Browsed by
Tag: Nero Wolfe

Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone: Welcome to Kanawha Spa – The Wolfe Pack 2024 Greenbrier Weekend

Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone: Welcome to Kanawha Spa – The Wolfe Pack 2024 Greenbrier Weekend

So, last month, I joined fellow Wolfe Pack members for a long weekend at The Greenbrier Resort, in West Virginia. It was the fifth trip there for the group, though my first. It’s only a four hour-plus drive, which isn’t much for a Midwestern guy who also lived in Colorado and Texas.

Too Many Cooks is the fifth Nero Wolfe novel. I think it’s better than the four prior ones, and it’s the first where the series really starts to take off. It was followed by Some Buried Caesar. I think those two together, mark the beginning of excellence for the Wolfe Corpus.

Wolfe and Archie travel to Kanawha Spa, where a chef is murdered. Kanawha is the Greenbrier, which is why the Wolfe Pack sojourns there. It’s a VERY fancy resort, known for it’s golf courses (it was on the PGA tour before a flood wrecked things a bit), and for having a Cold War bunker for White House officials. It was never used, but you can take a tour of it now (I did not).

 

WEDNESDAY

Forty-plus Wolfe fans ranging from San Francisco to New England, came to celebrate the gargantuan detective. There was an informal dinner on Wednesday

night for early arrivals, but I did not come until Thursday.

 

THURSDAY

I spent a fair amount of time chilling in the North Parlor.

My trip did not start quite as planned. I rarely sleep past 5 AM. I’m usually awake between 4 and 4:30. We were having a storm, which usually helps me sleep. Which I was doing when there was a hammering on my door at 3:00! I live in an apartment, but this was a first. I sleep reasonably attired, and looked out the peephole, groggy. It was a County sheriff, in rain gear.

He said my car alarm was going off. Somebody had clearly called them and they tracked my registration. I put on a rain jacket and went out with him. It had just stopped, but apparently it had been cycling on and off (I have a workhorse Honda Civic Hybrid, with over 220,000 miles. I love this car). He went away, and I looked up some info online at 3:15 AM of a morning I was about to drive four and-a-half hours. In a rain storm…

Most likely culprit seemed to be a dying battery. I looked up a NAPA store in White Sulphur, WV, which I could hit before I checked in. It was 4 AM and I was afraid the car alarm would start up again. So, I loaded up the Civic in the rain and hit the road in total darkness and rain.

It’s an easy drive – though I was forewarned that the West Virginia turnpike is cash only. What the heck??? It’s 2024!! There are attendants, but I don’t know what you do if you don’t have cash.

I drove past the entrance to the Greenbrier, and stopped at the NAPA. Battery check showed it was fine. They couldn’t do anything more. Darn it!! They referred me to a local repair shop. After a false solution, they disconnected the hood sensor for the alarm, in the end. I can still use the alarm, but nobody is gonna pop the hood and steal this relic.

So, I went to the Greenbrier, where they let me check in like five hours early. Very cool folks. If you are FB friends of mine, you saw that my early posts were mostly about how expensive food is there. I’ll just get that gripe out of the way. If you’re gonna eat at the Greenbrier, you’re gonna pay a LOT for food. No matter which of the many options you choose for dining. Even the ‘coffee counter’ with a basic menu, was expensive. It’s like a sports stadium, or amusement park: you’re gonna pay it, or you’re not. I did drive 10 minutes to Wendy’s, the first night. Mostly I had snacks in my room around the three Wolfe Pack meals.

It’s a very fancy resort. I posted a ton of pics to the Wolfe Pack FB page – search my name and you can see all of them. Some are included in this post. I’m 57, and I consider the decorating style to be more my parents/grandparents’. It’s very Southern forties/fifties. The grounds are nice, with lots of tulips, though we had rough-ish weather until Saturday.

I agreed late to write the Nero Wolfe speech for the Friday night dinner. So I spent several hours Thursday afternoon, in the North Parlor, writing said speech. It’s a neat room, with a piano. A walking tour came through and I learned some info. I would take that very tour the next day. I finished the speech, hung out in my room (man, that walk-in closet was cool). And I re-read Too Many Cooks (I listened to part of it on the drive down, on CD), there in the North Parlor.

The Greenbrier has a seemingly unlimited number of nooks, rooms, and lounges, with sofas and chairs, for hanging out. They’re all over the place. There was also seating outside on balconies, but the weather was so bad, I never tried any of them. But I like to sit and read in lobbies, at nice hotels. Just people watch while I read. The Greenbrier is terrific for that.

 

Reception w/Cash Bar

The first ‘official’ event of the gathering was a reception/hang out in the Spring Room. I don’t drink, but I grabbed a Coke and began chatting with William Curatolo, who was in line next to me. Bill and I had never met online or knew each other at all. And we had a great time chatting at a table. A fellow Sherlockian, we explored a lot of ground. Folks just chatted and laughed all around the room. It was a nice ice-breaker.

This pic is in the same room, but from the dinner the next night. I didn’t take a pic during the reception. That’s Mike McSwiggin on the left, Greg Ruby in the middle, and me. We clean up fairly well.

I ended up going to Wendy’s after that, for an affordable dinner. Nothing of note happened the remainder of Thursday.

 

FRIDAY

Another day of cold, windy, wet weather. People pay a lot of money to golf at the Greenbrier. I don’t think this was what they hoped for. Though they still went out there. I decided to wait another day before visiting some of the things involving going outdoors. I was happy to mostly read and hang out in the main building. I claimed a few more reading areas.

There is a $50 tour of the Cold War Era bunker, but I wasn’t interested. Not my thing.

I did take an hour-long, (free) walking-tour of the main building. THAT was cool! I learned a ton of stuff, from the first settler in the valley, to more modern stuff about the resort. I highly recommend that tour if you go there. I was chatting with a couple who weren’t staying there; they just came to visit for a day. They did the tour with us. Definitely an informative hour.

 

Book Discussion – Too Many Cooks

At 4:30, we gathered in the Chesapeake Room for a book discussion of Too Many Cooks. First half hour was for chatting and the cash bar. We got underway about 5:00.

I showed up thinking it was 4:00, because I don’t pay attention to things. But I ended up sitting outside the room (did I mention there are chairs EVERYWHERE) talking to the bartender, and a wait staff who came by. I explained who the group was, and why we came there. It was a fun discussion. We also talked about Lord of the Rings, and maybe Wheel of Time. But they got an understanding of Wolfe. I enjoyed it.

An interesting thing happened that makes these types of events even more enjoyable for me. Of course, most of us are broad readers – it’s not just Wolfe. Or even just mysteries. As I sat by myself, looking around and waiting for more people to show up in the main room, I overheard a discussion on the other side of the table. Someone was talking about Vernon Walters’s Silent Missions. I’m a Watergate buff, and Walters was a Deputy Director of the CIA and Nixon associate. He resisted pressure from the White House to throw a cloak of national security over Watergate, which would have derailed any investigations. I have that autobiography and ‘plucked the name’ out of the air around me. I jumped into the conversation, and we even ended up talking about Clive Cussler’s two Sea Hunters books. It was all unrelated to Nero Wolfe, but it was fun.

We had a packed house for the book discussion, filling up a very long table. Ira ran the show, and lots of folks participated. I definitely recommend a book discussion be included in any future gatherings (including if we go to Albany – inside joke). A few folks brought uncommon or rare editions, and showed them to the group. We went the full scheduled ninety minutes, and everyone enjoyed it. We were all polite and engaged. I’m glad this was an event.

 

The American Dinner

Many of us went to our rooms, changed to more formal wear, and then headed back to the Spring Room to mingle (another cash bar) before before the sit down dinner we would be having in that room. It was a recreation of The American Dinner (with a little tweaking) from Too Many Cooks. I was at a fun table, and chatted with Greg Ruby (who I had talked on FB with quite a bit) and Mike McSwiggin. The three of us have similarly warped senses of humor.

Some of you may have seen my Stay at Home pastiche series, which I wrote as COVID shut down the world in 2020, and posted daily on the Wolfe Pack FB page. The Werowance (Ira Matesky) kindly let me provide a copy to every attendee, and I placed it on their chair for the Friday night dinner. I added an intro, and a final entry, that wrapped up the series and tied into our gathering. It’s the only time the Stay At Home series (which you can find here online at Black Gate), was in print format.

Mine was one of several toasts offered that evening. I tied it into my Stay at Home handout, with the theme of Wolfe (and Archie) being an unchanging man in changing times. That was acclaimed filmmaker Sam Peckinpah’s central theme, and I think it worked. Next week’s post is going to include the speech.

First Course
Oysters Baked in the Shell & Shrimp Cocktail
– First time I’d ever had oysters. Greg Ruby suggested tobasco sauce. It tasted fine.
– I’m okay with shrimp (my son loves them)
– Not my type of appetizer, but it was good.

 

Second Course
Terrapin Maryland (soup) with Beaten Biscuits
– Soup was okay. Turtle meat was good enough.
– The beaten biscuits were kind of hard. I love biscuits, but these didn’t do much for me.
– As with the First Course, it was good, but so far not my type of stuff.

 

Main Course
Pan-Broiled Young Turkey with Rice Croquettes
– The turkey tasted pretty good. And the Rice Croquettes were excellent.
– I liked this entree.

 

Dessert
Sponge Cake with Pineapple Sherbet
– Oh man, this was delicious. I could have eaten five of these things. Tart, tasty. Favorite part of the meal.

 

Wine
Chenin Blanc/Viognier, Pine Ridge Vineyards
Gran Passione, Rosso
– I don’t drink, so I passed on the wine.

 

Overall, this was an okay dinner. I get it’s from the book. Frankly, I’d rather have pizza, or enchiladas. But that’s just personal taste.

The toasts were good. There were some word games based on the Corpus. A parody song thing by each table. Ira did his (I now realize) famous Wolfe song lyrics.

It was a fun event, with lots of chatting, and nice toasts. I enjoyed the two other meals more, so for me, the best was still ahead.

 

SATURDAY

 

Brunch

Brunch was FANTASTIC!! My favorite meal of the three. I literally did not have enough room to get a made-to-order omelet, which looked delicious. And I missed the oatmeal, which definitely looked good. But I tried everything else.

– The scrambled eggs were excellent (the chef confirmed they did NOT take 45 minutes).
– The bacon was crunchy and those fried potatoes were absolutely wonderful.
– I liked these ‘regular’ biscuits better. And the pecan roll was tasty
– That was the best corned beef hash I’ve ever had.
– That’s saucisse minuit. It was a little spicy, and delicious.
– The ham may not have been fed on peanuts, but it was excellent.

I think I got a second helping of the eggs. This brunch was a highlight of the weekend for me. It was completely filling, and all of it as superb.

After we finished eating, the chef (Valerio Vasquez) came out and talked a bit. He was pretty interesting and a fun guy. He also spoke after dinner that evening, so I may confuse which meal he said what. But he did say that the recipes were ‘embellished’ for the book. And no, the eggs do not ever take 45 minutes. He said some of this was new to him, and it was the most challenging request he’d had since working there.

 

Roaming Around

It was still breezy and a bit chilly, but Saturday’s weather was much better, and sunny. So, I roamed the grounds, getting many pictures. I remember Sam Snead’s name from when I was a kid. He was the house pro here for most of his career, and they’ve got a bunch of his memorabilia, including his Masters’ jacket. The clubhouse restaurant is named Slammin’ Sammy’s.

They added the church around 2013, but made it old-style. It’s used for a lot of weddings. The stained glass was really pretty. I grew up Catholic, so I appreciate those types of windows.

I saw the croquet pitch, the bocce ball lawn, the golf course, and enjoyed the grounds. I visited a building or two as well, like The President’s Cottage, which had a lot of mementos, plaques, and lots of history. With the sun out, the tulip garden was really pretty.

 

French Dinner

We were in the same room where we had the book discussion, for the Saturday night dinner, which was our final official event. The menu was ‘The French Dinner’ this time. There were a couple of presentations done while we ate, which was nice. I like that approach.

They mistakenly listed the salad first. This is actually the third course – served after the main course. The chef had turned it in correctly, but some admin person decided it must have been a mistake and ‘corrected’ it. They had a corrected one (the ink so fresh it could be smudged) out to us unbelievably quickly.

First Course
Quelles Bonne Femme
– Chicken, Bone Marrow, Creme Fraiche
– It was good.

Main Course

Brown Butter Brook Trout

-Mountaineer Farms WV Brook Trout, Buerre Noisette
-The trout literally melted in my mouth. I’ve never had that with a fish before. Wow!

&

Roast Duck Mr. Richards
-Parsnip Puree, Roasted Fennel, Cognac Jus
– I don’t mind duck, but it’s not one of my favorite meats. This was good, but I didn’t really care about it.

Third Course
Rossi Salad
Watercress, Butter Lettuce, Escarole, Capons, Hard Boiled Egg, Lemon and Olive Oil
– Being a flannel-wearing Midwestern boy, I had to look up Capon. Oh. I see…
– Tasty salad. The server came around and put three spoonfuls of lemon on, at the table. Neat.

Dessert
Vanilla Creme Brulee
Fresh Berries
– Been awhile since I had this. It was delicious.

Wine
Garganega by Pieropan Soave – Italy
Pinot Noir by Louis Jadot Burgundy- France

– As mentioned with last night’s dinner, I don’t drink, so I passed on the wine.

 

PRESENTATIONS

We had presentations made to us, as we ate. I really enjoyed the overlap approach, myself.

 

Trish Parker

Trish is the resident Greenbrier historian. She is also a Wolfe fan! She gave a really cool presentation that talked about the Greenbrier, the logistics of of other locations (Barry Tolman was NOT going to make that court session he was pressing to be at), and other related information.

I loved it! It was really neat. Especially as she knew the story. I really enjoyed it. She took a couple questions and got a healthy round of applause.

Intelligence Guided by Experience – A question I heard more than once over the weekend was, “Did Rex Stout stay here before he wrote the book?” While the thought seemed to be, ‘Probably, as he knew the place pretty well.’ it’s unknown. The records from that early have been lost over the years. No proof he had been to the Greenbrier.

 

Valerio Vasquez

I mentioned that the chef talked to us at the end of the brunch. He and his assistant chef came out and talked after this dinner. He is a really engaging guy, and fun to listen to. He talked about cooking some of the items, actually asked a question or two about items related to the book, and answered some questions.

Ira made him a member of the Wolfe Pack afterwards! I hope he’s still there for the next gathering, as his food is excellent, and I enjoyed his chats with the group.

 

Ross Davies

The final item of the weekend (we may have been eating our crème brule during this), was a presentation by Ross Davies. He talked about a curious book book called Thoughts for Food. Just one of the curious aspects, was that it had the following quote on the dust jacket:

“A godsend for the woman who would like to have a reputation as an exceptional table hostess
…Gets 4 stars.”

– REX STOUT, creator of “Nero Wolfe” and noted gourmet.

Ross presented quite the mystery and then possible answer, crossing over to involve Vincent Starrett, as I recall. It was pretty neat, with several handouts.

And that brought the official portion of the Wolfe weekend to a close. I will share some things about the Greenbrier itself now.

 

THE ROOM

It was a nice room. Big four poster bed (I kept kinda bouncing of one of the posters. Desk, sitting setup, TV, and a really cool walk in closet. The light went on and off automatically when you opened and closed the door. That was cool. As with the entire resort, the design is very ‘Forties Old South’ and not really my type of thing. But it was a big, comfy room, for the weekend.

 

DAILY WALKING TOUR

There’s an old Cold War bunker underneath the Greenbrier. It was for the White House, but never actually used. Out of commission now, it’s privately run, and you can pay to take a tour of it. I wasn’t interested, but several attendees were, and said that it was pretty cool.

I did, however, do the daily, hour-long, guided, walking tour of the main building. Free, it is packed full of cool info, from the original settling of the valley, to more modern facts about the resort. My first day, while writing my Wolfe toast, the tour came into the room and I listened to the guide. I heard some neat stuff, so the next day I showed up and went on the tour. HIGHLY recommended.

 

THE LOBBY BAR

So, The Lobby Bar is kind of a small gathering place in the center of things on the second floor (which is really the main floor). You can order food, there are all kinds of places to sit in and nearby, and things just sort of happen around that area. Seemed like I was constantly passing through The Lobby Bar.

It had one of several cool chandeliers at the place. I THINK this was the one was used in Gone with the Wind. A modern actress whose name I forget from the tour, donated it. A slightly smaller, backup one, is hanging in another area there.

The decor includes a bust of Achilles. The Achaean warrior is the centerpiece of my favorite non-Wolfe Stout work, The Great Legend.

THE RED ROOM

The Red Room had a Victorian feel for me. It was Dorothy Draper’s favorite room to read and write in. I did a couple reading sessions in there. I liked it. During World War II, the resort was used as a hospital facility. It was basically gutted. The railroad took over ownership afterwards, and essentially gave Draper a blank check to redesign and restore The Greenbrier into a five star resort. She had one hundred percent control over everything – even to what was included in each room. She’s still like a rock star in Greenbrier history.

GOLF

I don’t golf, but the Greenbrier is a national destination for it. It used to be on the PGA tour, but a flood did some major damage not too long ago, and it hasn’t been added back yet. That is a pic from a course. I don’t know how many courses are there, but the one I saw is gorgeous. The bad weather did not stop people who came to golf, though. Nice cabinet full of Sam Snead stuff. That’s a famous ‘Green Jacket’ from the Masters.

That’s some trophy from the Greenbrier Golf tournament in the past. I just thought it was really cool. It’s outside Slammin Sammy’s restaurant, along with a bunch of Sam Snead memorabilia, including his Green Jacket from winning the Masters.

CHURCH

I mentioned above, that  somewhere around 2013, I think, they added an old-style church on the grounds, very close to the main building. It’s popular for hosting weddings. Having grown up Catholic, I really like stained glass windows. This church has a very simple design, and PLENTY of stained glass. It’s nice, as you can see from the pics.

CASINO

Another relatively recent addition is a bit the opposite of a church. Needing to keep up with the competition, the Greenbrier wanted to add a modern casino. Limited on space, they expanded some of the underground storage and tunnels, and built a casino under the lawn. You go down some steps by the main lobby/registration desk, and it’s a time-shift from the old-style Southern charm of the resort. It’s a well-lit, noisy casino. They relaxed the dress code not too long ago, but it’s still ‘dress up’ after 7 PM.

Still in my suit after the French Dinner on Saturday night, I went on in. I’ve been to Vegas, and Cripple Creek, CO, back when they had to have a tie to Indian reservations. I don’t mind roaming around around a casino, and they’re fine for what they are, but I’m not a gambling guy.

This casino is good-sized compared to the rest of the Greenbrier facilities. And it’s very modern, and was definitely happening. If you like an hour or two in a casino, this would definitely work for you. Especially in that it’s a total contrast to everything else at the resort. I made a loop, and headed back up to my room.

 

SO….

It was a fun, low-key weekend. More of a gathering, than a conference (or convention), like Pulp Fest, or Windy city Pulp and Paper Con, are. I got to meet some folks and chat about various things: not just Wolfe.

The Resort exists because of the sulphur springs in the valley, which have long been believed to heal. This is The Spring House, on the grounds. There is one underneath that iron in the middle there. Sulphur water smells like rotten eggs.

The three meals, while expensive, were memorable, and table-mates were fun to talk with. The old-style feel of the Greenbrier isn’t so much my thing, but it’s definitely fancy. Someone came by my room every afternoon and offered me a thing of ice, in case I needed it. That was a first.

The weather could have been better, but you take your chances any time of year, right? As someone who likes to sit and read, that place is almost limitless. Eating at ANY of the options is available is expensive. It’s like being captive at an amusement park, or a pro sporting event. Just accept it. I drove ten minutes to a nearby Wendy’s the first night I was there. Otherwise, I made do with snacks I brought, and the three Wolfe Pack meals.

It was fun, with a LOT of free time. I could have done with another non-meal gathering. Maybe a panel, or a lecture, on something, for an hour or so. Like at a conference. Since I don’t otherwise find myself with Wolfe-centric folks.

But I’m glad I went to this. And there were no buttheads. Not even anyone snarky or pushing a point during the book discussion. I’m a part of several fandoms, and you know even in cool ones, it’s not uncommon to find someone that annoys you with their personality about it. Not a one here. Well, maybe I was for someone else, but that doesn’t count since I’m writing this post.

Recommended for the Wolfe fan to check out.

And Ira, I’ll get right on that Albany gathering (Non-funny, inside joke from the weekend).

Stay at Home

Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone: Stay at Home – Days 1 and 2
Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone: Stay at Home- Days 3 and 4
Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone: Stay at Home- Days 5, 6, and 7
Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone: Stay at Home- Days 8, 9, and 10
Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone: Stay at Home- Days 11, 12, and 13
Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone: Stay at Home Days 14 and 15
Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone: Stay at Home Days 16 and 17
Nero Wolfe’s Browsnstone: Stay at Home – Days 18 and 19
Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone: Stay at Home – Days 20 and 21
Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone: Stay at Home – Days 22 and 23
Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone: Stay at Home – Days 24 and 25
Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone: Stay at Home – Day 26
Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone: Stay at Home – Day 27
Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone: Stay at Home – Days 28 and 29
Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone: Stay at Home – Day 30
Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone: Stay at Home – Day 31
Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone: Stay at Home – Days 32 and 33
Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone: Stay at Home – Days 34 and 35
Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone: Stay at Home – Day 36
Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone: Stay at Home – Day 37
Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone: Stay at Home – Day 38
Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone: Stay at Home – Day 39
Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone: Stay at Home – Days 40 & 41
Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone: Stay at Home – Days 42 & 43
Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone: Stay at Home – Days 45 & 46
Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone: Stay at Home – Days 50 and 52
Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone: Stay at Home – Day 55

Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone

Meet Nero Wolfe
The R-Rated Nero Wolfe
Radio & Screen Wolfe
A&E’s ‘A Nero Wolfe Mystery’
The Lost 1959 Pilot
The Mets in “Please Pass the Guilt”
A Matter of Identity (original story)
Death of a Doxy; and Koufax or Mays?
Hercule Poirot Visits Nero Wolfe
I Know that Actor!
The Big Store (Wolf J. Flywheel)

3 Good Reasons

3 Good Reasons – ‘Not Quite Dead Enough’
3 Good Reasons – ‘Murder is Corny’
3 Good Reasons – ‘Immune to Murder’
3 Good Reason – ‘Booby Trap’

The Greenstreet Chronicles (Pastiches based on the Radio Show)

Stamped for Murder

The Careworn Cuff – Part One
The Careworn Cuff – Part Two
The Careworn Cuff – Part Three


This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Bob_TieSmile150.jpg

Bob Byrne’s ‘A (Black) Gat in the Hand’ made its Black Gate debut in 2018 and has returned every summer since.

His ‘The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes’ column ran every Monday morning at Black Gate from March, 2014 through March, 2017. And he irregularly posts on Rex Stout’s gargantuan detective in ‘Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone.’ He is a member of the Praed Street Irregulars, founded www.SolarPons.com (the only website dedicated to the ‘Sherlock Holmes of Praed Street’) and blogs about Holmes and other mystery matters at Almost Holmes.

He organized Black Gate’s award-nominated ‘Discovering Robert E. Howard’ series, as well as the award-winning ‘Hither Came Conan’ series. Which is now part of THE Definitive guide to Conan. He also organized 2023’s ‘Talking Tolkien.’

He has contributed stories to The MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories – Parts III, IV, V, VI, XXI, and XXXIII.

He has written introductions for Steeger Books, and appeared in several magazines, including Black Mask, Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine, The Strand Magazine, and Sherlock Magazine.

What’s Coming Here on Monday Mornings…

What’s Coming Here on Monday Mornings…

So, you’re wondering, “What’s Bob gonna write about in the coming months?”

Actually, not one of you is wondering that, but this is my column. So… Writing about a thousand words a week often involves picking a topic on Saturday morning, and having something ready to go on Monday morning. I’ve actually been working on a few things ahead of time this year, which is kinda cool.

“Really, Bob? You mean, some stuff, you’re not just totally winging?”

Well, I wouldn’t put it so crudely, but yes. I’m trying to go a little deeper on a few things. Including number two below, which I am THRILLED with.

 

DOYLE ON HOLMES

For the entire month of April and into May, The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes returns to Monday mornings. Peter Haining’s The Final Adventures of Sherlock Holmes is a nifty book which had been published by Barnes and Noble. It has several items which are included in Jack Tracy’s foundational Sherlock Holmes: The Published Apocrypha.

It also has several additional items worth reading. Doyle wrote some essays regarding Sherlock Holmes, and I’m going to do a series on those. The posts will quote liberally from Doyle’s essays, with my own input. I suspect even serious Sherlockians haven’t read Doyle’s essays in some time.

And if you aren’t familiar with The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes, then you missed my first three years here at Black Gate, as that was the name of my column.

Read More Read More

Five Things I Think I Think (January, 2024)

Five Things I Think I Think (January, 2024)

It’s the first 2024 version of Ten Things I Think I Think – albeit, in abbreviated form. And awaaaay we go!

1) ARCHER KNOWS HOW TO DO HOMAGE

Back in November’s What I’m Watching post, I mentioned I would talk about Archer Later. I’m not yet ready to do a deep dive, but I want to give a shout out for a couple seasons I just watched.

The adult cartoon just wrapped up its fourteenth and final season, last month. It had its ups and downs, but it was terribly wrong and almost always funny, for 144 episodes. Archer is the chief spy at the international Secret intelligence Service. The fact that their name is ISIS, tells you all you need to know about this satirical show. Archer is the most self-absorbed, irresponsible person imaginable, and his office mates are all terribly flawed as well (though Lana is pretty close to normal).

A lot happens over fourteen seasons (I’m on season eleven). A few seasons take place with Archer in a coma – they’re dream seasons. The first of those was an homage forties hardboiled/noir. Centered on The Maltese Falcon, with a dash of Chinatown thrown in, I LOVED it. Visually it was wonderful. As a fan of the genre, it was clear that the show’s staff were as well. Still ‘wrong’ in that Archer way, it was a terrific take on the genre. Extremely well done.

Read More Read More

Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone: I Know That Actor!

Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone: I Know That Actor!

If you’re a FB friend of mine (and why wouldn’t you be?), you are aware that I like to play ‘I Know that Actor’ there. I even wrote this post about it for Black Gate. It started with my love of Columbo. I would snap a screenshot of a guest star, and talk about that character, and other roles I liked them in.

Other folks would often leave a comment about that actor. I’ve ‘played the game’ with many other shows I watch/re-watch, such as Monk, Psych, White Collar, Burn Notice, The Rookie; lots of shows have familiar faces pop in.

If you know me at all, you know that Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe is my favorite mystery series. And I LOVE A&E’s too-short TV series. Which I wrote about here. That show had a repertory cast. It was a Canadian production, and I often see folks on other shows (especially Murdoch Mysteries, and Hallmark Christmas flicks). So, I often do a variation of the actor game, over on the Wolfe Pack FB page. I gathered up the posts I could reasonably find and made today’s post!

As the pic to the left shows, Maury Chaykin and Timothy Hutton were the co-stars. I have posted Chaykin in Powers Boothe’s terrific Philip Marlowe series. I think that he’s best-known as the ‘No Southern gentleman’ testimony on instant grits in My Cousin Vinnie.

Hutton most notably (for me) starred in the terrific USA Network show, Leverage. Due to a rape allegation made 25 years after the alleged incident (the complaint was dismissed) he was left out of the reboot, Leverage: Redemption.  Season one of the reboot was good. Season two was a disappointment, as they turned Parker into comic relief. She was as big a doofus as Nigel Bruce’s Dr. Watson. Ruined the reboot for me.

But below are spottings of quite a few other faces from the show.

Read More Read More

Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone: Hercule Poirot visits Nero Wolfe

Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone: Hercule Poirot visits Nero Wolfe

Been writing and reading a lot of Nero Wolfe lately (when I’m not re-watching Columbo before bed).

Just to channel Archie, I like to have favorite detectives visit Wolfe’s office. For some fun, I’m well over 5,000 words into a story with Groucho (Rufus Flywheel) and Chico on a case with Archie (and Wolfe) at The Big Store. I’ve tinkered with Dirk Gently (my favorite Douglas Adams character) using Zen navigation and Archie confronting him in front of the Brownstone.

I have toyed with a solo Poirot adventure, based on a non-Poirot story written by Agatha Christie. My Poirot is very much David Suchet’s portrayal, and it’s fun to write.

So, I had Poirot visit the Brownstone. I may add a scene during lunch, with them talking about another subject; the conversation mildly annoying Archie. That could be fun.


The fussy little Belgian was so far forward in the red chair that it barely qualified as sitting. His back was perfectly straight, and there couldn’t have been a centimeter of space between his shoes. I had never seen a man take off a pair of gloves so deliberately. I don’t know how he could possibly be comfortable, but he didn’t seem to be bothered at all. It’s as if that were the only natural way to sit. And I’m telling you, it definitely wasn’t natural.

I had received a call three weeks before from a Captain Arthur Hastings, in London. Wolfe had used a competent operative named Ethelbert Hitchcock over there. And I’m not making that first name up. I started calling him Geoffrey to keep from laughing as I typed these little accounts. I don’t think he’d mind too much.

Read More Read More

The Brownstone of Nero Wolfe: Death of a Doxy – And Koufax or Mays?

The Brownstone of Nero Wolfe: Death of a Doxy – And Koufax or Mays?

We haven’t been to the Brownstone since April of last year. Pfui! So here we have the forty-third Nero Wolfe post at Black Gate. The Wolfe stories are my favorite private eye series. Which, given my Solar Pons, and Sherlock Holmes, credentials, is saying something. I am pretty much always re-reading or listening yet again to Michael Prichard’s terrific audiobooks. I never tire of Wolfe’s World.

Rex Stout was a baseball fan, keeping score at Mets’ games (and possibly NY Giants’ ones as well). Archie uses some baseball terms, and even (briefly) watches a Mets game on TV, with actual players mentioned. And of course, there’s Ron Seaver. “Three Men Out” is set at game seven of a World Series game between Boston and the Giants, though all of the characters are entirely fictional in that one.

I’ve written some baseball snippets for inclusion in future stories, including Archie annoying Wolfe by talking about the Rocky Colavito – Harvey Kuenn trade; and Archie recounting attending Willie Mays’ last World Series, against the A’s. Archie and baseball go together.

Which leads us to talking about Death of A Doxy today. This may well be my favorite Wolfe novel. And I think that A&E did a terrific episode of it. It’s got a neat little baseball reference, which I’ll tease out for this essay. But first, let’s talk about something that should be banned by law – The Epithon!

THE EPITHON

In Death of a Doxy, Archie is at Lily Rowan’s penthouse, listening to a poet read a selfdubbed ‘Epithon.’ It is called such because it was epic, and took hours to read. Add in that the man wrote it himself, and you’ve got the idea. ‘Pfui’ isn’t strong enough.

Read More Read More

Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone: Stay at Home – Day 55

Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone: Stay at Home – Day 55

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 fifty-two. Here is day fifty five (May 15). It helps if you read the series in order, so I’ve included links to the earlier entries.

Day Fifty Five – 2020 Stay at Home

I had to step out and help Fred find Evelyn Lanham’s step-son, Jason. Apparently not satisfied with wasting all of his late father’s money, he wanted to break her; thus the bail-jump. He was hiding out in a rented room above a bar down near the docks. Since the bar wasn’t doing much business, it wasn’t a bad spot. Fred got the initial lead but ended up stuck and I got him the rest of the way. The guy got loose from Fred and dashed through the kitchen and then out the back door, which was where I, ever the good operative, happened to be standing. I lent our quarry a hand. Or rather, a foot. He didn’t seem to appreciate the gesture. Parker was happy with us, and since it was a favor, no payment was necessary.

Read More Read More

Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone: Stay at Home – Days 50 & 52

Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone: Stay at Home – Days 50 & 52

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-nine. Here are days fifty (May 10) and fifty-two (May 12). It helps if you read the series in order, so I’ve included links to the earlier entries.

Day Fifty – 2020 Stay at Home

No surprise that it’s been quiet here in the brownstone. Getting out to investigate a crime at Lewis Hewitt’s place was a flurry of activity during the lock down. With so many cases of the virus still being discovered daily, I’ve resisted the urge to call Bascom for a new assignment. Though, I may soon.

At lunch, Wolfe talked about the recovery of the American economy from the Pandemic. Supply chains, consumer fears of infection, strained cash reserves of businesses, social distancing and other health guidelines; It will be a slow return towards normal. Fortunately for him, and also for my paycheck, he expects clients to return. He was suitably grumpy at the prospect, of course. Work remains something to only undertake when forced by circumstances.

But crimes continue. And there will be more crimes of the type clients bring to him, as activity ‘out in the world’ increases. Which will keep him in beer, books, food, and flowers. I may have to practice badgering him into taking on jobs. I’ve gotten out of the habit.

Read More Read More

Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone: Stay at Home – Days 45 & 46

Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone: Stay at Home – Days 45 & 46

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-nine. Here are days forty-five (May 5) and forty-six (May 6). It helps if you read the series in order, so I’ve included links to the earlier entries.

Day Forty Five – 2020 Stay at Home

“WHAT is this?”

I looked back at Nero Wolfe as I went to my desk. “Your beer. What does it look like?” I had just put the tray on his desk.

“This most certainly is not my beer, Archie. What is this flummery?”

“Well, sir, it is Cinco de Mayo.”

“Archie…”

Read More Read More

Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone: Stay at Home – Days 42 & 43

Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone: Stay at Home – Days 42 & 43

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-nine. Here are days forty-two (May 2) and forty-three (May 3). It helps if you read the series in order, so I’ve included links to the earlier entries.

Day Forty Two – 2020 Stay at Home

Lewis Hewitt called early this morning, which was a surprise. He was more prone to call after lunch or in the evening. Wolfe would say that he was excitable. But that didn’t really matter, because my employer was upstairs in the plant room; spending money, not earning it. I had only just entered the office after breakfast in the kitchen with Fritz, when the phone rang. “Nero Wolfe’s Office, Archie Goodwin speaking.”

“Archie, this is Lewis Hewitt. I must speak with Wolfe.” Now, normally, he would say ‘Mister Wolfe’ in this situation. And his voice would be a lot calmer than it sounded.

“Being the orchid fancier that you are, you know that he’s in the plant rooms upstairs from nine until eleven, every day but Sunday. And Sunday it ain’t.”

“Yes, yes, I know, Archie. But I need his help. He needs to come out here to my house.”

Read More Read More