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Jump to navigation Jump to search This article is about Rex Stout’s fictional detective. Nero Wolfe is a fictional character, a brilliant, oversized, eccentric armchair detective created in 1934 by American mystery writer Rex Stout. Wolfe was born in Montenegro and keeps his past murky. Stout wrote 33 novels and 41 novellas and short stories from 1934 to 1975, with most of them set in New York City. The stories have been adapted for film, radio, television and the stage. I suggest beginning with autobiographical sketches from each of us, and here is mine.
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I was born in Montenegro and spent my early boyhood there. At the age of sixteen I decided to move around, and in fourteen years I became acquainted with most of Europe, a little of Africa, and much of Asia, in a variety of roles and activities. The Nero Wolfe stories take place contemporaneously with their writing and depict a changing landscape and society. The principal characters in the corpus do not age.
Nero Wolfe’s age is 56 according to Rex Stout, although it is not directly stated in the stories. Any reader who can’t or won’t do the same should skip them. I didn’t age the characters because I didn’t want to. That would have made it cumbersome and would seem to have centered attention on the characters rather than the stories.
Archie Goodwin, the narrator of the stories, frequently describes Wolfe as weighing “a seventh of a ton”. In 1947, Archie writes, “He weighs between 310 and 390, and he limits his physical movements to what he regards as the irreducible essentials. Wolfe’s most extravagant distinction is his extreme antipathy to literal extravagance. He will not move”, wrote J. He insists upon the point: under no circumstances will he leave his home or violate his routines in order to facilitate an investigation.
The exceptions are few and remarkable. The invitation is extended to readers as well as to clients. Perhaps Wolfe’s most remarkable departure from the brownstone is due to personal reasons, not to business, and thus does not violate the rule regarding the conduct of business away from the office. That event occurs in The Black Mountain, when he leaves, not only his home, but the shores of the United States to avenge the murder of his oldest friend. You, gentlemen, are Americans, much more completely than I am, for I wasn’t born here. It was you and your brothers, black and white, who let me come here and live, and I hope you’ll let me say, without getting maudlin, that I’m grateful to you for it. The corpus implies or states that Nero Wolfe was born in Montenegro, with one notable exception.
Wolfe tells an FBI agent that he was born in the United States — a declaration at odds with all other references. He is reluctant to work, accustomed to isolation from women. He places women in a subordinate role. He is a romantic idealist, apt to go in for dashing effects to express his spirited nature. He is strong in family loyalties, has great pride, is impatient of restraint. Love of freedom is his outstanding trait. Wolfe is reticent about his youth, but apparently he was athletic, fit, and adventurous.