REX STOUT: A Biography by John J. McAleer

REX STOUT: A Biography

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Treating the late (in 1975, at 89), great Rex Stout to a 500-page biography is like crowning Fred Astaire with a solid gold top hat: very ennobling, but how's the man supposed to dance? And dance is what a StoUt biography should do, to keep up with the career-switching, cause-embracing, book-producing stamina of the creator of Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin: child math whiz, sailor, magazine fictioneer (Justice Ends at Home, p. 247), mastermind of the lucrative kiddiebanking Educational Thrift Service, publisher, defender of authors' rights, WW II's radio ""lie detective"" and Hate-the-Germans propagandist, gardener, chef, and Baker Street highly-Irregular (""Watson was a Woman""). McAleer, beneficiary of Stout's authorization, cooperation, and comments, has lavished every virtue on this project except that of selectivity; if Rex did it, said it, heard it, or received it, it's there--in detail. And, despite careful analysis of the psycho-sexual pre-Nero novels and a pedantic, socio-metaphorical interpretation of the detective stories, he never demonstrates that Stout's oeuvre justifies such an approach or that his life deserves such grandiose frames (""Book V/The Years of Choice""). Still, some of the densely documented materials hold historical interest (the hair-splitting, wartime feuds) or are simply intriguing (number of days spent on each book). And, for the Neronian who's willing to wade through this overstuffed crackerjack box, there are dozens of prizes: the genesis of ""Me Barzun, you vain,"" tributes to Stout from every camp, and a bounty of Stout observations (asked about future books at 87: ""I've been told [this is a rumor], that after you're cremated it's pretty hard to write stories""). Authoritative beyond question or the call of duty--a belabor of love.

Pub Date: Oct. 18th, 1977
Publisher: Little, Brown