Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Short Story Wednesday: Nearly Nero by Loren D. Estleman

This week I am reading short stories from Nearly Nero by Loren D. Estleman. The subtitle for this book is "The Adventures of Claudius Lyon, the Man Who Would Be Wolfe." Between 2008 and 2016, Estleman wrote nine short stories about Claudius Lyon, a man who is obsessed with emulating Nero Wolfe in all ways, and his assistant, Arnie Woodbine. Most of these stories were published in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine. One additional story ("Wolfe Whistle") was written for publication in this book. 

Just a few examples of how Lyons imitates Wolfe: 

  • He has a greenhouse on the roof of his abode, but he grows tomatoes, not orchids. He has no gardening skills at all. 
  • His butler/cook is not nearly as talented as Fritz, and cooks only kosher meals. 
  • He drinks cream sodas all day, rather than beer. 
  • His assistant, Arnie Woodbine, has been in prison and is a con man. He is not above doing something illegal. 

These are the stories I read:

"Who's Afraid of Nero Wolfe?"

"The Boy Who Cried Wolfe"

"Wolfe at the Door"

"Wolfe on the Roof"

The stories are an affectionate homage to the Nero Wolfe series and are intended to be humorous. Loren D. Estleman is a big fan of the series and wrote the introduction to the Bantam Crimeline edition of the first Nero Wolfe novel, Fer-de-Lance

I would not categorize these as serious mysteries, in the sense that there is a crime to be solved. They are puzzles, often based on word play, and usually silly. However, for the most part, they are fun to read and have very nice endings. 

The only real drawback to these stories that I can see is that I don't see how they would appeal to anyone who hasn't read at least a few Nero Wolfe novels.

Loren D. Estleman is a very prolific and well-known author who has been publishing novels since 1976. He is the author of the Amos Walker series, the Valentino series, the Peter Macklin series, and many standalone novels, including many Western novels. He lives in Michigan. 


Bill Selnes said...

Thanks for an interesting review. I had not heard of these stories. They sound like fun.

Margot Kinberg said...

This sounds fun, Tracy. Sometimes it's great to have those stories that aren't exactly light, but have that lighter touch.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Loren Estleman always was the lesser Detroit light compared to Elmore Leonard but he wrote many exceptional books. I should read more.

pattinase (abbott) said...

His Amos Walker series is very good.

George said...

I liked NEARLY NERO: http://georgekelley.org/wp-admin/post.php?post=33486&action=edit

George said...

Oops! http://georgekelley.org/nearly-nero/

TracyK said...

Bill, the stories are fun. I would not mind if they were a little more fleshed out, maybe to novella length.

TracyK said...

Margot, Estleman does a good job with this approach because he is such a fan of the series.

TracyK said...

Patti, I haven't read much by either Estleman or Elmore Leonard, but I have some books by each. I think I have only read one Amos Walker book by Estleman but I want to read more and also other series by him.

TracyK said...

George, while working on this post, I wondered if you had read this book, but I forgot to check. Thanks for the link to your post. I am glad to have the list of stories with page numbers, because the edition I read does not have a table of contents.

CLM said...

The tomatoes are definitely outsized for someone without gardening skills but I do like the cover! I have not read this author but I knew he was a big fan of Wolfe.

Tracy, are there Wolfe Societies in Southern Cal? I don't know how active the one in NY is but my Betsy-Tacy friend seemed pretty active when I lived there. Although these days I suppose an online group is easier to participate in.

jenclair said...

It would be interesting to have a kind of dual read of the Nero Wolfe novels and the short stories. I only read a few of the Rex Stout novels after watching the television series.

TracyK said...

Constance, I like the cover also. The stories make a point that tomatoes are the easiest plant to grow and require little effort (soil and water?). But I have grown tomatoes in pots in my back yard in the past, and they can be fussy. Although the biggest problems are the soil getting contaminated in some way. Maybe he sticks with cherry tomatoes.

The only Wolfe Society I know of is The Wolfe Pack in New York City. I get the impression that the group is active. There is a journal published twice a year and they award a Black Orchid Novella award (in conjunction with Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine) annually. I enjoy the resources that are on The Wolfe Pack website, but probably would not participate in a group even if it were close.

TracyK said...

Jenclair, I am aiming at rereading more of the Nero Wolfe novels and novellas and hopefully reviewing them on the blog. (I have a problem keeping up with reviews.) I have copies of all the books but some of them may be in boxes I cannot get to easily, even though I have multiple copies of most of the books.

One of the things I really liked about the television series with Timothy Hutton is that the plots stayed very close to the books or novellas; often even the dialogue was almost identical. And Timothy Hutton was a perfect Archie Goodwin.