Rex Todhunter Stout was born on December 1, 1886, in Noblesville, Indiana, to John Wallace Stout and Lucetta Todhunter Stout. The next year his family moved to Kansas, where he grew up in Wakarusa and Bellview as the sixth of nine children. He lived on a farm, which he remembered fondly in later years, while his father became superintendent of schools in Shawnee County. John Wallace Stout seems to have been a fair-minded parent as well as a great disciplinarian and fearful authority figure. Lucetta Todhunter Stout was a highly intelligent but rather reserved person who did little to encourage her children. As a result, her son Rex learned to rely on his own resources at a very early age.
John Wallace Stout owned more than one thousand books, all of which his son had read by the age of eleven. Rex Stout was a precocious student, a spelling champion, and an avid reader of poetry with a prodigious memory. His father was involved in politics, which became one of the future novelist’s lifelong interests. The Stout family’s theatricals, composed and performed at home, made Rex Stout a self-assured speaker and debater. It is not hard to see this background reflected in the duels of wit between the characters in his detective novels.
In his youth, Stout was a great traveler, a sailor, a self-made businessman, and a freelance writer before publishing his first Nero Wolfe novel in 1934. He turned to mystery writing after a respectable but...
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