Sunday, January 17, 2016

Marvin Kaye (ed.), Nero Wolfe: The Archie Goodwin Files

Marvin Kaye (ed.), Nero Wolfe:  The Archie Goodwin Files
Wildside Press, 2005
ISBN:  1-55742-484-5

This is the second volume of material compiled by Marvin Kaye about the career of Nero Wolfe (the first was The Nero Wolfe Files).  Overall, the material here is stronger and of greater interest than in the prior volume.  What is distinctive about this volume is the inclusion of 4 pastiches, all of which have previously appeared in The Gazette, the journal of The Wolfe Pack:

Maggie Jacobs, “A Healthy Way to Die”
Henry W. Enberg, “The Daughter Hunt”
Charles E. Burns, “Firecrackers”
Greg Hatcher, “Memo for Murder”

Of these, Burns' telling of the first contact between Wolfe and Goodwin is by far the best.  He does an excellent job with Archie’s narrative voice, and both the situation that leads to their meeting and the first case on which Archie works are well-conceived and well-executed.

The first half of the volume consists of reprints of 22 essays that have also preciously appeared in
The Gazette.  These almost all attempt to bring some sense of order to the overall narrative of the Wolfe saga, and almost all are interesting (although I had a tendency to quibble with some of the analysis and conclusions).  Marvin Kaye’s “From Zeck to Moriarty to Wild” is (in my opinion) the best of these essays, taking us beck from Stout’s attempt at a criminal mastermind (Arnold Zeck), through Conan Doyle’s creation of Professor Moriarty, to the real-life leader of a criminal conspiracy, Jonathan Wild (in the late 17th century).  Marina Stajic’s contribution, which takes us into the real Montenegro, is also outstanding.  And all of these essays are worth reading.

As with
The Nero Wolfe Files, this material will largely be of interest to those of us whose interest in the Wolfe saga is intense.  If I have one issue with much of the discussion and analysis of the stories, it’s the reluctance people have to deal with Stout’s quite conscious decision to freeze Wolfe and Goodwin in time (at, roughly, early-to-mid 30s for Goodwin and mid-to-late 50s for Wolfe).  This decision makes it difficult to deal with the other fact about the stories:  They are all set in the present (i.e., the time at which Stout wrote them) and they cover the period from 1934 to 1974, making internal consistency somewhat difficult.  If you are a major Rex Stout/Nero Wolfe/Archie Goodwin fan, however, this is likely to be essential reading.


  1. I'm not a Stout fanatic, but I'm a big fan. Because Stout got away with it, I made the same conscious decision to freeze Dan Rhodes' indeterminate age, along with that of all the other characters in that series.

  2. I mostly agree with that decision, which is of course, entirely the province of the author. It does mean that if someone wants to write something that considers the entire series, she or he has to realize that some things aren't going to change, and that some things will look strange over a span of 30 or 40 years.

    1. Specifically, one cannot get hung up on when a character was born, or went to college or...

      I always wondered if Robert Parker regretted having written in one of the early books that Spenser was a Korean War vet. Or if Robert Crais sort of worries about both Elvis and Joe being Veit Nam war vets. (I just ignore that as a reader.)