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Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin

An Introduction to Nero Wolfe

Posted on 2009.04.12 at 16:26
I'm going to be posting another fic starting shortly, a crossover featuring The Tenth  Doctor and Martha Jones, and the Third Doctor and Jo Grant, both meeting at different times and dealing with two of the greatest characters in the history of detective fiction, Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin.

A great source for a lot of information on this intrepid pair can be seen at
Nero Wolfe's Wikipedia Entry.

The short form:

Born in the Balkan state of Montenegro, Nero Wolfe is a genius, an eccentric, an agoraphobe, and probably the greatest private detective in the world.

He lives in a brownstone house at 922 East 35th Street, in New York City, with his able assistant, Archie Goodwin, and his chef and housekeeper, Fritz Brenner. He is a very fat man (at least the whippet-thin Rex Stout, who created him, thought so, referring frequently to his seventh of a ton. That's only 285 pounds, but Stout, who was probably about 160 pounds soaking wet, probably thought that prodigious.) a gourmand, chef, and orchid grower who never leaves his house on business, and keeps rigidly to a schedule: From nine to eleven each morning, and from four to six each afternoon, he ascends in his private elevator to the greenhouse on the roof of his three-story residence to work with his orchids, assisted by a daytime employee named Theodore Horstmann, who is seldom seen. Wolfe will not discuss business at meals, drinks far too much beer and is quite fussy about language, sometimes charging clients higher fees -- and his fees are prodigious -- if they dare to use "Contact" as a verb. 

His stories are narrated by Archie Goodwin. Goodwin is a first-class private eye, tall, strong, handsome, brave, with a photographic memory. He has a thousand jobs with Wolfe, but the two main ones are these: He does all the actual "Investigating" when Wolfe is hired to solve a mystery. He visits crime scenes, questions witnesses, gathers evidence, takes notes, memorizes conversations. Then, later, back at the office, he tells Wolfe all that he learned, often verbatim. Wolfe then solves the case. His second job is to ride Wolfe and make sure he actually works. Wolfe is a deeply lazy man, and would end up penniless and homeless without Archie Goodwin to hector and annoy him into doing his job. Goodwin is likeable and sarcastic, and forgets nothing. Archie will do a fairly good job of introducing you to other characters, so trust him to guide you: Wolfe won't always play fair with him, but he will always play fair with you.

Most of you know "Doctor Who" at least from the new series, so you'll know the Tenth Doctor and Martha Jones. Later, we'll be spending time with the Third Doctor and Jo Grant, who few of you will know, but I hope you'll give them a chance.

To the best of my ability, though, this story will be told in the fashion of a Nero Wolfe mystery story, so please be prepared for that point of view.

One more point about the Wolfe characters: They don't age. It was a deliberate choice by the author: From 1934's "Fer de Lance" to 1975's "A Family Affair," published just a month before the death of Stout, Wolfe has remained in his fifties and Archie in his early 30s, while world events stay current and pointed. This is at times very "In your face:" In 1964's "A Right to Die," 50-ish Wolfe and 30-ish Archie are hired by character from 1936's "Too Many Cooks," who explicitly states that they first and last met him 28 years before. That's just the fact of the Wolfe universe, and one I'm adhering to, with an opening chapter set in 1968 before the story picks up in "The Present Day."

So I hope you'll come along with me and meet Wolfe and Archie. If y
ou like them -- and I believe you will, or I wouldn't be here -- pick up Stout's original books: they're still easy to find. I also recomend the recent A&E TV Series "A Nero Wolfe Adventure" starring Maury Chaykin as Wolfe and Timothy Hutton as Archie, seen in my Icon.


uk_sef at 2009-04-12 23:21 (UTC) (Link)
I second that A&E Nero Wolfe series recommendation. The actors looked like they were having entirely too much fun throughout - especially Timothy Hutton as Archie.
Jonathan Andrew Sheen
leviathan0999 at 2009-04-12 23:32 (UTC) (Link)
Hutton is truly wonderful! I admit, I actually see Archie in my head as Lee Horsley, who played him in the vastly inferior NBC Wolfe series in hte early 1980s -- he has a milder air about him that works with Archie's roots in Chillicothe, Ohio -- but Hutton, who was also one of the creative forces behind the show, did a fabulous job as Archie!

So... Will you be giving "The Orchid Thief" a try?
uk_sef at 2009-04-13 00:05 (UTC) (Link)
I decided it probably wasn't pr0n ...

... but I have issues with some of it. Eg: "They thank me and passed onto the stoop, but before descending the seven steps, Martha stopped and returned to me." where I think it should be "thanked" and the comma should come after the "but" (thus isolating the excisable phrase).
Jonathan Andrew Sheen
leviathan0999 at 2009-04-13 00:08 (UTC) (Link)
Quite right, and those repairs have been made. By all means, if you have more, let me know!
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