The League of Frightened Men - Spoilers

DiscussãoThe Black Orchid (A Nero Wolfe Group)

Aderi ao LibraryThing para poder publicar.

The League of Frightened Men - Spoilers

Jun 30, 2007, 8:55 pm

In the introduction, written by Robert Goldsborough, in my edition, he asserts that Paul Chapin is a far more complex adversary than Arnold Zeck of later books. Agree? Disagree? Perhaps we should weigh in on this at the end of the discussion, if we can remember! I'm inclined to agree...I think.

Can one know an author through their works? I like to think so, but I'm not so sure. I know of some very amoral authors who have written very moral tales.

Robert Goldsborough also gives a list of singular events in this book which do not repeat in the others. Would you like me to list them here, or would you like to try to come up with them as we go along?

Chapter 1

"I do read books, but I never yet got any real satisfaction out of one; I always have a feeling there's nothing alive about it, it's all dead and gone, what's the use, your might as well try to enjoy yourself on a picnic in a graveyard."

Frankly, I know several graveyards where I could have a perfectly lovely picnic, but putting that aside, have you ever known anyone with this attitude? I'm pretty sure I've known lots of people who can't be bothered to read, but even my son, who loathes reading, says he doesn't identify with this statement. He said he has read some books that pulled him in.

When Archie is heckling Wolfe, does he use poor grammar on purpose, or do you think this is just an unrefined Archie? I really identify with Wolfe here. So often when you just get settled in for a good read, some non-reader comes along and feels obligated to "entertain" you.

"What good is an obscenity trial except to popularize literature." Amen. In my opinion that's the only reason some works became popular.

Chapter 2

Archie speaking about Paul Chapin's book: "Why did you read it?" Wolfe answers: "I read it because it was a book."

The Natives Return by Louis Adamic is about an American traveling to Yugoslavia and finding "his Old Country." It was published in 1934 and has many photographs. It is also for sale on eBay for $18.00.

I can find no references to the book Outline of Human Nature by Alfred Rossiter other than that it is mentioned in this book. There is a link, which seems to me has been posted here already somewhere, with all the books referred to in the Wolfe sagas.

Jul 1, 2007, 2:58 pm

Chapin is certainly more three dimensional that Zeck. He just seems more rounded and more human. This to me makes him more believable and more frightening.

Zeck was good but not in the same league as Chapin.

Jul 1, 2007, 3:52 pm

#2 - Is this because we never really knew who Zeck was? Where he came from and what made him that way? I guess that's what three dimensional means, huh. :)

Do you think Stout was trying for unknown menace with Zeck and it just didn't have the impact of a known menace like Chapin? I think Zeck is a powerful villain, but you have to reason it through and convince yourself of it. Somehow he is more predictable than Chapin, even though he is unknown.

Jul 2, 2007, 2:13 am

#3 You have hit the nail on the head. With Zeck you cannot see the motive for his action other than out of thuggery. He is powerful and resourceful hence why Wolfe scarpered. Unknown menace has to be done very well in books to work and I don't think Stout managed it. However, with Chapin I don't think any other author could have written him better.

Also when you finally meet Zeck he is somewhat disappointing or at least I was disappointed with him but that was not the case with Chapin.

Sorry for the rant.

Jul 2, 2007, 12:17 pm

#4 - No rant at all, that's why I'm enjoying reading these with others so much. It helps me think through them in a new way. Thanks!

Chapter 3

I looked up Capablanca on Wikipedia, as I had never heard of him (I'm sure my husband has, he's a chess fiend). Pretty interesting reading and not a bad looking fellow. It mystifies me how people can get so much out of a few carved pieces of wood/ivory, etc on a checkered board.

Chapter 4

Do you think Wolfe was harder on Del Bascom than need be? Was he unfair? Mercenary? Un-businesslike? I'm not familiar enough with business ethics to know, but it seemed a bit cold hearted to me, realizing that this was the Depression era still. Or perhaps near the end of it.

Jul 4, 2007, 12:39 pm

I'm going to be gone for a week, but don't hesitate to post, anyone who is reading this. :)

Jul 22, 2007, 3:57 pm

Hrmph! This is not fun posting by myself, but I'm compulsive about finishing things, so I'm going to continue. Maybe someone will enjoy it someday.

Chapter 5

It occurred to me that it would be great fun to have paper dolls of all Archie's outfits. I have a very small paper doll collection.

Chapter 7

"All genius is distorted. Including my own. But so for that matter is all life; a mad and futile ferment of substances meant originally to occupy space without disturbing it. But alas, here we are in the thick of the disturbance, and the only way that has occurred to us to make it tolerable is to join in and raise all the hell our ingenuity may suggest."

I find this very close to the doctrine of original sin.

"I have read all of Paul Chapin's novels, and so naturally supposed myself to be in possession of a fairly complete understanding of his character, his temperament, his processes of thought and his modes of action."

Is this possible? Does Stout believe it is possible? I am inclined to try to read through the lines of an author's work to find out who the author is, but often find myself completely wrong. That may be my own drawback and not the theory's drawback. What do you think? Is it possible to completely know an author's character, temperament, etc. through their novels?

Jul 23, 2007, 10:57 am

I think it is possible to have the illusion that you know a person well through reading their novels, but unlikely that you actually can. I think many novelists are adept a presenting a picture of themselves through their writing that they wish others to see, but which obscures much of their true nature, though I suppose it can vary from writer to writer how well their fiction writing reflects their true views, true temperment, true self.

Jul 23, 2007, 12:33 pm

quartzite - I agree completely. All of us are somewhat competent at putting on a mask to appear to others in a way we wish to. I would think an author would be more adept at this than most.

Chapter 9 "I once knew a woman in Hungary whose husband had frequent headaches....The man...was myself." Wolfe speaking.

Is he blathering for Archie's sake? Is this an insight into his past and his distrust of women? The woman in the above quote tried to poison the man. Is this just so much malarkey?

Chapter 15 Are we supposed to get anything from the quotes in Chapin's book? I get nothing. Not even any sense.

Chapter 22 It occurs to me, after finishing this, that though Chapin could have been a menacing opponent, Wolfe was never wary of him. Only Archie and his classmates were. Chapin's menace is all smoke and mirrors. Zeck never hesitated to kill, Chapin only spoke and wrote of it.

Has anyone collected the Nero Wolfe movies or comic strips?

From the promotion picture of The League of Frightened Men, I can tell I would not care for the actor chosen for Archie.

Ago 10, 2007, 3:58 pm

I just my copy of LOFM yesterday. I started it last night and have gotten through a several chapters. Maybe I'll be able to make some responses to MrsLee's comments. Or maybe she's said it all!

Ago 11, 2007, 11:50 am

"Or maybe she's said it all!"

Oh please, I hope not! :) Looking forward to your take on it.

Ago 11, 2007, 3:46 pm

Is he blathering for Archie's sake? Is this an insight into his past and his distrust of women? The woman in the above quote tried to poison the man. Is this just so much malarkey?

I got into Nero Wolfe because my boyfriend loves him, and while now I read the books myself, at first he read them to me aloud. When he got to that line the first time we read The League of Frightened Men, I practically screamed. "What did you just say?!?!?" I couldn't believe Wolfe had been married. I don't think it dawned on me that Wolfe was lying, I assumed it was some sort of explanation for his feelings about women. A very unsatisfying (in a tantalizing sort of way) little tidbit of information, I thought.

I still haven't read nearly all the Wolfe books, and one of my pending projects is to read them all in order, re-reading as necessary. I feel like this will help my understanding of that kind of fact - sometimes I'm not sure whether it's just an earlier volume and Archie isn't quite himself yet, or whether more backstory is revealed in some earlier book, that kind of thing.

Ago 12, 2007, 3:45 am

Read with us nperrin! We've only read the first two, and seem to go in a leisurely pace, actually, the pace is your own. I do plan to read them in order and start a thread for each book so we can talk about it, but I have lots of books I'm trying to read, so I'm not in a hurry. I also don't mind if someone else wants to move on and start a thread before me. The more the merrier. :)

Ago 12, 2007, 3:09 pm

Well, as sad and wrong as it is, I have actually not read Fer-de-Lance yet, so I've got to do that one first, but I will definitely catch up with you in a couple weeks. I picked it up at the bookstore not long ago but other things have intervened, as they tend to do.

Ago 12, 2007, 6:08 pm

Finished LOFM this morning. To me, this one did not read like the other Wolfes. I think it has already been mentioned that Archie hasn't had the rough edges knocked off in this novel. Was he that same way in Fer de Lance. If so, I don't remember it. I reread it about a year ago.

Chapin vs Zeck? I found them both a little lacking in the villain department. After all the build up about Chapin, he was a let down. His wife was more interesting.

Wolfe is able to 'analyze' Chapin from reading his books. It would have been more interesting if there had been some details of the books and Wolfe's thoughts about them. Again, disappointing.

Just my opinion. Anyone else?

Ago 13, 2007, 1:52 am

#15 - I thought Archie was pretty rough in Fer de Lance also. Other than that, I pretty much agree with you, though I saw Dora (?) Chapin as more pathetic than evil. I really do wish there had been details given from the books and Wolfe about Chapin's character.

Ago 27, 2007, 6:26 am

I agree. Dora was just so in love with Paul despite the fact that she knew what he was capable of. I think that Wolfe found her repulsive because she was so pathetic.

Set 14, 2007, 7:59 am

I've posted my favourite quotes from the novel here:

I think Chapin is the most memorable villain in the corpus, but Dora is disturbed enough to support him.

I like this book for Archie's incredible resistance to Dora's drugged coffee - I don't know if it demonstrates his physical strength, his devotion to Wolfe, or both, but I love the description of Archie coming to, somehow navigating the roads in Wolfe's car, and then holding it together long enough to see for himself that Wolfe is all right (Wolfe doesn't seem to show the same concern). The whole chapter is wonderfully subtle and effective.

And Zeck wasn't even alert enough to recognise Wolfe, so no fear or respect here.

Set 14, 2007, 12:49 pm

>18 AdonisGuilfoyle:

Nicely done. I like the pages of Stout/Wolfe quotes. Next on my read list is If Death Ever Slept, so I browsed some quotes. And there you were - Adonis Guilfoyle!

Set 15, 2007, 12:29 pm

So, etrainer, are you going to start a discussion thread on If Death Ever Slept? I am in the middle of two other obligated reads right now, but if you start one I would probably read that next.

Set 15, 2007, 12:52 pm

Sure, I'll start one. I have to finish the last story in Triple Jeopardy, then I'll begin If Death Ever Slept.

Set 16, 2007, 7:07 am

If Death Ever Slept is one of my favourite stories in the corpus, so I shall be checking back to join in the discussion! I love how the whole case comes about - typical Wolfe and Archie.

Set 16, 2007, 7:32 pm

I got three chapters read this morning before the daily routine started. I'll try to start the thread later this evening. Unless someone else wants to start . . .

Set 16, 2007, 10:47 pm

Yikes! Guess I better go get it off the shelf. I just finished my Dorothy Sayers book, so it's a good time for me.

Editado: Dez 28, 2020, 4:56 pm

Ah! here is the dedicated thread for League of Frightened Men...

Unfortunately all those Geocities informational links here and the Fer-de-Lance thread are now dead.

Dez 28, 2020, 6:10 pm

Is Del Bascom the same guy as Del Pritchard?

Dez 29, 2020, 9:23 pm

>26 Crypto-Willobie: Del Bascom runs his own private investigators agency. When Wolfe needs more operatives than his main crew, he sometimes hires from Del.

I don't remember Del Pritchard?

Dez 29, 2020, 10:21 pm

>27 MrsLee:

In one of the 1930s books -- I forget already, Rubber Band I think? -- Stout makes reference to someone called Del Pritchard in a context where we would otherwise expect Del Bascom. I think he went back to Bascom in later books. I suspect this is one of those inconsistencies that crops up, like Cramer's first name not matching his initials (same for Rowcliff I think) and lawyer Parker's first name.

Dez 30, 2020, 11:32 am

Isn't there a Sherlock Holmes story which refers to some sort of league? There is The Red Headed League, I know, but can't remember if the plot is what I'm thinking of. The one I'm thinking of had something to do with a cowboy in America either afraid of retribution or seeking it? Anyway, for some reason my brain is thinking that it was a similar idea to this story.

Dez 30, 2020, 1:29 pm

>29 MrsLee:

No, beyond the "league" in the title there's no similarity with the Doyle redheads story. The revenge plot involving several people occurs in more than one Holmes story but it's the opposite of what is happening here, where the "league" is supposed to atone for a collective wrong.

Coincidentally I was just reading this when the thread popped up. It may be the last Nero Wolfe I had not read (I think there may be one other). Sad to say I really disliked it. Not only was the misogyny laid on more thickly than usually, there was the n-word flapping in several instances for no good reason, and the abuse piled on the disabled character beggared belief. I mean all those dozens of "cripple" and "lop" and the disgust that accompanied them. Chapin was supposed to be morally reprehensible, to evoke revulsion because he was twisted and "evil", but all the harping on his leg made it seem as if it was really about the leg. Finally, as if going for some kind of discrimination full house, the villain is gay and execrated as such as soon as he appears.

And the worst is that the flaws of the story-telling made the above harder to ignore. Actually, they accentuated it. For one thing, it went on and on, which also increased the frequency of all those contemptuous "cripples" and whatnot. And Chapin's unbelievable wife, being the red herring was thrust into more limelight and thus subject to even more sexist idiocy than would normally come her way.

All in all, I'd say this is an uncharacteristically clumsy Stout, third-rate at best. As an earlier work, though, it's interesting as a comparison point with the later books. I think Stout showed his intelligence fully in ditching the psychologising that seriously marred this book.

Jan 1, 2021, 6:44 pm

I finished this at 2:30 a.m. today. It has never been one of my favorites. Too much psychology and not enough evidence, but then that was the point, wasn't it? Chapin didn't do any of the crimes, he only psyched people out about it. The final, actual murder felt a bit like a rabbit pulled out of a hat to me.

>30 LolaWalser: As to all the instances of "cripple" being used, and there are many, it seemed to me that it was mostly Archie who used that term. Wolfe never did that I noticed. I got the feeling that Archie did so because Chapin the man made him so uncomfortable. It was his way of assuring himself that he could prevail? Only my interpretation, and I can certainly see why it is off-putting.

As for the issues with women, I didn't really see much other than Chapin's wife. I don't think Stout had a firm idea in his head of her character. If he did, I couldn't grasp it.

Jan 2, 2021, 11:40 am

>31 MrsLee:

Yes, I don't think Wolfe uses "cripple", or at least don't remember it, and it is mostly Archie (being the narrator), but also a few other characters. It's just that it's used so damn often--once or twice would have been enough to tell us how Archie feels about the guy.

My memory's already fading regarding who said what but there were quite a few general misogynistic remarks about women, both as something Archie says about Wolfe's attitude and as he expresses as his own. I think the last such instance was that infernal quotation of Nietzsche's the dudebros love so much, about taking a whip when going to a woman--if memory serves, Wolfe says it. It diminished Wolfe's character for me--not that he's not canonically established as a misogynist, but at least later on he tends to be so more or less quietly.

Speaking of, there is only one other such jarring moment from a later book I recall (but not which title)... Somewhere Archie relates how he noticed Wolfe moving his chair away from his desk when the female visitors were especially comely, so as to be able to ogle their legs. Now, maybe this is just Archie trying to establish his woman-hating boss' heterosexual credentials (does Archie ever get antsy wondering how their tight four-male-sworn-bachelor household might appear to outsiders? That would explain so much... :)), or Archie reassuring himself about Wolfe... but maybe it's meant to be taken seriously. And if Wolfe does that, ick.

I will say, though, even as the ogler to me he's preferable to the type, all too common in crime and noir fiction, who vocally hates women but has sex with them.

Chapin's wife is all over the place as a character. She hates him, but she helps him, but she's insane. Except if she's insane, why has the victim's wife kept her on for years as her--weekly--help? It's another very weak spot in the tale--taken seriously, one can't help thinking the other woman must be just as nuts.

Eh, well, at least these bumps in the road come up early in the series.