An invaluable sample of the early work of one of America’s finest mystery writers
Decades before detective Nero Wolfe and his sidekick, Archie Goodwin, first struck fear into the hearts of Manhattan’s criminals, Rex Stout wrote fiction for All-Stories Magazine. By the time the Wolfe series brought him fame, Stout had put his early work behind him, and made no effort to preserve it. At the time of his death, these early mysteries and suspense stories were thought to be lost forever, but deep in the Library of Congress lay copies of the original magazine. Published for the first time in 1997, these early gems show a writer deploying all the humor, style, and clever plotting that would make Nero Wolfe a star.
Included here are “Secrets,” Stout’s first mystery, “Target Practice,” a story of World War I, and “Justice Ends at Home,” whose main characters will look very familiar to fans of Nero and Archie.
These stories give insight into Mr. Stout's genius, and the method of story-telling in these efforts can be seen refined and shaped into the cohesive universe of the later Nero Wolfe books. Each story presents a character with a quandary, and characters approach their quandaries with emotional depth. Mr. Stout's political interest in World Federalism, which occasionally surfaces in his mysteries, is starkly outlined in the first of these stories.
Although a proto Wolfe/Archie relationship can be found, one can be very grateful that Mr. Stout continued to refine from this first effort. I can hardly imagine an Archie who says to Wolfe, "You're a terrible lawyer, Sir.", although one can see the beginning of the impudence necessary to Archie's character.
These stories, on their own merits, are interesting, engaging, and often quite funny. To someone who enjoys the larger canon of Rex Stout's work, this is a valuable tour to the way he thinks. To everyone else, these stories are simply quite good.
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