A few years ago Joel D Canfield (just Google him) introduced me to the A&E production of Nero Wolfe, based off the books, officially title “A Nero Wolfe Mystery.” It starred Timothy Hutton as Archie Goodwin and Maury Chaykin as Nero Wolfe. That may have been my first introduction to them and may bias me some.
I’ve just started on the fourth Nero Wolfe book, having devoured the first three books (written in the 1930s) in the past few weeks – not month(s), weeks! I must say, the portrayals I saw in the A&E series have stuck with me, for it is all to easy, several years later, to picture Timothy Hutton whenever Archie does something of interest. If there is one downfall, it may have been that Maury Chaykin may have been too small for Nero Wolfe’s actual size (possibly one of the times where “fiction” lords it’s moniker over “reality”), but his depiction I saw all those years ago falls well in line with the eccentric genius I get to read of now.
The writing is superb. The sporadic use of a dictionary it not only recommended, but required at times. Never fear though, for each foray into the dictionary always yields a worthwhile reward in word meaning and usage, and it’s requirement is sparse enough that the times it’s appearance is requested it is picked up with joy and song.
Well, maybe that’s going a bit overboard, but it’s still fun to crack open the big book about one to three times per novel just to clarify exactly which way Wolfe is insulting a law enforcement officer, a client, a murderer, or most frequently, the narrator. Though there are quite a few places where one would be thrown by the use of an orchid’s name, it isn’t a requirement to have any real knowledge of the plant or purchase a book on plant biology. It makes part of the books just as eccentric as their namesake.
As complicated as that sounds, the writing itself, the style, tone, and presentation, as presented by a likable narrator, are all friendly to the eye and ear. They present themselves in a simpler manner than Mr. Wolfe would have you believe, and thus make for good reading. Archie (Rex Stout? Oh who cares!) provides descriptions as needed, but never so many that the reader gets bogged down in details. Being a mystery, there are plenty of details always given out at various times, but they are never presented so lengthily that the reader feels they have to slog through “yet another 5-page description of a door…” – a feeling I relegate to authors who, lacking in substance, feel they must use as many unintelligible words as possible to describe the most inane of details in order to render the reader impressed for all the wrong reasons.
I’d rather read a Rex Stout Nero Wolfe book than watch a Japanese anime. That’s saying something. I only fear that I’ll run out of them some day in the future.
But I realize it’s pointless to worry about that until I have fewer than ten books remaining.
Mostly, though, I’m going to credit Mr. Stout with returning a love of reading to me. The benefits have already become pronounced. I’ve stopped watching nearly so much television of any kind, animated or otherwise. For some reason my memory is working again – a silly thing to say, but one I say regardless. Things that are read are easier to recall, connections are easier to make, words are easier to think of and say.
But mostly, it’s about finding a series that’s attention-grabbing, non-televised, entertaining, and mentally stimulating. For now, Mr. Stout has it. If I happen to run out, I have a few other ideas in mind. Until then, I shall enjoy Nero Wolfe’s “Pfui!”