Rex Stout Biography


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

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...

(The entire section is 401 words.)


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Rex Todhunter Stout, perhaps the most prolific of American mystery authors, was born in Noblesville, Indiana, on December 1, 1886. The son of John Wallace Stout and Lucetta Todhunter Stout, he descended from five generations of Quakers and had an impressive legacy of ancestors, including Mary Franklin, Benjamin Franklin’s sister, and Joshua Hoopes, a member of the Pennsylvania Colonial Assembly. His father, known as a disciplined and exacting man, worked as a teacher and educational administrator as well as publisher and traveling salesman, never truly finding a vocation that could provide him a professional home. John Stout’s success was often marginal, causing numerous upheavals and moves during Rex Stout’s boyhood. His mother, one of nine children, completed college along with seven of her siblings, a rare accomplishment before the turn of the twentieth century. Lucetta Todhunter Stout encouraged her children to aspire to exceptional achievement and self-reliance.

In 1887 the Stout family relocated to Wakarusa, Kansas, where Stout would spend his early childhood years. His accomplishments during his early childhood made him known as a phenomenon throughout the state of Kansas, as he began to read at the age of eighteen months, had read the Bible in its entirety by the age of five, and by ten was touring the state of Kansas, giving mathematical demonstrations as a prodigy. The family later relocated to Topeka, Kansas, where Stout attended and graduated from Topeka High School at the age of sixteen and considered and rejected the idea of attending college at the University of Kansas, Lawrence, before enlisting in the United States Navy, where he worked as a yeoman on President Theodore Roosevelt’s yacht.

Shortly thereafter, Stout began writing poetry and then short stories and novels, presented serially in magazines. By the age of twenty-six, he had already received respectable reviews as an author. In 1916 Stout met and married Fay Kennedy, the sister of a high school classmate. Concerned that his work as an author was hampered because of financial need, Stout teamed with his brother in developing a banking system designed for...

(The entire section is 883 words.)