February 22nd, 2005


The Doorbell Rang

It's been quite a few years since I last read one of Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe books. I have lots of them, and to be honest, they all tend to blur together. I suspect a lot of that is because the characters don't age between books. As in so many old TV series, milestones that permanently change the universe surrounding on West 35th Street are few and far between. Apart from books such as Some Buried Caesar, where Archie meets Lily, or The Black Mountain, things stay pretty much same in Wolfe's brownstone for forty years or more. This is not necessarily a bad thing. I rarely remember the details of any particular mystery, so when I go back to reread one it's like having a brand new book all over again. It's literary comfort food—quick reads about people you enjoy reading about. Plus, they fight crime.

Still, there are a few that don't blend into the pack. The Doorbell Rang is one such because it involves Wolfe with real-life people and events. The person is J. Edgar Hoover, and the event is the publication of a book in 1964 called The FBI Nobody Knows, an expose of the FBI's shenanigans under Hoover. Wolfe's client is a rich woman who is so incensed by the book she buys a thousand copies and mails them to every congressman, editor, and pundit she can think of. Naturally, the FBI decides she's dangerous, and starts following her about. Wolfe's job is to make them stop.

It's different from the usual Wolfe book. It's the only one I can recall that impinges on the real world (and I sort of wonder about Stout's sanity in doing it). There's even a throwaway line where Archie mentions that a witness having a Beatle-like haircut. It's much more of a caper than the usual Wolfe mystery. There does turn out to be a murder that needs solving, but it's taken care of rather quickly, and really isn't the point of the whole exercise. It's about tweaking the tail of a megalomaniac.

It is fun to visit with old friends. I've missed hanging out with Archie. Fortunately, I still have a whole shelf full of books I haven't read in awhile.
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Meme Time...

10 Things I've Done That You Probably Haven't:

1. Watched Hubert Humphrey autograph a bottle of Boones Farm Strawberry Hill wine.
2. Ran an intramural athletic program while in grad school.
3. Hot-wired a car in Newark.
4. Watched a baseball game in the Polo Grounds.
5. Taught organic chemistry.
6. Went through a Selective Service System draft lottery.
7. Published a chemistry department literary newsletter.
8. Met Freeman Dyson. (Sadly, it was before I'd ever heard of Dyson spheres.)
9. Coached a women's soccer team.
10. Put a taxidermied polar bear in my physical chemistry professor's office.