Monday, December 10, 2007

I Am Cordially Invited to Meet Nero Wolfe

I read one-and-a-half Nero Wolfe novellas this weekend; all of Black Orchids and most of Cordially Invited to Meet Death. I actually prefer the second one so far (maybe because it involves death by tetanus?) but they're both pretty fantastic. I picked up Black Orchids because of the book store, but of course it sat on my shelf for ages.

I was immediately delighted by Archie Goodwin's breezy narration and his witty one-liners, and I love, love, love the 1930s slang ("I wanted to kick him right in the fundamentals!" "Cut the glitter, sweetheart!") plus I adore the New York setting circa so very long ago. According to the books, Nero Wolfe would have lived right around the corner from where I toil all day long, and I like to imagine him puttering around with his orchids as I type away right now.

Some people speculate that Rex Stout was trying to bridge the gap between the hardboiled Sam Spades and the amateur gentleman detectives like Holmes, Wimsey, Poirot, etc. with Wolfe and Archie Goodwin. What's really fun about having these two types in the same books is that they can butt heads in hilarious ways and insult each other good naturedly, laughing at their respective extremes.

I also like that Goodwin tools around town in a roadster. Did everyone have a roadster in the '30s, or just detectives?

Can't wait to get back to my book and see what happens. I'm just at the part where Archie trails Bess Huddleston's brother to Wolfe's front door. My lunch break is coming up, maybe I'll go finish it off ... or maybe I'll meander down to 35th Street, near the river ...

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