Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Champagne for One: Rex Stout

In August, I reread one of my favorite books by Rex Stout, Champagne for One. It  is part of the Nero Wolfe series, of course,

An acquaintance of Archie's asks him to take his place at an annual dinner party and dance for unwed mothers, and one of the mothers, Faith Usher, ends up dead. Another unwed mother at the dance told Archie that Faith carried cyanide with her in her purse at all times, and had some at the party. So he keeps a close eye on her. When Faith does die of cyanide poisoning, Archie insists it was murder, not suicide. The high society woman who gave the dance, Mrs. Robilotti, is inconvenienced, and thus the police are irate.

This book has all the best features of the series. The interplay between Archie and Nero Wolfe. Inspector Cramer visiting the brownstone to berate Archie for sticking to his guns regarding the cause of death. And Orrie, Fred, and Saul helping with the detecting.

Wolfe's client is not Mrs. Robilotti, as you might think, but one of the guests, who actually was connected to the dead woman and does not want that information to come out.

I have very fond memories of this book. I can picture Archie driving Wolfe's car up the snow-covered drive to the home for unwed mothers, and encountering a large group of very young pregnant women. It is such a small scene in the book but it has stuck with me for years.

Not only is this one of my favorite books, but I also have two TV adaptations of the story so I watched both of them. The version from the A&E series starring Timothy Hutton and Maury Chaykin was the most faithful to Stout's story, and was a lot of fun. Some of the narration and dialog was taken directly from the book and that works well with Rex Stout's novels. I have watched all the episodes from that series multiple times.


The Italian adaptation starring Francesco Pannofino as Nero Wolfe and Pietro Sermonti as Archie Goodwin was also very good, although that one took a lot more liberties with the story. It was more serious, but had humorous elements also. The Italian Nero Wolfe series has eight feature length episodes and each is based on a book in the series. I have only watched this one and the adaptation of Fer-de-lance, but I enjoyed both of them and look forward to watching the others.


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Publisher: Viking Press, 1958 (book club ed.)
Length:    184 pages
Format:    Hardcover
Series:     Nero Wolfe
Setting:    New York City
Genre:     Mystery

10 comments:

  1. Thanks for the reminder that I really ought to read more Rex Stout . . .

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    1. I hope you do, John. I love the characters, but I have always appreciated the mysteries too. Although I remember most of the plots now after rereading so many time.

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  2. Oh, I can see why this is one of your top Stouts, Tracy! I've always liked it an awful lot. I think there's a really effective picture of the relationship between Archie and Wolfe. And there's the wit. And the mystery itself. And...

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    1. Yes, Margot, this is one where everything works right.

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  3. It's been ages and ages, I don't really remember it at all, though your review has jogged the most faint of recollections...
    You'll see tomorrow on my blog I'm following int your footsteps yet again.

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    1. Unfortunately I have read the Nero Wolfe books so often I remember most everything, Rick, but I still enjoy them. Except some of the short novellas that I have not read as often.

      I have just been over to your blog and I enjoyed your post on A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. You did a great job of describing what makes it such a special book.

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  4. I love this one, too, Tracy. Haven't read the book, but I've watched the A&E dramatization several times. I suppose now I should get the book!

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    1. Mathew, I really liked the A&E adaptation of this book. You should try the book sometime, too.

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  5. Maybe 2020 I will read my solitary Stout book. (I may have been saying that for the past couple of years!)

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    1. I know, Col, but I have been saying the same about a lot of books myself.

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