Rex Todhunter Stout, creator of the famous detective Nero Wolfe, was born on December 1, 1886 in Noblesville, Indiana. After a stint in the U.S. Navy (serving aboard the Presidential yacht during Teddy Roosevelt’s administration), Stout worked a series of odd jobs and wrote four novels of contemporary life before turning his hand to detective fiction. His 1934 novel Fer-de-Lance was the first to feature the massive and eccentric detective Nero Wolfe. Like his creator, Wolfe is a man with an interest in gourmet food and cultivating orchids. He solves crimes from his brownstone apartment. His assistant, a detective named Archie Goodwin, handles the work out on the street and provides a contact with the world for his boss. Goodwin relays all of his information to Wolfe, who then solves the crime. Goodwin also narrates the books. The books were incredibly popular in their time and still have devotees today.
Stout published a total of forty-six Nero Wolfe titles. Stout was also a fierce anticommunist liberal who supported FDR and the war effort by writing propaganda and doing patriotic radio broadcasts, but was still kept under surveillance by J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI.
Rex Stout died on October 27, 1975 in Danbury, CT at the age of eighty-eight.
Webster’s Dictionary of American Authors. Smithmark Publishers, New York City, 1995.
The Oxford Companion To American Literature by James D. Hart. Fifth Edition. Oxford University Press, New York and Oxford, 1985.
Wikipedia entry on Nero Wolfe.