Rex Todhunter Stout (December 1, 1886 – October 27, 1975) was an American writer noted for his detective fiction. His best-known characters are the detective Nero Wolfe and his assistant Archie Goodwin, who were featured in 33 novels and 39 novellas between 1934 and 1975. In 1959, Stout received the Mystery Writers of America’s Grand Master Award. The Nero Wolfe corpus was nominated Best Mystery Series of the Century at Bouchercon XXXI, the world’s largest mystery convention, and Rex Stout was nominated Best Mystery Writer of the Century. In addition to writing fiction, Stout was a prominent public intellectual for decades. Stout was active in the early years of the American Civil Liberties Union and a founder of the Vanguard Press. He served as head of the Writers’ War Board during World War II, became a radio celebrity through his numerous broadcasts, and was later active in promoting world federalism. He was the long-time president of the Authors Guild, during which he sought to benefit authors by lobbying for reform of the domestic and international copyright laws, and served a term as president of the Mystery Writers of America.
Rex Stout began his literary career in the 1910s writing for magazines, particularly pulp magazines, writing more than 40 stories that appeared between 1912 and 1918. Stout’s early stories appeared most frequently in All-Story Magazine and its affiliates, but he was also published in Smith’s Magazine, Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine, Short Stories, The Smart Set, Young’s Magazine, and Golfers’ Magazine. The early stories spanned genres including romance, adventure, science fiction/fantasy, and detective fiction, including two serialized murder mystery novellas that prefigured elements of the Wolfe stories. In the 1930s, Stout turned to writing detective fiction. In 1933–34, he wrote Fer-de-Lance, which introduced Nero Wolfe and his assistant Archie Goodwin. The novel was published by Farrar & Rinehart in October 1934, and in abridged form as “Point of Death” in The American Magazine (November 1934). The characters of Wolfe and Goodwin are considered among Stout’s main contributions to detective fiction. Wolfe was described by reviewer Will Cuppy as “that Falstaff of detectives. (Source Wikipedia)
Rex Stout novels at The Grandest Game in the World
Mike Grost on Rex Stout: Rex Stout’s novels have a common basic pattern. There is some fairly upper class business, such as cooking, cattle breeding, or radio, in which most of the characters are employed. The characters are involved in a complex dispute, which leads to much negotiation and deal making. The deals are often changed and renegotiated, often with the help of detective Nero Wolfe. Interspersed with all of this is a mystery. The mystery plot has some simple trick solution, hopefully fairly clever. Starting in 1940, Stout also became a prolific author of mystery novellas, most of which were published in the slick American Magazine, or, after 1956, in the Saturday Evening Post. (Click here to continue reading)
Bob Schneider’s analysis of Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe Novellas.
Martin Edwards at ‘Do You Write Under Your Own Name?’: Of all the great American crime writers, Rex Stout has been something of a blind spot for me. Many years ago, Some Buried Caesar was strongly recommended to me, and I was underwhelmed. But he was an important figure in the genre, and I decided to give him another try. I opted for the first Nero Wolfe mystery, Fer-de-Lance, which dates from 1934. (Click here to continue reading)
Further reading: Rex Stout on Writing at The Passing Tramp.
(Facsimile Dust Jacket, Farrar & Rinehart, Inc. (USA), 1934)
Fer-de-Lance is the first Nero Wolfe detective novel written by Rex Stout, published in 1934 by Farrar & Rinehart, Inc. The novel appeared in abridged form in The American Magazine (November 1934) under the title “Point of Death”. The novel was adapted for the 1936 movie Meet Nero Wolfe. In his seminal 1941 work, Murder for Pleasure, crime fiction historian Howard Haycraft included Fer-de-Lance in his definitive list of the most influential works of mystery fiction. (Source: Wikipedia)
Book Description: As any herpetologist will tell you, the fer-de-lance is among the most dreaded snakes known to man. When someone makes a present of one to Nero Wolfe, Archie Goodwin knows he’s getting dreadully close to solving the devilishly clever murders of an immigrant and a college president. As for Wolfe, he’s playing snake charmer in a case with more twists than an anaconda — whistling a seductive tune he hopes will catch a killer who’s still got poison in his heart. (Source: Random House)
Fer-de-Lance has been reviewed, among others, at Classic Mysteries, Bitter Tea and Mystery, Mystery File, and ‘Do You Write Under Your Own Name?’