Wolfe at Saul's

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Wolfe at Saul's

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Ago 22, 2006, 10:38 pm

As cogitno supplied their whereabouts, I submit Rex Stout's description(s) of Saul Panzer's apartment - and Wolfe's entertainment there.

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?

Editado: Ago 22, 2006, 11:07 pm

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.

Ago 22, 2006, 11:46 pm

Black Orchids, Chapter 6. Archie describes Saul as looking like a "relief veteran" and then mentions that he owns 2 houses in Brooklyn.

Ago 22, 2006, 11:49 pm

Cogitno, what would we do without you? Thank you! I dare not ask if you do this through the power of unaided memory - Saul-like - but I salute you.

Ago 22, 2006, 11:53 pm

'Fred-like' is more apt (I take notes - and collect URL's), but with the charm of Purley.

Ago 23, 2006, 12:15 am

All paid for with the taxpayers money? I feel better already. ;)

Ago 23, 2006, 6:31 am

I didn't mention that a similar description of Saul's living room can also be found in A Family Affair (1975). Wolfe wasn't present. Archie plays a chord on the grand piano to punctuate a thought.

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?

Ago 23, 2006, 2:41 pm

Ah; sorry, I was thinking of Purley. Your assiduity would - then - leave me somewhat more at ease. :)

Ago 23, 2006, 2:47 pm

- And, yes, I love the particular description you singled out.

Ago 24, 2006, 5:06 pm

The descriptions of Saul caused a tremendous crush when I was a girl. Now I'm going to have to look through some of my library for my favorites.

Ago 25, 2006, 1:01 am

Let us know the result, on your more mature feelings. ;)

Ago 25, 2006, 3:38 pm

Oh, I still have a crush on Saul. Archie was always too flashy and flighty, but Saul - even with his big ears - always seemed dependable and available and remarkable in his own way.

Editado: Ago 25, 2006, 6:31 pm

Exactly. Archie would be fun for a date, but you know he'd never settle down, among other things. Whereas Saul has a capacity for fidelity, I think; loves books (the important thing), and music; and is reputedly a conversationalist who can hold his own with Wolfe, if you once get him talking. But there's no pretence about him, and I like that.

Editado: Ago 26, 2006, 2:08 pm

And really, where Archie is concerned, who could compete with Lily Rowan? A brilliant heiress who was willing to let Archie dabble a bit when the mood struck him? No thanks.

Nov 19, 2006, 12:43 am

I'm chiming in very late here, but I only just found you! I have always wanted Archie for a pal, just for laughs. Though I think a lot of what he says is hot air, like about Saul's ears and nose. I think Saul doesn't stand out as a handsome guy, but isn't all Archie says about him in the looks department either. Archie can be a bit envious.

Nov 20, 2006, 9:37 am

No kidding. I love him, but the man has his faults. He pays Saul his due for detective brilliance, and takes it out on his looks.

Nov 23, 2006, 5:56 pm

Yeah, eurydice, Archie has his faults--but I think Saul's nose and ears are part of his (Saul's)anonymity. He looks "ordinary."

Nov 24, 2006, 7:21 am

I never paid much attention to the swipes Archie takes at Saul on looks... It's interesting, especially when he turns around and gives too much credit to Orrie's appearence. I figured it is something he mentions because he doesn't have anything else to say.

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!

Nov 24, 2006, 1:07 pm

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.

Nov 24, 2006, 3:13 pm

I think Archie's a tad of a moralizer when it comes to Orrie. His reaction to Cather in Death of a Doxy is nearly disdainful (and remember that Archie is somewhat suspicious; he entertains the idea that Orrie may have set him up for a murder charge when the victim is found).

Nov 24, 2006, 4:37 pm

I guess it was on another thread that I mentioned Archie and his mid-western respect for women, but I think he has seen the way Orrie operates to get what he wants, and Archie doesn't want to be operated on.

Nov 24, 2006, 7:03 pm

You don't feel he earns it, or, even better, can see through it; whereas Archie knows about his.

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. :)

Editado: Nov 25, 2006, 3:38 pm

I don't think Archie is envious of Saul - Stout can be a little heavy-handed with his descriptions of secondary characters, and the point he seems to be trying to make with Saul is that the man is a likeable genius, a sort of understudy to Wolfe, and even Archie, with his insecurities, cannot find fault with him. Archie does not slate Saul's physical appearance, he merely notes it as a quirk of character, as Cramer has his cigars and Orrie is handsome. And whereas Archie believes at times that the other younger operatives are after his job (Johnny Keems, who was a creep, and Orrie, who didn't even have that force of personality), he doesn't bother about Saul. He knows that if Saul wanted his job with Wolfe, he would either have had it to start with (didn't Saul introduce Archie to Wolfe?), or could take it any time he wanted (professionally - personally, I don't think Wolfe would surrender his secretary, legman, gadlfy and cocklebur quite so easily). When Archie gets irked at being left out of the loop once again, his bitterness is directed at Wolfe, not Saul, which I think is interesting - if it were Orrie in that position, Archie would throw a blue fit and probably drag him out of the house by his heels! Whereas I don't think that Archie genuinely fears Orrie as a replacement - it's mostly just an exchange of good-natured insults - he openly humbles himself in comparison to Saul, and I what this reveals about Archie's nature. Saul is rarely more than a literary device, called into supply the missing piece of the puzzle, but Archie is an honest blend of arrogance and vulnerability, conceit and conscience, politeness and thuggery, openess and exaggeration ... Hey, spot the girl with a crush!

Nov 25, 2006, 4:42 pm

For some reason this word eluded me yesterday in trying to describe Orrie. Opportunist.

Nov 26, 2006, 6:22 pm

I agree with AdonisGuilfoyle (AG -Archie Goodwin?). Saul and some of the others seem to me to be the device used to keep certain information from the reader while allowing Wolfe to use these unrevealed clues to solve the puzzle or confirm his deductions. Is it really more complicated than that?

Nov 26, 2006, 6:37 pm

At the moment, I'm too tired to be posting, but will say this: the fact that characters are a device of that kind does not preclude their being something more.

Nov 27, 2006, 11:48 am

Adonis Guilfoyle is indeed an assumed name of Archie's - from If Death Ever Slept, one of my favourites from the corpus (the client thinks Archie should 'look like' the cover name he chooses, so Archie suggests Adonis. The client thinks he's hilarious. As I do, too!)

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!