Nero Wolfe Was Big in the Annuls of Detective Stories


There have been literal hundreds of fictional detectives or private eye (PI) characters written about, televised, and made into movies over the years. Nero Wolfe first showed up in print back in 1934 when author Rex Stout created him. A luxurious upper west side apartment in New York City was home base for Wolfe and he seldom left his home. An immigrant from the Balkans, Wolfe stated he was quite an adventurous youth who later became a gourmet with expensive taste who could afford luxury and become a recluse. An assistant, Archie Goodwin narrated cases as well as did most of the "leg work" solving cases.

The sloth-like Nero Wolfe used his brain not his brawn

Appearedly Wolfe was obese as described by his assistant and narrator Archie Goodwin. He weighed in at "one seventh of a ton" or 130 kilograms (around 300 pounds). Insisting on remaining house bound, Wolfe spreads order and justice within his society from the enclosed walls of his three story brownstone apartment, complete with his own private elevator. It seems to be a rather strange way to live but if you're rich enough anything is possible.

One story line finds Nero Wolfe visiting his homeland, the Balkans, to seek out the murderer of an old dear friend known as Marko Vukcic. This story has Wolfe undergoing rigid physical activity while climbing in mountainous terrain. Amazingly he left his cherished domain and abandoned daily routines to avenge his friend's death. But that was the exception to the rule as Wolfe mostly stayed home and let his assistant do the leg work. In spite of his limited lifestyle he remains a highly paid private investigator.

An eccentric with gourmet tastes Nero Wolfe loves to eat and it shows!

Acting as chef and butler, Fritz also helps Wolfe pot and plant some of the many thousands of orchids in the brownstone apartment. Mealtime is an important part of Wolfe's days and he insists on several courses including an appetizer, main course, a salad mixed with dressing and served tableside, followed by dessert and coffee. There was actually a cookbook printed containing many of the recipes mentioned in the Rex Stout books and published in 1973, with brief excerpts from the story that referred the dish. Usually Fritz served meals to Wolfe on a rigorous schedule three times per day and among his favorites were Shad roe, cooked in various ways. Reportedly Wolfe burned up a cookbook at one point because it requested the cook to remove the rind or hide from ham before placing it into a pot of lima beans.


Which did Wolfe love best – food or words?

It was a tossup but most likely Nero Wolfe preferred good meals over conversation and it showed. He also took a dim view of TV and music. There was a television at one point down in Fritz's quarters in the basement and it proved handy in an episode titled The Doorbell Rang because eavesdroppers could not near conversation when the TV's volume was up. Most likely Archie had a TV in his own personal quarters as well. One of Wolfe's most interesting idiosyncrasies may have been his obvious dislike for women. He was never outright considered to be gay but he did seem to prefer the company of men.

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Rob W. Colbourn


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