In 1959 Stout received the Mystery Writers of America's Grand Master Award. The Nero Wolfe corpus was nominated Best Mystery Series of the Century at Bouchercon2000, the world's largest mystery convention, and Rex Stout was nominated Best Mystery Writer of the Century.
Stout was born in Noblesville, Indiana in 1886, but shortly afterwards his Quaker parents, John Wallace Stout and Lucetta Elizabeth Todhunter Stout, moved their family (nine children in all) to Kansas.
His father was a teacher who encouraged his son to read, and Rex had read the entire Bible twice by the time he was four years old. He was the state spelling bee champion at age 13. Stout attended Topeka High School, Kansas, and the University of Kansas, Lawrence. His sister, Ruth Stout, also authored several books on no-work gardening and some social commentaries.
He served from 1906 to 1908 in the U.S. Navy (as a yeoman on President Teddy Roosevelt's official yacht) and then spent about the next four years working at about thirty different jobs (in six states), including cigar store clerk, while he sold poems, stories, and articles to various magazines.
It was not his writing but his invention of a school banking system in about 1916 that gave him enough money to travel in Europe extensively. About 400 U.S. schools adopted his system for keeping track of the money schoolchildren saved in accounts at school, and he was paid royalties.
In 1916, Stout married Fay Kennedy of Topeka, Kansas. They divorced in February 1932,:xx and in December 1932 Stout married Pola Weinbach Hoffmann, a designer who had studied with Josef Hoffmann in Vienna, Austria.:234–236
Rex Stout began his literary career in the 1910s writing for the pulps, publishing romance, adventure, and some borderline detective stories. His first stories appeared among others in All-Story Magazine. He sold articles and stories to a variety of magazines, and became a full-time writer in 1927. Stout lost the money he had made as a businessman in 1929.
In Paris in 1929 he wrote his first book, How Like a God, an unusual psychological story written in the second person. During the course of his early writing career Stout tackled a variety of literary forms, including the short story, the novel, and science fiction, among them a pioneering political thriller, The President Vanishes (1934).
After he returned to the U.S. Stout turned to writing detective fiction. The first work was Fer-de-Lance, which introduced Nero Wolfe and his assistant Archie Goodwin. The novel was published by Farrar & Rinehart in October 1934, and in abridged form as "Point of Death" in The American Magazine (November 1934). In 1937, Stout created Dol Bonner, a female private detective who would reappear in his Nero Wolfe stories and who is an early and significant example of the woman PI as fictional protagonist, in a novel called The Hand in the Glove. After 1938 Stout focused solely on the mystery field. Stout continued writing the Nero Wolfe series for the rest of his life, publishing at least one adventure per year through 1966 (with the exception of 1943, when he was busy with activities related to World War II). Though Stout's rate of production declined somewhat after 1966, he still published four further Nero Wolfe novels and a cookbook prior to his death in 1975, aged 88.
During WWII Stout cut back on his detective writing, joined the Fight for Freedom organization, and wrote propaganda. He hosted three weekly radio shows, and coordinated the volunteer services of American writers to help the war effort. After the war Stout returned to writing Nero Wolfe novels, and took up the role of gentleman farmer on his estate at High Meadow in Brewster, north of New York City. He served as president of the Authors Guild and of the Mystery Writers of America, which in 1959 presented Stout with the Grand Master Award – the pinnacle of achievement in the mystery field.
Stout was a longtime friend of the British humorist P. G. Wodehouse, writer of the Jeeves novels and short stories. Each was a fan of the other's work, and there are evident parallels between their characters and techniques. Wodehouse contributed the foreword to Rex Stout: A Biography, John McAleer's Edgar Award-winning 1977 biography of the author (reissued in 2002 as Rex Stout: A Majesty's Life). It is also evident in that Wodehouse mentions Rex Stout in several of the books (as both Bertie and his Aunt Dahlia are fans.)
In the fall of 1925 Roger Nash Baldwin appointed Rex Stout to the board of the American Civil Liberties Union's powerful National Council on Censorship; Stout served one term.:196–197 Stout helped start the radical Marxist magazine The New Masses, which succeeded The Masses and The Liberator, in 1926. Although he had been told the magazine was primarily committed to bringing arts and letters to the masses, Stout realized after a few issues "that it was Communist and intended to stay Communist", and he ended his association with it.:197–198
Stout was one of the officers and directors of the Vanguard Press, a publishing house established with a grant from the Garland Fund to reprint left-wing classics at an affordable cost and publish new books otherwise deemed "unpublishable" by the commercial press of the day. He served as Vanguard's first president from 1926 to 1928, and continued as vice president until at least 1931. During his tenure Vanguard issued 150 titles, including seven books by Scott Nearing and three of Stout's own novels — How Like a God (1929), Seed on the Wind (1930) and Golden Remedy (1931).:196–197
In 1942 Stout described himself as a "pro-Labor, pro-New Deal, pro-Roosevelt left liberal".During World War II, he worked with the advocacy group Friends of Democracy and was Chairman of the Writers' War Board (a propaganda organization), and supported the embryonic United Nations. He lobbied for Franklin D. Roosevelt to accept a fourth term as President. He developed an extreme anti-German attitude and wrote a provocative essay, "We Shall Hate, or We Shall Fail", which generated a flood of protests after its January 1943 publication in The New York Times.:95 The attitude is expressed by Nero Wolfe in the 1942 novella "Not Quite Dead Enough".
Stout was one of many American writers closely watched by J. Edgar Hoover's FBI. Hoover considered him an enemy of the bureau and either a Communist or a tool of Communist-dominated groups. Stout's leadership of the Authors League of America during the McCarthy Era was particularly irksome to the FBI. About a third of Stout's FBI file is devoted to his 1965 novel, The Doorbell Rang. In its April 1976 report, the Church Committee found that The Doorbell Rang is a reason that Rex Stout's name was one of 332 placed on the FBI's "not to contact list," which it cited as evidence of the FBI's political abuse of intelligence information.
In later years Stout alienated some readers with his hawkish stance on the Vietnam War and with the contempt for communism expressed in certain of his works. The latter viewpoint is given voice in the 1952 novella "Home to Roost" (first published as "Nero Wolfe and the Communist Killer") and most notably in the 1949 novel, The Second Confession. In this work, Archie and Wolfe express their dislike for "Commies," while at the same time Wolfe arranges for the firing of a virulently anti-Communist broadcaster, likening him to "Hitler" and "Mussolini."
On August 9, 1942, Rex Stout conducted the first of 62 wartime broadcasts of Our Secret Weapon – the truth – on CBS Radio. The idea for the counterpropaganda series had been that of Sue Taylor White, wife of Paul White, the first director of CBS News. Research was done under White's direction.
"Hundreds of Axis propaganda broadcasts, beamed not merely to the Allied countries but to neutrals, were sifted weekly," Stout's biographer John McAleer wrote. "Rex himself, for an average of twenty hours a week, pored over the typewritten yellow sheets of accumulated data ... Then, using a dialogue format – Axis commentators making their assertions, and Rex Stout, the lie detective, offering his refutations – he dictated to his secretary the script of the fifteen-minute broadcast."
By November 1942 Berlin Radio was reporting that "Rex Stout himself has cut his own production in detective stories from four to one a year and is devoting the entire balance of his time to writing official war propaganda." Newsweek described Stout as "stripping Axis short-wave propaganda down to the barest nonsensicals ... There's no doubt of its success.":121–122:305–307
Omnibus, "The Fine Art of Murder" (ABC)
Rex Stout appeared in the December 9, 1956, episode of Omnibus, a cultural anthology series that epitomized the golden age of television. Hosted by Alistair Cooke and directed by Paul Bogart, "The Fine Art of Murder" was a 40-minute segment described by Time magazine as "a homicide as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Edgar Allan Poe [and] Rex Stout would variously present it." The author is credited as appearing along with Gene Reynolds (Archie Goodwin), Robert Eckles (Nero Wolfe), James Daly (narrator), Dennis Hoey (Arthur Conan Doyle), Felix Munro (Edgar Allan Poe), Herbert Voland (M. Dupin) and Jack Sydow. Writer Sidney Carroll received the 1957 Edgar Award for Best Episode in a TV Series. "The Fine Art of Murder" is in the collection of the Library of Congress (VBE 2397–2398) and screened in its Mary Pickford Theater February 15, 2000.
If he had done nothing more than to create Archie Goodwin, Rex Stout would deserve the gratitude of whatever assessors watch over the prosperity of American literature. For surely Archie is one of the folk heroes in which the modern American temper can see itself transfigured.
In 1958 Rex Stout became the 14th president of the Mystery Writers of America.:428 In 1959 he received the MWA's prestigious Grand Master Award, which represents the pinnacle of achievement in the mystery field.
The Nero Wolfe corpus was nominated Best Mystery Series of the Century at Bouchercon 2000, the world's largest mystery convention, and Rex Stout was nominated Best Mystery Writer of the Century.
"A number of the paintings of René Magritte (1898–1967), the internationally famous Belgian painter, are named after titles of books by Rex Stout," wrote the artist's attorney and friend Harry Torczyner. "He read Hegel, Heidegger and Sartre, as well as Dashiell Hammett, Rex Stout and Georges Simenon," the Times Higher Education Supplement wrote of Magritte. "Some of his best titles were 'found' in this way." Magritte's 1942 painting, Les compagnons de la peur ("The Companions of Fear"), bears the title given to The League of Frightened Men (1935) when it was published in France by Gallimard (1939). It is one of Magritte's series of "leaf-bird" paintings. Created during the Nazi occupation of Brussels, it depicts a stormy, mountainous landscape in which a cluster of plants has metamorphosed into a group of vigilant owls.
His narrative and dialogue could not be improved, and he passes the supreme test of being rereadable. I don't know how many times I have reread the Nero Wolfe stories, but plenty. I know exactly what is coming and how it is all going to end, but it doesn't matter. That's writing.
Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe books (novels and novella/short story collections) are listed below in order of publication. For specific publication history, including original magazine appearances, see entries for individual titles. Years link to year-in-literature articles.
The Nero Wolfe Cookbook, with the editors of Viking Press (1973) – The cuisine and world of Nero Wolfe are brought to life in a wealth of recipes and pertinent quotes from the corpus, illustrated by vintage New York City photographs by John Muller, Andreas Feininger and others. Chapters include "Breakfast in the Old Brownstone"; "Luncheon in the Dining Room"; "Warm-Weather Dinners"; "Cold-Weather Dinners"; "Desserts"; "The Perfect Dinner for the Perfect Detective"; "The Relapse"; "Snacks"; "Guests, Male and Female"; "Associates for Dinner"; "Fritz Brenner"; "Dishes Cooked by Others"; "Rusterman's Restaurant"; "Nero Wolfe Cooks"; and "The Kanawha Spa Dinner". Hardcover ISBN 0-670-50599-4 / Paperback ISBN 1-888952-24-5. "For a number of years Rex Stout had been prodded by friends ... to tackle a bit of hard work at last by writing out the recipes that make the reader's mouth water when they should be thrall to the dry fare of reason. ... The task was accomplished and now the secret of saucisse minuit is out – with a couple hundred others. The organization of the book is excellent too ..."
"Why Nero Wolfe Likes Orchids" , Life (April 19, 1963) – Concluding a feature story titled "The Orchid" that was photographed by Alfred Eisenstaedt, Archie Goodwin "investigates and explains the deep satisfactions of his boss's orchid-fixation." (The article was reprinted in Corsage" A Bouquet of Rex Stout and Nero Wolfe, edited by Michael Bourne.)
"The Case of the Spies Who Weren't," Ramparts Magazine (January 1966) – Archie Goodwin reports that the previous evening Nero Wolfe and "Rex Stout, my literary agent" filled 27 pages in his notebook with their discussion of Invitation to an Inquest by Walter and Miriam Schneir, a recently published book that they are reviewing for Ramparts magazine. Since their review must be fewer than 3,000 words, Wolfe frowns and orders Archie to "Contract it. Cramp it."
I frowned back. "You cramp it. Or Stout. Let him earn his ten per cent. Dictate it."
1914: A Prize for Princes A novel of Balkan intrigue and murder about a very dangerous woman; first serialized in All-Story Weekly, May 2–9, 1913, and All-Story Cavalier Weekly, May 16–30, 1913. Paperback ISBN 0-7867-0104-8.
1916: The Last Drive A novel serialized in six parts in Golfers Magazine from July to December 1916. Reprinted in Ross E. Davies & Ira Brad Matetsky, eds., The 2012 Green Bag Almanac and Reader, pp. 225–312. Paperback ISBN 1-933658-13-4.
1929: How Like a God
1930: Seed on the Wind
1931: Golden Remedy
1933: Forest Fire An early Brokeback Mountain-type story featuring a college student working as a summer forest ranger under a strict forest supervisor who first is critical of his work, then becomes fond of him, then extremely jealous when a female tourist arrives and distracts him from his duties. Then a forest fire starts….
1942: The Illustrious Dunderheads A collection of isolationist, anti-WWII and pro-Nazi statements and votes by sitting Members of Congress.
1946: Rue Morgue No. 1 Anthology of 19 mystery stories, edited with Louis Greenfield.
1956: Eat, Drink, and Be Buried Anthology of stories for Mystery Writers of America. British edition titled For Tomorrow We Die (1958) omitted three stories.
Dates indicate first known publication. Unless otherwise noted, first date of publication is cited in Guy M. Townsend's Rex Stout: An Annotated Primary and Secondary Bibliography (1980). :47–69
1912: "Their Lady" Stout's authorized biographer John McAleer describes this as Stout's first published story: "'Their Lady' may have been published in 1912. No copy of it has come to light. All-Story editors twice credited Rex with its authorship, once in notations accompanying 'Warner & Wife,' 27 February 1915 and again, in notations accompanying 'Justice Ends at Home,' 4 December 1915."
1912: "Excess Baggage" (Short Stories, October 1912)
1912: "The Infernal Feminine" (Short Stories, November 1912)
1912: "The Paisley" (Young's Magazine, November 1912)
1912: "Billy Du Mont, Reporter" (Young's Magazine, December 1912)
1912: "A Professional Recall" (The Black Cat, December 1912)
1913: "Barnacles" (Young's Magazine, January 1913)
1913: "Pamfret and Peace" (The Black Cat, January 1913)
1913: "A Companion of Fortune" (Short Stories, April 1913)
1918: "Old Fools and Young" (Young's Magazine, April 1918)
1936: "A Good Character for a Novel" (The New Masses, December 15, 1936)
1953: "Tough Cop's Gift" (What's New. New York: Abbott Laboratories, Christmas Annual 1953) Also titled "Santa Claus Beat," "Cop's Gift" "Christmas Beat" and "Nobody Deserved Justice" in magazine and anthology reprintings
1955: "His Own Hand" (Manhunt, April 1955) Featuring Alphabet Hicks, plus Nero Wolfe recurring character Sergeant Purley Stebbins; also titled "By His Own Hand" and "Curtain Line" in anthology reprintings
Short story collections
Justice Ends at Home, and Other Stories. New York: The Viking Press (Hardcover ISBN 0-670-41105-1), 1977. Collection of 16 short stories written 1912–17, edited and introduced by John McAleer, Stout's authorized biographer. Contains "The Rope Dance," "An Officer and a Lady," "The Mother of Invention," "An Agacella Or," "A Tyrant Abdicates," "The Pay-Yeoman," "Rose Orchid," "The Lie," "Heels of Fate," "Pamfret and Peace," "Méthode Américaine," "Jonathan Stannard's Secret Vice," "A Professional Recall," "Secrets," "Warner & Wife" and "Justice Ends at Home."
Target Practice. New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers (Paperback ISBN 0-7867-0496-9), 1998. Collection of 16 stories written 1914–17 for All-Story Magazine. Contains "Target Practice," "The Pay-Yeoman," "Secrets," "Rose Orchid," "The Inevitable Third," "The Lie," "If He Be Married," "Baba," "Warner & Wife," "Jonathan Stannard's Secret Vice," "Sanétomo," "Justice Ends at Home," "It's Science That Counts," "The Rope Dance," "An Officer and a Lady" and "Heels of Fate."
An Officer and a Lady and Other Stories. New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers (Paperback ISBN 0-7867-0764-X), 2000. Contains "An Officer and a Lady," "Excess Baggage," "Annuncio's Violin," "The Infernal Feminine," "A Professional Recall," "Pamfret and Peace," "A Companion of Fortune," "A White Precipitate," "The Mother of Invention," "Méthode Américaine," "A Tyrant Abdicates," "An Agacella Or," "A Little Love Affair," "Art for Art's Sake," "Another Little Love Affair" and "The Strong Man."
Bourne, Michael, Corsage: A Bouquet of Rex Stout and Nero Wolfe (1977, James A. Rock & Co, Publishers; Hardcover ISBN 0-918736-00-5 / Paperback ISBN 0-918736-01-3). Posthumous collection produced in a numbered limited edition of 276 hardcovers and 1,500 softcovers. Shortly before his death Rex Stout authorized the editor to include the first Nero Wolfe novella, "Bitter End" (1940), which had not been republished in his own novella collections.:56Corsage also includes an interview Bourne conducted with Stout (July 18, 1973; also available on audiocassette tape), and concludes with the only book publication of "Why Nero Wolfe Likes Orchids," an article by Rex Stout that first appeared in Life (April 19, 1963).
Darby, Ken, The Brownstone House of Nero Wolfe (1983, Little, Brown and Company; ISBN 0-316-17280-4). Biography of the brownstone "as told by Archie Goodwin." Includes detailed floor plans.
Gotwald, Rev. Frederick G., The Nero Wolfe Handbook (1985; revised 1992, 2000). Self-published anthology of essays edited by a longtime member of The Wolfe Pack.
Kaye, Marvin, The Archie Goodwin Files (2005, Wildside Press; ISBN 1-55742-484-5). Selected articles from The Wolfe Pack publication The Gazette, edited by a charter member.
Kaye, Marvin, The Nero Wolfe Files (2005, Wildside Press; ISBN 0-8095-4494-6). Selected articles from The Wolfe Pack publication The Gazette, edited by a charter member.
Mitgang, Herbert, Dangerous Dossiers: Exposing the Secret War Against America's Greatest Authors (1988, Donald I. Fine, Inc.; ISBN 1-55611-077-4). Chapter 10 is titled "Seeing Red: Rex Stout."
Symons, Julian, Great Detectives: Seven Original Investigations (1981, Abrams; ISBN 0-8109-0978-2). Illustrated by Tom Adams. "We quiz Archie Goodwin in his den and gain a clue to the ultimate fate of Nero Wolfe" in a chapter titled "In Which Archie Goodwin Remembers."
Townsend, Guy M., Rex Stout: An Annotated Primary and Secondary Bibliography (1980, Garland Publishing; ISBN 0-8240-9479-4). Associate editors John McAleer, Judson Sapp and Arriean Schemer. Definitive publication history.
Van Dover, J. Kenneth, At Wolfe's Door: The Nero Wolfe Novels of Rex Stout (1991, Borgo Press, Milford Series; updated edition 2003, James A. Rock & Co., Publishers; Hardcover ISBN 0-918736-51-X / Paperback ISBN 0-918736-52-8). Bibliography, reviews and essays.
Rex Stout Archive at Boston College
Anchoring Boston College's collection of American detective fiction, the Rex Stout Archive  represents the best collection in existence of the personal papers, literary manuscripts, and published works of Rex Stout, creator of the Nero Wolfe mysteries. The Rex Stout archive features materials donated by the Stout family – including manuscripts, correspondence, legal papers, publishing contracts, photographs and ephemera; first editions, international editions and archived reprints of Stout's books; and volumes from Stout's personal library, many of which found their way into Nero Wolfe's office. The comprehensive archive at Burns Library also includes the extensive personal collection of Stout's official biographer John McAleer, and the Rex Stout collection of bibliographer Judson C. Sapp.
Nero Wolfe adaptations
The adaptations section of the article on Nero Wolfe, and the article about the A&E TV series A Nero Wolfe Mystery (2001–2002), provide detailed information about the various film, radio and television adaptations of Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe stories.
In an interview printed in Royal Decree (1983), Rex Stout's official biographer John McAleer asked the author if there were any chance of Hollywood ever making a good Nero Wolfe movie. "I don't know," Stout replied. "I suppose so. They made a movie of another story I wrote – The President Vanishes. I hate like hell to admit it but it was better than the book, I think.":48
^Rothe, Anna (ed.) Current Biography (1946), New York: H. W. Wilson Co., 1947, p. 576. Essays by both Will Cuppy ("How to Read a Whodunit") and Rex Stout ("Watson Was a Woman") appeared in The Art of the Mystery Story: A Collection of Critical Essays, edited by Howard Haycroft (Simon and Schuster, 1946). Cuppy likened Wolfe to Falstaff in 1936, in his review of The Rubber Band. In 1959, Stout's beloved character Hattie Annis stated the comparison to Wolfe himself, immediately after being introduced to him in the novella "Counterfeit for Murder".
^ abWalker, Tom "Mystery writers shine light on best: Bouchercon 2000 convention honors authors"; The Denver Post, September 10, 2000. The other four nominees were Raymond Chandler, Agatha Christie, Dashiell Hammett and Dorothy Sayers. Christie was voted Best Mystery Writer of the Century, and Christie's Hercule Poirot was named Best Mystery Series of the Century. The 31st World Mystery Convention was presented in Denver September 7–10, 2000.
^ abcdefTownsend, Guy M., Rex Stout: An Annotated Primary and Secondary Bibliography, associate editors John J. McAleer, Judson C. Sapp and Arrien Schemer. New York: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1980 ISBN 0-8240-9479-4.
^Born in Stryj, Poland, Pola Weinbach Hoffmann Stout (1902–1984) studied at the Vienna School of Design. She and her first husband, Wolfgang Hoffmann – son of the famous architect and Wiener Werkstätte co-founder Josef Hoffmann – were a prominent design team when they emigrated to the United States in 1925. (Modern Solutions, Art Institute of Chicago Museum Studies, Vol. 27, No. 2, Shaping the Modern: American Decorative Arts at The Art Institute of Chicago, 1917–65 , p. 52.) After her second marriage, Pola Stout was an influential textile designer. (Kirkham, Pat, Women Designers in the USA, 1900–2000 , p. 151).
^Intelligence Activities and the Rights of Americans, Book II, Final Report of the Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities, United States Senate; April 26, 1976. E. Political Abuse of Intelligence Information, Subfinding c, Footnote 91.
^McAleer, John, Rex Stout: A Biography, p. 546. "In addition, beginning on 16 May 1914, during All-Story's serialization of A Prize for Princes, Rex was thrice credited with having written 'Their To-Day.' 'Their To-Day' probably had read 'Their Lady' in a hasty script and had been misread by a compositor."