Monday, January 28, 2013

Archie Meets Nero Wolfe: Robert Goldsborough

I am a long-time fan of the Nero Wolfe series by Rex Stout. I have even read all the additional Nero Wolfe titles authored by Robert Goldsborough.  So I was very interested when I heard that a new prequel to the series by Goldsborough was going to be published. And very pleased to read that some other fans of the original series were happy with the new book.

The question here is whether this novel can be enjoyed equally by readers who are familiar with the original series and readers who have read little or none of the Nero Wolfe series. I can speak only to the first set of readers. I suspect that the book is of more interest to those who are looking for more Nero Wolfe and Archie, and who know what has come before. Of course, those same readers may tend to pick the book apart if it doesn't hold up to their expectations.

I found this to be a very satisfactory read. I enjoyed this picture of how Nero Wolfe meets Archie and decides to offer him employment. I especially liked the portrayal of Del Bascom, who never had much of a role in the original series. The mystery held my interest, especially because it fleshes out a case that is mentioned in Fer-de-Lance, the first Rex Stout book featuring Nero and Archie. The culprit was not obvious to me.

The only characterizations that I found jarring compared to the original series were the portrayals of Saul and Orrie.  Saul just didn't seem right, but I was OK with the portrayal. Orrie seemed to be much nastier than he was in the books by Rex Stout, although I do remember Archie resenting Orrie's frequent attempts to ingratiate himself with Wolfe. The portrayals I was most interested in were Archie as a young man, and Wolfe, and they seemed fine to me. Some reviews seem to have a problem with the timeline between this book and the Stout series, but I did not notice the problem. If there was a discrepancy, then I am happy to see this as an alternate Nero Wolfe universe.

I expected Archie to start working for Wolfe (directly, not through an agency) sooner in the book, but the progression of the relationship makes more sense as it is told here. It leaves the situation open for Goldsborough to do some more prequels, maybe.

Some other views of this novel are at Classic Mysteries, at Traditional Mysteries, at At the Scene of the Crime, and at In Search of the Classic Mystery Novel.


Anonymous said...

Tracy - I'm glad you liked this book. I have to confess to being a bit of a purist when it comes to having someone else author books in a series. So I have to admit I came to the Goldsborough novels not expecting to enjoy them at all. But you do have a point that the characters are well-drawn (although I agree with you about Orrie). I still have to say I prefer Stout's stories to Goldsborough. It may be closed-minded on my part but I do - can't help it. But Goldsborough's work is enjoyable and certainly pays the utmost respect to the characters and contexts Stout created.

TracyK said...

Definitely the Stout novels are the best. I don't know how he wrote so many wonderful books about Nero and Archie. I love them all, from beginning to end. Problem is, I have read them so many time I have them memorized. I want to go back and read the Goldsborough ones because by now I have forgotten the plots and they will be like new. And to see how I like them now. I read them when they came out and that was between 1986 and 1993.