Kane story, and ruminate on what was good (and maybe a little not-so-good). But, as mentioned above, 2020 didn’t follow the script.
With my personal 2021 looking a lot less seismic, I’m weighing that project for Black Gate. The Kane Canon is chock full of interesting elements. It’s sword and sorcery. And it’s fantastic; if not exactly ‘fantasy.’ It’s REH doing it his way. I think I might be able to get this one at least underway in 2021. I want to highlight Kane (I’m a bigger Kane, than Kull, fan).
Hopefully by now, you know what this series is all about. 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. Over the weekend, I hit forty-three straight days, and over 41,000 words. You can check out the group for all of the posts. And there are links to to the first ten days down at the bottom of this post – plus all my other Nero Wolfe writings here at Black Gate.
DAY ELEVEN – 2020 Stay at Home (SaH)
Saul Panzer called today. Del Bascom was always scrambling to make payroll and turn a profit, and he was still finding jobs related to essential services. Saul had agreed to help him track down some money that had gone missing from a bank. He said that seemed healthier than trying to track down some masks taken from a hospital. I was surprised he was doing any work at all out in the danger zone. He didn’t need the money. Maybe he was tired of practicing the piano.
“Bascom told me that Bill Gore is in the hospital. It looks bad.”
Oh. “Covid 19?”
“Yeah. He was working for Bascom and called off sick one morning. Then, a couple days later, he called him from the hospital.”
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.
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.
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.
Welcome 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!
“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
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.