Wolfe at Saul's
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From "Next Witness," in Three Witnesses (1955):
When we left the self-service elevator at the fifth floor, Saul was there to greet us. I suppose to some people, Saul Panzer is just a little guy with a big nose who always seems to need a shave, but to others, including Wolfe and me, he's the best free-for-all operative that ever tailed a subject. Wolfe had never been at his place before, but I had, many times over the years, mostly on Saturday nights with three or four others for some friendly and ferocious poker. Inside, Wolfe stood and looked around. It was a big room, lighted with two floor lamps and two table lamps. One wall had windows, another was solid with books, and the other two had pictures and shelves that were cluttered with everything from chunks of minerals to walrus tusks. In the far corner was a grand piano.
'A good room,' Wolfe said. 'Satisfactory. I congratulate you.' He crossed to a chair, the nearest thing to his idea of a chair he had seen all day, and sat.
In the next three hours, he accounted for seven bottles. He also handled his share of liver pâté, herring, sturgeon, pickled mushrooms, Tunisian melon, and three kind of cheese. Saul was certainly prancing as a host, though he is not a prancer. Naturally, the first time Wolfe ate under his roof, and possibly the last, he wanted to give him good grub, that was okay, but I thought three kinds of cheese was piling it on a little. He sure would be sick of cheese by Saturday. Naturally, he wasn't equipped to be so fancy about sleeping. Since he was the host, it was his problem, and his arrangement was Wolfe in the bedroom, me on the couch in the big room, and him on the floor, which seemed reasonable.
The other description was written about the same time (copyright 1956, 1957) and is less formal, or schematic, but almost identical, even in detail. In both, Saul's address is said to be 'on Thirty-eighth Street between Lexington and Third.'
I don't know about anyone else, but Saul's apartment added a great deal to my view of him; it is a good room, and I appreciated the man who would live in it - as much or more than I did his incredible flatfooted competence. :) The combination is rather alluring, as is the unexpectedness. Saul is full of surprises.
How do the rest of you feel?
And does anyone remember where it says he owns this and another building?
Sigh. Too bad I can't Google my bookshelves!
Thanks for posting the descriptions.
Eurydice: Archie's many introductions to Saul contains some real gems. The introduction in The Father Hunt (1968), chapter VIII, might be the one you allude to:
"Saul, wiry and a little undersized all but his ears and nose, could have occupied about any spot in life that appealed to him, but had settled for free-lance operative years ago because he could work only when he wanted to, make as much money as he needed, be out doors a lot, and wear his old wool cap November 1 to April 15. A reversible cap ........."
My personal favourite is "best operative south of the North Pole".
I'd love to answer the 'taxpayer' query, but I fear that vinegar on the oysters is interfering with my mental processes?
Really, I've always felt a bit bad for Orrie. He's stuck being Not-Archie. He's not as smart or as funny or as likeable. He's outshone by Archie in just about everything so when Archie has to write about him the best he can come up with is, oh, Orrie is better looking...except it's actually mentioned several times by characters who aren't Archie that they look a lot alike.
I just love an unreliable narrator!
So do I! Orrie's arrogance bothers me more than Archie's, though. You don't feel he earns it, or, even better, can see through it; whereas Archie knows about his.
Sackler: Agreed, but I still think Archie makes a serious point of it. He doesn't have to sideswipe him quite so much as he does just to make him look... average. Stout uses it as character-building and differentiation, but also (I think) something more.
Agreed. Arrogance isn't a quality I like in men but I've never been bothered when it comes from Archie - he earns it. One of the things I love most about him is how dedicated he is to doing his job well. I'm convinced Archie would work hard on a case even if no one was keeping score, because he likes to do a good job whereas Orrie would work hard only if he thought there was some sort of reward in it.
Feeling sympathy for Orrie isn't the same as liking him. He's got a mean streak that comes up a number of times. However, I would feel bad for any character who was trapped in some sort of rivalry with Archie. I've have always thought of it as this one-sided rivalry where Orrie is envious of the life he thinks Archie leads but is unwilling, and probably incapable, of making anything like it for himself. I figure Archie is vaguely aware of this but, at the same time, Orrie isn't a significant enough for Archie to bother addressing it.
I suspect this impression is mostly based on that one line in Family Affair where Saul claims that Archie has always gone easy on Orrie and cut him a lot of slack because he knew Orrie wanted his job.
...I also suspect I've spent way to much time analysing this. :)
And although existing primarily as a literary device and becoming an established character shouldn't be mutually exclusive, I've just never warmed to Saul as I have to Archie and Wolfe. Even Cramer and Lily, to even the comparison, have their established quirks and moods. Perhaps because of the nature of his personality - the ghost, the forgettable face - Saul doesn't come across as a rounded character. Everything he is and does is there to support his genius status in the group - I don't think he has one single failing or lapse in his veneer, as with the others. Just my perspective - Eurydice and others, I would welcome the counterpoint of a Saul fan!