One chance for a new fan

DiscussãoThe Black Orchid (A Nero Wolfe Group)

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One chance for a new fan

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1MrsLee
Mar 24, 2008, 1:35 pm

I am assigning my son a Nero Wolfe book to read this coming month. I explained in another thread that my son is a very reluctant reader, though will read if he likes something. I've been trying to get him to try Stout, but he never picks up a book voluntarily to read. I think the humor in these books will appeal to my son.

So, I have one chance to get him hooked. Any suggestions? Fer de Lance is the first, but not my favorite by far.

2etrainer
Mar 24, 2008, 2:37 pm

Wow, I wish I weren't so old that I can't adequately remember the titles and plots. Whatever he reads, I'm interested in the results!

3christiguc
Mar 24, 2008, 3:47 pm

Prisoner's Base was the one I started with, and it got me hooked! I think my favorite (so far) is The Golden Spiders, but I don't remember enough to know if that would be good for a first-time reader.

4quartzite
Mar 24, 2008, 5:55 pm

You might want to look at one of the "triples" that consists of three novellas to give him a quick way to get through a story such as Three at Wolfe's Door. Too Many Women which is really a book for Archie to shine might also be a choice since Archie is always fun. Finally, I also think Some Buried Caesar might be good choice.

5Eurydice
Mar 24, 2008, 6:02 pm

I like the ones with Wolfe's interesting plots in them: as pulled on the FBI in The Doorbell Rang. That and Death of a Doxy were my first. More thoughts, later.

6nperrin
Mar 24, 2008, 6:07 pm

Death of a Doxy was my first, I would recommend that I think. The idea of a trio is good too. And quartzite is right about Too Many Women--Archie is very cute in that one, it could be a good start. I don't think I'd recommend Fer de Lance to start with though.

7Eurydice
Mar 24, 2008, 6:10 pm

Nor would I. For many reasons. Pick one mid-forties to mid-sixties, when the series is at its height. - I like those books best.

8MrsLee
Mar 24, 2008, 8:34 pm

Was Too Many Women the one in the sex den? I know he's old enough, but he can discover that one on his own if he loves them, I don't think his mom should assign it to him. ;) It is a fine story though.

Please keep suggestions coming, I like them so far, and they are somewhat what I had in mind, with the above exception.

9ostrom
Mar 24, 2008, 9:13 pm

I'd go with either The Golden Spiders or Some Buried Caesar, the first because there's a younger character, the second because it's so amusing and because (if memory serves) Wolfe has to get out of the house. I've taught The Golden Spiders to college-aged students (most were 19 or 20); however, much of the group had been reading mysteries for a while. Anyway, they seemed to like the book, in spite of its being set in a U.S.A long past.

10cogitno
Mar 25, 2008, 6:35 am

My goodness, I go fishing for a couple of weeks and the Black Orchard group blooms. It must be spring in the Northern Hemisphere.

My immediate reaction was to endorse Some Buried Caesar. It is a straight forward and clever crime story with a wonderful opening comic scene - Wolfe stranded on a rock in the middle of a meadow menaced by a bull . It introduces most of Wolfe's eccentricities; and is redolent of a simpler time, which I miss. It lacks however, a central moral or ethical conundrum: either of which would serve a lesson well. Still, it is a delicious story.

Both the The Doorbell Rang and The Golden Spiders have more sophisticated stories. The former is a classic “State versus the Individual” tale, while the latter touches on illegal immigration. I would also add The Silent Speaker, with one of my favourite heroine's, Phoebe Gunther. I am particularly fond of this story as it neatly encompasses the larger theme of the clash between Industry and Government, and the smaller one of fanaticism to an ideal: well it was smaller when I first read it.

It seems that I've forgotten what little I knew of posting .... I can't get rid of the word “it”. And it's driving me nuts.

11etrainer
Mar 25, 2008, 2:26 pm

Wow, a great discussion - all good suggestions and nicely supported. I couldn't do any better.

MrsLee, thinking of the 'sex den', I thought the setting in the A&E series was pretty neat - not as I had imagined it, however.

12Eurydice
Mar 25, 2008, 6:11 pm

Cogitno, well thought, and well written. I do think the latter three - The Doorbell Rang, The Golden Spiders, The Silent Speaker - are all absolutely classic Stout, anyone one of which typifies the best of the series.

For some reason, I've never been as fond of Some Buried Caesar, despite the period, the entrance of Lily Rowan, or the humor. Also, the late thirties may seem harder to relate to than the forties, early fifties (?), and mid-sixties.

13Eurydice
Mar 25, 2008, 6:12 pm

Cogitno: Welcome back, by the way! Hope the fishing was good...

14MrsLee
Mar 26, 2008, 12:25 am

cognito - Did you catch any trout? Or was it some other type of fish. More importantly, how did you cook them? Or did you release them? Anyway, hope it was a great time.

Now I'm going to spend the night trying to think of a central moral or ethical conundrum from Some Buried Caesar... How to make chicken and dumplings? What are your duties to a boss in peril? It's pretty ethical to have truth in advertising (not that it happens much).

I'm glad I asked this question here. You all have great insight and thoughts on the matter. SBC is one of my favorites, but at this point, due to comments here, I'm leaning towards Golden Spiders. IIRC, it's a bit of cloak and dagger? I'm thinking body count may have an appeal, also my son is a very sympathetic soul, he would be indignant at the boy being killed (or is it the old woman?), I always get the two very similar stories confused. I think personally, I prefer the short story which is very like GS. Why did he write two stories like that?

15Rullakartiina
Mar 26, 2008, 1:53 am

MrsLee, do you mean the landlady with the artistic tenants? I really liked that character, too. She could hold her own with Wolfe.

I'm now re-reading Some Buried Caesar thanks to this thread. I think it might have been the first Rex Stout I ever read. Worked out fine for me...

16cogitno
Editado: Mar 26, 2008, 10:38 am

Young Pete Drossos was the victim in the The Golden Spider. I believe that you are thinking of Hattie Annis, landlady of an Actors rooming house. There are two versions of this story: the 1962 “Counterfeit for Murder” published in Homicide Trinity, and the earlier rejected version known as “Assault on a Brownstone”, published posthumously in Death Times Three in 1985. I should stress that it was rejected by Rex Stout, not by the publishers. The final “Counterfeit for Murder” version was originally serialised (1961) in the “The Saturday Evening Post” over three issues.

Thank you, Eurydice. It is a pleasure to be back, especially to this group. I often feel that much of my time spent on the internet is wasted; but never the time spent with LT, which is a comfortable place in my life. The fishing was excellent. Two weeks in PNG, a few days of which was spent on a rocking boat in the Bismarck Sea. My discomfiture a source of gentle amusement for the hosts. There attitude somewhat reminiscent of mine towards Nero Wolfe outside his Brownstone comfort zone. A rational conclusion would be that you are far more compassionate than I. But I can't help it, I enjoy seeing “our favourite fatty” squirm.

No trout Mrs Lee. I am strictly a one eating fish per day person, provided I'm that lucky. Otherwise it is catch and release. I should point out that my definition of “roughing it” is the absence of 24 hour (or tardy) room service. So I did little (actually no) direct cooking. It was a vacation! I did however supervise one meal by issuing imperious instructions on the preparation of the Nero Wolfe trout deal, substituting banana leaves for foil, a lesser quantity of palm sugar for brown sugar and mangrove jack (it may have been jungle perch, I can't recall) for trout. The bacon was real. It was moderately successful. Meals on the open sea consisted of dry toast for breakfast, lightly buttered for lunch and crackers and cheese for dinner. These I am proud to report, I prepared all by myself.

Edited to add: PNG = Papua New Guinea

17MrsLee
Editado: Mar 26, 2008, 3:08 pm

Yes, it was Hattie Annis. I think she may be my favorite one time character. Very interesting about the stories cogitno. Thanks.

18ostrom
Mar 26, 2008, 10:00 pm

Cogitno, you mustn't tell us where you fished, for that would violate fisherpersons' rules. But I hope it was fly-fishing. And I can recommend a great trip, if you are a fly-fisherman--floating the Sacramento River in Redding. I used a guide from The Fly Shop, but this is not a commercial. Catch-and-release, great trip, scenery, birds, etc.

19cogitno
Mar 27, 2008, 2:00 am

My excuse is that I am only an occasional fisherman, and not familiar with the common practise. Besides, PNG is so far from anywhere, and so difficult to get to, my big mouth is unlikely to add to the fishing population. I did take my (inherited) fly rod but was advised it was inappropriate: it is one generation removed from a split cane rod. If I win the lottery, the Sacramento River should beware. Without the lottery however, an 8,000 mile flight is a little extravagant for my resources.

20Eurydice
Mar 27, 2008, 3:11 am

Cogitno, it sounds beautiful, despite discomfiture. And, perhaps, discomfort. :) Wolfe's is hard not to enjoy, at times: so perhaps it is something in the setting. I don't know. Perhaps the book deserves a re-read. But I must say, you deserve a laurel (at least) for improvising a locally-appropriate version of a meal a la Wolfe-on-his-travels. THAT, coupled with discomfiture, is in the perfect spirit of the books. So: consider yourself duly lauded! :) (Though I hope the trip was reward, in itself.)

And I agree: however much time I may waste on LT, LT time is rarely a waste. It's another home, and a rich community. After a long hiatus, I'm grateful to rejoin it.

21MrsLee
Mar 27, 2008, 2:44 pm

I can testify to the Sacramento river, since I live right by it. Even better for fly-fishing are some of the streams in hidden canyons around here. Hard to get to though, unless you enjoy a hike.

So I gave my son the run-down of all opinions expressed here and gave him a choice between Some Buried Caeser and Golden Spiders. He chose the GS because he remembered the episode from A&E and liked it. My husband said it's not fair that he gets to read something fun in school. :)

Does everyone here know that our ostrom is an LT author? Way to go!

22Eurydice
Mar 27, 2008, 3:22 pm

I did! And sincerely am wishing the press of books (as, reading for a trip next month) were not keeping me from a rare excursion into modern poetry. - The temptation, out of numerous books, for me.

(For now, I'm happily reading, and reading about, some precursors, in The Lives of the Poets and The Oxford Book of English Verse. I can't tell you how glad I am that I picked the former off my boyfriend's shelves - bought the latter to go with it - was given his copy, as he replaced it - and, am reading them both. It's too easy for me to skip over poetry, and an unspeakable pity to do it.)

23Moovyz
Mar 27, 2008, 5:56 pm

Back to the subject at hand... for a first time read, especially by a young reader, I would agree with "Some Buried Caesar". The only downfall to that is that it goes against one of the main points of Nero Wolfe and begins with him outside of the Brownstone. We who love the series understand why he leaves his home in this one but for the purpose of really getting into the entire Corpus, I would start with a different one, if you feel that your son will continue the series.

I might suggest "The Rubber Band". It's early enough in the series to pick up on some of the differences that appear later but still keeping Archie and Wolfe in the original era. I love the tension in the final scene and all the principals are there... Cramer, the DA, etc. It's an easy read, full of humor and Wolfe is some what endearing as Clara Fox actually states her intention of marrying Wolfe. I love the English characters and we get to hear from all of Wolfe's operatives. The mystery isn't a giveaway but it is easy to solve prior to the final scenes.

It's one of my early favorites.

24ostrom
Mar 27, 2008, 8:09 pm

Ah, The Rubber Band--a nice choice.

25cogitno
Mar 28, 2008, 3:10 am

Here! Here! Eurydice. But it is so damnably difficult to convince even the keenest of readers to the merits of reading poetry. My next attempt will be via an Audible.com subscription, I think. I am not a keen audio book person: poetry may be the exception.

I am convinced that poetry provides a critical edge to all reading. It appears to hone that part of the mind concerned with interpreting an authors intentions, adding depth to the experience. Everyone who reads should indulge in some poetry for this reason alone!

Now dismounted, and the rocking horse stabled.

26ostrom
Mar 28, 2008, 11:22 am

Apparently we're taking the rocking horse in shifts, so I'll will second cogitno's support of reading poetry but also simply encourage readers to find the kind of poetry that invites them in, just as we seek the kind of detective-writing that speaks to our particular predilections. If in doubt, start with the poets who write more clearly sparely: Frost, Williams, Larkin, Spender, (Mary) Oliver, Jeffers, (Langston) Hughes, et alia. Reading poetry shouldn't be a chore. Hobby-horse now dismounted; regards to Tristam's Uncle Toby.

27Eurydice
Editado: Mar 30, 2008, 3:38 am

And love from Trim. :)

Or, 'kept lovingly in trim by Trim'?

Thank you both for what will only encourage me (And others?) in this reading. It's taking the time to slow down, and, as you say, finding something that speaks to us, particularly, that are difficult. But I really cannot, having seriously begun, overstate my gratitude.

28ostrom
Mar 31, 2008, 7:34 pm

A pleasure to encourage (and perhaps demystify a bit) the reading of poetry. There are some fine high school teachers out there, but I do think that many people have a bad experience with poetry in high school and then never try it again. Or perhaps in college. And some poets are to blame; they're just intentionally too difficult.