Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Rex Stout Quotes

Rex Todhunter Stout (December 1, 1886 - October 27, 1975) was an American crime writer, best known as the creator of the larger-than-life fictional detective Nero Wolfe. [Wikipedia]

"I really mean what I say. A Dickens character to me is a theatrical projection of a character. Not that it isn't real. It's real, but in that removed sense. But Sherlock Holmes is simply there. I would be astonished if I went to 221½ B Baker Street and didn't find him."

"A character who is thought-out is not born, he or she is contrived. A born character is round, a thought-out character is flat."

"Hemingway never grew out of adolescence. His scope and depth stayed shallow because he had no idea what women are for."

"One of the hardest things to believe is that anyone will abandon the effort to escape a charge of murder. It is extremely important to suspend disbelief on that. If you don't, the story is spoiled."

"If I'm home with no chore at hand, and a package of books has come, the television set and the chess board and the unanswered mail will have to manage without me if one of the books is a detective story."

"I thought if you’re merely good and not great, what is the use of putting all that agony into it?"

"Everything in a story should be credible."

"Nothing is more admirable than the fortitude with which millionaires tolerate the disadvantages of their wealth."

"Of course the modern detective story puts off its best tricks till the last, but Doyle always put his best tricks first and that's why they're still the best ones."

"I have a strong moral sense - by my standards."

"I have never regarded myself as this or that. I have been too busy being myself to bother about regarding myself."


Laurie said...

Great stuff. I especially like the quote about Hemingway. But then being female I'm biased.

David Cranmer said...

Yeah, I figured the Hemingway quote would get attention but I found his Dickens/Doyle thoughts to be equally intriguing. I agreed with the comment at first but the more I thought about it, I changed my mind. The world of Holmes exists for me in the same removed sense that he attributes to Dickens. Interestingly, Nero Wolfe is far more real. All subjective of course.

David Cranmer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Leah J. Utas said...

Excellent quotes. Love the moral sense one.

Don Ward said...

I read every Stout book at least twice.

Alyssa Goodnight said...

I love the last one...and the one about being good vs. great.

I've not yet read a Rex Stout book... It's amazing--and thrilling--how the TBR stack is never-ending.

Cloudia said...

Interesting post, David. Thanks

Aloha, Friend!

Comfort Spiral

Brian Drake said...

If you've never read Stout you're missing a real treat. After hearing the radio shows (both the '50s version and the later Canadian radio plays) I went out and picked up the first Wolfe book and it was great. Once I get more of my reading pile reduced, I'll get another. These quotes are terrific, David. Thanks for posting them.

David Cranmer said...

Alyssa, if you love entertaining mysteries with colorful characters than you will enjoy Rex Stout's Wolfe.

Cloudia, De nada.

Brian, I've heard the radio versions that the BBC produced a few years ago. But I will look for the 50s version now.

Scott Parker said...

David - re: Holmes/Dickens. Starting last year when I read The Man Who Invented Christmas (about how Dickens came to write A Christmas Carol), I've been in a Dickens mood all year. I read Dan Simmons' Drood and, recently, Matthew Pearl's The Last Dickens, both dealing with Boz's last, unfinished novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood. I'm going to read the actual Drood in January. Anyway, most books written more than a century ago about a foreign land is, by my mind, removed. What matters is how well the author can speak to a reader a century or more removed.

Dickens, to me, speaks both to his contemporary readership (with his social concerns) but also to us 21st-Century readers (with his timeless tales). His characters are vivid, to be sure, but there is an obvious over-the-topness to many of them. That's why they are so memorable and why words like "Fagin" have become shorthand. Moreover, Dickens' writing style is purposefully fancy in many places. You know you are reading a great writer and he shows off a lot.

Doyle and Holmes, on the other hand, seem to be somewhat more real. True, they both write in the same era but the characters in the Holmes stories are largely nameless. Other than the big names (Holmes, Watson, Mrs. Hudson, Lestrade, Irene Adler, Prof. Moriarty, Mycroft, Sir Henry Baskerville), how many other Holmes characters can you name? Quick: name the guy who steals the carbuncle? Who owns Silver Blaze? Because Doyle's characters are "regular" joes, there's not a lot to help us readers remember them. They are normal and, by extension, more real, to me, than Scrooge, Copperfield, or Little Dorrit. Doyle's writing style, aside from a few Victorianisms and speaking patterns, is pretty modern. You pluck a Doyle story aside a Block story and modern audiences would enjoy and be familiar with both.

Long story short, and, upon further thought, I, too, might change my mind, but I'm going to agree with Stout's comment. Ironically, I've read only one Stout book--Nero Wolf's first adventure--and didn't like it. I may have to give him another try.

Barrie said...

I am a huge Nero Wolfe fan, so I loved this post!! I heard somewhere (not not sure how accurate it is )--that Rex Stout didn't revise!

David Cranmer said...

Barrie, That would be amazing not to revise. Some people just operate at another lever don't they. Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, Stephen King for example.