"Dated" Nero Wolfe cases
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What a coincidence-- I just finished reading Too Many Cooks about 30 minutes ago and have been pondering it in light of the time I spent in the South.
My husband and I moved to Savannah Georgia in the '70s and lived there for 24 years, raising our family there and we learned to love the South. When we first arrived the biggest problem we had was so many people we met, worked with, went to church with, and socialized with offended us with their blatant racism. Gradually over the years this seemed to diminish, or at least the overt signs of it did. I think one of the main reasons this began to happen so quickly while we were there might have been because so many people from the North and other areas (we came from California) started moving into the South and it began to become socially unacceptable to make racial slurs publicly. Before we left we started seeing signs that this was transferring into more and more integration of activities such as civic clubs and churches. It is a gradual process but I see signs of hope.
Now to the book--I really enjoyed Too Many Cooks but both the attitude and language of the sheriff, Archie's language sometimes and the constant use of the word nigger made me uncomfortable even though I kept reminding myself that this was an accurate portrayal of the time the story was written--and time and place it was set. What really made the book become a real pleasure for me was when Wolfe was questioning the black staff of the spa--remembering 14 blacks names and treating them with respect, human to human. In his own way, Rex Stout may have planted a seed in the minds of some of his readers that helped this process along.
MrsLee--thanks for the comments you sent me. I will find time this weekend to reply.
When I get my new blog ready for public consumption I'll give you the link and you can see my reviews of the first four. I haven't done this one yet. Actually I may have at least a version of the reviews on LT--except for the first one because that one I had to get from the library.
Fer-de-Lance by Rex Stout
This is the first Nero Wolfe novel Stout wrote and, although enjoyable, it lacks many of the signature touches of the later ones. The most obvious is that there is no “charade” staged at the dénouement. The story revolves around the murder of a prominent College president by means of a devious device engineered into a golf club driver-on impact with the ball a needle smeared with poison is ejected into the golfer’s stomach. It doesn’t take long for the reader to decide the wrong person was killed and as soon as the intended victim is identified the culprit is obvious. The problem is knowing and proving are two separate events and the person who may have the proof, although she likes Wolfe and Archie (especially Archie) refuses to even admit she has the evidence-or what it may be. The rest of the story involves a charade that Wolfe devises but Archie has to carry out because it has to be done outdoors with the aid of Wolfe’s other operatives and lots of activity. As to these other operatives, Orrie and Saul do not even resemble the Orrie and Saul of later novels although Fred is pretty much himself-but I can’t remember if we ever again hearing about his Italian wife in later novels. There is a newspaper crony of Archie’s, but his name is Harry Foster; the Lon in the book doesn’t have the last name of Cohen and he’s a former client who feels a lifelong debt to Wolfe for saving his young son in a kidnapping case several years ago. Purley Stebbins works for the DA’s office and there is no Inspector Cramer. The schedule for the orchids is the same in this novel and Nero, Fritz and Theodore are at least recognizable. Archie is definitely Archie; any changes that may seem to occur to him in later stories can be attributed to growth, maturity, and character development. Perhaps Archie was Rex’s alter ego.