I’m finally old enough to enjoy reading Nero Wolfe mysteries, instead of just watching the TV show.
Hey, I’m serious. It’s a big deal. I’ve been reading mysteries and bouncing off Rex Stout for thirty-some years, so this is a happy thing.
(Okay, so there was a lot of Rex Stout to bounce off of, but geez, the man’s dead. No double entendre intended.) (Okay, so it was an audiobook, not technically me reading. Don’t judge me.)
But it’s been weird to know so much about the characters and the series without actually having read more than a bit of book here and there, while knowing it’s excellent and well-loved. Like the days when I stood outside the gates of Austen, unable to get in or get her jokes. Some authors I don’t care whether I ever like or understand, but other authors clearly are holding a pretty lively party behind those closed doors. Rex Stout was particularly frustrating, because his style was fine and fun and I still bounced off it.
Finally, finally I’m in Wolfe’s house, hanging out with Archie and enjoying myself, instead of just peering around the door jamb and then retreating again. Middle age has its compensations for me.
The interesting thing was that the first book, Fer-de-Lance, hides the Sherlockian references/undertones a lot less than later offerings. It’s not a fanfic, by any means, but it’s more obviously a literary response to Doyle than an independent detective novel. (Of course, a lot of detective novels back then were mostly responses to Doyle, but you know what I mean.) Later books actually make much more blatant references (the full extent of which you fans probably know), but since the series stands on its own by then, it can afford to do so. A lot about the series was revamped after this novel (just like a TV pilot episode!), but its charms are already present.
This book includes at least one useful quote: “Skepticism is a good watchdog if you know when to take the leash off.”