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Getting Cozy With Murder in Mid-20th-Century Manhattan

10 Weeks of Guilty Pleasures, Week 2: Meet Rex Stout Nero Wolfe.

by
Sarah Hoyt

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July 27, 2013 - 7:00 am
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When you absolutely, positively can't have that beach vacation you so desperately need!

When you absolutely, positively can’t have that beach vacation you so desperately need!

Lately it’s been brought to my attention that I manage to be as tightly wound as a spring about to snap and to be very busy between nonfiction writing, fiction writing and daily blogging. Juggling it all is the subject of my series on managing your creative life. Mostly I wish I could create time, but that seems to be beyond my reach. What price a tardis?

But since I had my first serious asthma attack in thirty eight years, it’s been brought home to me that I must find a way to unwind, now and then.

Ideally, a vacation on the beach, drinks with umbrellas and watching hot guys with tans would be an option – but we don’t have the money, we don’t have the time, and my husband said “you want to watch what?”

So I’m doing my relaxation on the installment plan, an hour or so a day, by indulging in one of my “guilty pleasures.” These are things that can’t even remotely be considered work, but which allow me to unwind.

Last week I shared my love of the A&E’s Pride and Prejudice series. Which, I’d like to point out for the record, does not hinge on the scene in which Mr. Darcy comes out of the pond with his wet clothes clinging to him. Why, he doesn’t even have a tan!

This week, I’d like to talk about some guilty pleasure reading.

One of my guilty reads is the Rex Stout Nero Wolfe mysteries. For those of you who know it only through the TV series, go and read the books. They have a depth and a feel the TV episodes lack. In terms of conversion to other media, short stories are the best for rendering as a TV episode. For that matter they also work best for movies. Novels translated to anything but a mini-series lose a lot of their complexity and become curiously flat.

For some reason, when I was growing up, I strongly associated mysteries with horror. It could be the fact that the only mystery series available in Portugal at the time (and mostly featuring translations of English and American books) was called Vampiro and had as its symbol a bat.

I don’t like horror. I can stand some of the subtle psychological or supernatural horror, but I despise what we call in the field “meaty horror” with “paint the room red” scenes. I see no point to them, other than inducing a feeling of nausea and hopelessness.

So, even though dad was an avid mystery reader, for the longest time I ignored those books with the bat on the spine. Until one summer afternoon I was so bored and so desperate for something to read, that I picked up Rex Stout’s Fer de Lance.

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All Comments   (3)
All Comments   (3)
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I agree that short stories work well on TV. I think that explains why The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits and Night Gallery were so good.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
My mother introduced me to Nero in the 50s and I still have a shelf of perhaps 25 of hers now falling apart 13,000 miles from New York here in Perth Western Australia. Time to make a list of the titles and pitching the books which I have read many times - particularly when ill - and see if there are any on Kindle I have missed.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Stout wrote several other mysteries, including some featuring characters appearing in the Wolfe novels (one with Inspector Cramer, one featuring female detective Dol Bonner) which are quite ordinary. The gestalt of Wolfe & Goodwin makes all the difference, just as sodium and chloride are much tastier in combination.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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