Rex Stout Analysis


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Next to Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin may be the most memorable detective team in the history of the murder mystery genre. For more than forty years Stout was able to sustain his series of Nero Wolfe novels and short stories with amazing verve and consistency. Goodwin is the hard-boiled detective, ferreting out facts and collecting information from unusual sources. He brings the world to the contemplative, isolated Wolfe, who rarely leaves his home on business. He is the great mind secluded in his large, three-story brownstone on West Thirty-fifth Street in New York City. Without Goodwin, Wolfe would have to deal with the world much more directly; his mind would be cluttered with minutiae. With Goodwin as his detail man, Wolfe manages to hew his cases into a pleasing, aesthetic shape. When he solves a crime, he has simultaneously unraveled a mystery and tied up many loose ends that have bothered Goodwin and the other characters. As Wolfe suggests in several of the novels, he is an artist. He lives quietly and in virtual solitude, for that is his way of imposing his vision on the world. On those rare occasions when he is forced to leave his house, he as much as admits that sometimes the order he would like to bring to things is threatened by a chaotic and corrupt society he only momentarily manages to subdue.


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Anderson, David R. Rex Stout. New York: Frederick Ungar, 1984. Critical biography of the author and discussion of the Nero Wolfe series.

Baring-Gould, William S. Nero Wolfe of West Thirty-Fifth Street. New York: Viking Press, 1969. The result of Baring-Gould’s painstaking research of Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe series provides, in essence, a biography of Stout’s fictional characters.

Barzun, Jacques. “Rex Stout.” In A Jacques Barzun Reader: Selections from His Works, edited and with an introduction by Michael Murray. New York: HarperCollins, 2002. Essay on Stout by a noted philosopher and social theorist.

Bester, Alfred. “Rex Stout.” In Redemolished. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2004. Essay on Stout and his famous detective by Bester, a skilled essayist in addition to being a successful science-fiction writer.

Darby, Ken. The Brownstone House of Nero Wolfe, as Told by Archie Goodwin. Boston: Little, Brown, 1983. Similar to but more detailed than Baring-Gould’s effort, this book contains a detailed study of the world of Nero Wolfe, including a blueprint of his brownstone and case files on all of the mysteries he solved.

McAleer, John J. Rex Stout: A Biography. 1977. Reprint. Boston: Little, Brown, 1994. McAleer’s authorized biography of Rex Stout is considered the definitive and inclusive information source regarding Stout’s life.

Murphy, Bruce. The Encyclopedia of Murder and Mystery. New York: Saint Martin’s Minotaur, 1999. Murphy’s short biographical section on Stout provides a crisply written and succinct look at the most important facts of the author’s life.

“Stout, Rex.” In Mystery and Suspense Writers: The Literature of Crime, Detection, and Espionage, edited by Robin W. Winks and Maureen Corrigan. New York: Scribner’s Sons, 1998.

Townsend, Guy M., John J. McAleer, and Boden Clarke, eds. The Works of Rex Stout: An Annotated Bibliography and Guide. 2d ed. San Bernardino, Calif.: Borgo Press, 1995. Useful bibliography of Stout’s novels that provides descriptions and analysis of each one.

Van Dover, J. Kenneth. At Wolfe’s Door: The Nero Wolfe Novels of Rex Stout. San Bernardino, Calif.: Borgo Press, 1991. A book-length study of the Nero Wolfe series, noting the development of the characters over successive novels and the importance of both novels and characters to the detective genre.