Little Bits of History

Author, Author

Posted in History by patriciahysell on December 1, 2014
Rex Stout

Rex Stout

December 1, 1886: Rex Todhunter Stout is born in Noblesville, Indiana. He was one of nine children born to the Quaker family. Soon after his birth, the family moved to Kansas. His father was a teacher and taught his son to read early. By the time he was four, Rex had read through the entire Bible twice. He was the state spelling bee champion at age 13. After college, he joined the US Navy and after that spent the next four years holding a variety of jobs – about 30 jobs in six different states. He invented a school banking system which helped to track monies saved by schoolchildren. This paid enough in royalties for him to travel extensively in Europe.

Rex began his writing career in the 1910s and wrote for the pulps while also publishing some romance and adventure stories. He also wrote articles for a number of different magazines and he became a full-time writer in 1927. The crash of 1929 wiped out all the money he had earned as a businessman. He wrote his first book in Paris in 1929, How Like a God. He tried a number of different literary forms and pioneered the political thriller when he wrote The President Vanishes in 1934. He also tried his hand at science fiction. He returned to the US.

He then began to write his most famous series of books. Nero Wolfe and his sidekick, Archie Goodwin, first worked together in Fer-de-Lance published by Farrar & Rinehart in October 1934. Stout stayed with the detective fiction genre and after 1938 focused completely on the mystery field. He introduced Dol Bonner, a female private detective in 1937, and she appeared in several Nero Wolfe stories one of the earliest female PIs. Stout went on to publish at least one Nero Wolfe book per year until 1966, with the exception of 1945 when world events took up much of his time. During the next nine years, he published four more Wolfe books as well as a cookbook. He died in Danbury, Connecticut in 1975 at the age of 88.

Nero Wolfe appeared in 33 novels and 39 short stories. He solved most of his cases from his luxurious brownstone located on West 35th Street. While the stories were written for decades and the times changed around the characters, they never aged. Wolfe was 56 years old the entire time. Archie Goodwin narrated the stories. Wolfe was described as obese and weighed a seventh of a ton or between 310 and 390 pounds. He slowly counted out the beers he consumed and rose to the top floor of his house, via an elevator, to tend to his orchids. He was eccentric in many ways. His minions were sent out to gather data and then, Wolfe would solve the puzzle.

I have never regarded myself as this or that. I have been too busy being myself to bother about regarding myself.

There are two kinds of statistics, the kind you look up and the kind you make up.

Doyle stokes in a thousand shrewd touches with no effort at all. Wonderful.

I still can’t decide which is more fun – reading or writing. – all from Rex Stout

Also on this day:  Not a Hot Line – In 1878, a telephone was first installed in the White House.
Beauty, Wit, Charm – In 1919, Lady Astor became the first woman in the British House of Commons.
No President Elect – In 1824, there was no clear candidate for President elected.
Underground – In 1913, the Buenos Aires Metro opened.


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