America’s unique contribution to the world – the private detective – also brought us the incredible characters of Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin. This program will introduce the aspects of this incredible series, and the author, Rex Stout, who was voted by his peers “the greatest mystery author of the 20th Century.” That is no small compliment, and well deserved.

Nero Wolfe likely needs no introduction. A curmudgeon in every sense of the word, Wolfe refuses to leave his New York brownstone townhouse for business. Or for little else. Everything he needs – his library, his orchids, and his top chef – composes a world where Wolfe holds court. When forced by the bank account – and Archie’s insistence that Wolfe’s appetite for the good life does require a lot of money, Wolfe will engage. Usually under protest. Wolfe’s interaction with the clients, the culprits, and Archie are the sparks that keep this series fresh after all these years. Clearly inspired by Holmes, Stout created something at once familiar, yet completely different. The series has enjoyed unparalleled success. Yet its roots are amusing.

When Rex Stout began writing, his goal was to be a serious author, aiming at the slot Sinclair Lewis or F. Scott Fitzgerald would occupy. But unlike Lewis and Fitzgerald, Stout had already gained some fame, selling stories or articles to magazines and pulps as Dashiell Hammett would – but almost a decade before Hammett. While selling 40 stories as he knocked around from job to job, Stout decided he’d like to get serious about writing – and in the inverse thinking of a genius – he put writing aside while he figured out a way to bigger dollars to support his writing habit.

He did.

Thus, when the 20s arrived, like all the serious authors of his era, he headed for France and the life of an expatriate writer, where he wrote and sold respected novels of ‘serious’ fiction. But he wasn’t feeling it, and despite good reviews, Stout returned home to America. As luck would have it, the Depression wiped out his savings, and needing income, he created the character of Nero Wolfe. The rest is history – but what a history. Join Russ Gifford for a detailed look at Wolfe, Archie, and author Rex Stout in this edition of An American Original: Rex Stout.