Tea Tonic and Toxin: Mystery and Thriller Podcast and Book Club

Rex Stout, Nero Wolfe & Archie

The League of Frightened Men - Rex Stout - Nero Wolfe - Podcast Episode from Tea, Tonic & Toxin
The League of Frightened Men - Rex Stout - Nero Wolfe (1)
Tea, Tonic, and Toxin
Rex Stout, Nero Wolfe & Archie

Nero Wolfe Mystery Series / The League of Frightened Men by Rex Stout

A hazing prank at Harvard left Paul Chapin disabled. Years later, two of the men responsible end up dead, and a series of poems promises continued retribution. Now the other men who hazed Paul are desperate for the protection of brilliant detective Nero Wolfe in the second book in the Nero Wolfe mystery series by Rex Stout.

Is Paul Chapin exacting revenge on his former classmates, and can Nero Wolfe and his wise-cracking sidekick, Archie Goodwin, stop him before he kills again? Find out in Rex Stout’s The League of Frightened Men (1935).

Learn More: Read our starter questions on The League of Frightened Men.

Get Excited: Check out the 2024 book list.

Be Heard: Tell us what you’re thinking here.

TRANSCRIPT: Nero Wolfe Mystery Series / The League of Frightened Men by Rex Stout

Sarah Harrison  00:24
Welcome to Tea Tonic & Toxin, a book club and podcast for anyone who wants to explore the best mysteries and thrillers ever written. I’m your host, Sarah Harrison.

Carolyn Daughters  00:35
And I’m your host Carolyn Daughters. Pour yourself a cup of tea, a gin and tonic …

Sarah Harrison  00:40
… but not a toxin … 

Carolyn Daughters  00:42
And join us on a journey through 19th and 20th century mysteries and thrillers, every one of them a game changer. 

Sarah Harrison  00:54
I am really excited about our episode today. We’re talking about Rex Stout and Nero Wolfe.

Carolyn Daughters  00:59
I’m always excited about our episodes.

Sarah Harrison  01:01
But before we jump in to our exciting episode, we have an even more exciting sponsor. It’s Carolyn Daughters. Carolyn runs game changing corporate brand therapy workshops, teaches online marketing bootcamp courses, and leads persuasive writing workshops. Carolyn empowers startups, small businesses, enterprise organizations, and government agencies to win hearts, minds, deals, and dollars. You can learn more at carolyndaughters.com.

Carolyn Daughters  01:38
Sarah, I feel like we could talk about Nero Wolfe all day, but our guest Ira Brad Matetsky would probably hang up on us.

Sarah Harrison  01:48
I don’t know. I think he likes talking about Nero Wolfe.

Carolyn Daughters  01:50
Yes, we have Ira back for a second episode to talk about The League of Frightened Men by Rex Stout. Before we get too deep, we have a listener of the episode. And believe it or not, we have a listener of the last episode since we neglected to have a listener for that episode. So we’re doing two. We’re going crazy today. One listener is Sandra Bennett from Blackstone, Virginia. And the other is Alec Murray from Breckenridge, Colorado. So thank you Sandra and Alec for being amazing and for being members of the Tea Tonic & Toxin book club. To show our appreciation we’re going to be sending them a sticker. If you want your own on-air shout out and one of these awesome stickers, all you have to do is weigh in on the books we’re reading. You can comment on our website, teatonicandtoxin.com. You can post to our Facebook and Instagram pages @teatonicandtoxin. And because we like to give you a lot of things to do, you can subscribe to the podcast so you never miss an episode. If you enjoy this episode, you’re gonna want to listen to the other one with Ira talking about Nero Wolfe’s The League of Frightened Men and all of the other episodes. And while you’re at it, yeah, feel free to give us a five star rating. On Apple podcast Spotify or wherever you listen to the Tea Tonic & Toxin podcast.

Sarah Harrison  03:26
We’re everywhere. But if you find a place where we aren’t, tell us so we can get there. All right, I’m going to start with a book summary for The League of Frightened Men by Rex Stout. A hazing prank at Harvard left Paul Chapin disabled. More than two decades later, two of the men responsible end up dead and a series of threatening poems promise continued retribution. Now the other men who hazed Paul are desperate for the protection of brilliant detective Nero Wolfe. Is Paul Chapin exacting revenge on his former classmates? And can Nero Wolfe stop the killer before he strikes again? Published in 1935. The League of Frightened Men is the second Nero Wolfe book by Rex Stout. Stout received the Mystery Writers of America Grandmaster award in 1959. In 2000, Bouchercon nominated him as best mystery writer of the century and the Nero Wolfe books as best mystery series of the century. The Wolfe pack is the International Literary Society devoted to Nero Wolfe. Every year on the first Saturday in December, the Wolfe Pack holds a black orchid banquet and presents the Nero Award and the Black Orchid novella award for excellence in the mystery genre. Today, we’re excited to talk about the League of Frightened Men. You can learn more about all our book selections at teatonicandtoxin.com and on Facebook and Instagram @teatonicandtoxin.

Carolyn Daughters  03:28
We are so excited to have for a second episode Ira Brad Matetsky as our guest. He has been the Werowance, which is the president of the Wolfe Pack, since 2007. He has written a number of articles about Nero Wolfe and related topics. He has edited the Last Drive and Other Stories, a collection of some of the earliest work by Rex Stout, published by the Mysterious Press/Open Road in 2015. Ira is also a Sherlockian and is invested as a member of the Baker Street Irregulars and the Adventuresses of Sherlock Holmes. He is a litigation partner at the law firm of Dorf, Nelson and Zauderer LLP in New York City. Welcome, Ira.

Sarah Harrison  05:44
Welcome back.

Ira Brad Matetsky  05:46
Thank you very much. Glad to be back here.

Sarah Harrison  05:49
Thanks for joining us for another episode. I have so many questions still. But maybe the first question I want to start with to segue our two episodes is when we think about The League of Frightened Men, it’s the second Nero Wolfe book. And Carolyn, I think you and I will both be able to speak to this, since you do the majority of the book selection. And I just weigh in with thoughts here and there as we craft these lists. But what made you choose the second book out of the whole Nero Wolfe corpus as the book that we should read for Rex Stout?

Carolyn Daughters  06:40
I read a lot of the lists and what people were saying should be on a list. And I always put all of that information on trial for its life. Essentially, I’m always testing and trying to figure out, should we be doing a different book, should we be doing the first book, the last book, something in the middle? First books are really challenging for a lot of authors. They’re figuring so much out in that first book, including voice, characters, and the way in which they’re going to structure a mystery. I have to think long and hard about whether we want to include a first book. We made the decision to include Whose Body, for example, from Dorothy Sayers. You can argue that that book should have been included, because it is launching this entire series and introducing the characters. And there’s also some really interesting scenes in Dorothy Sayers having to do with PTSD. And I thought she really covers that idea in an interesting and fairly authentic way. But generally speaking, in his book series, especially if we’re only going to read one of the author’s books, as we are doing with Nero Wolfe. With Nero Wolfe, I want to pick a book that is fairly representative of the characters and the voice. And this book has this really interesting element, which is it marries this cozy mystery idea of the gathering of everybody in one room, which is very convenient from a detective, talking to all of the suspects perspective, and also this hardboiled American detective novel that is becoming increasingly popular. Archie Goodwin is this guy who goes out on the street, and he’s pretty tough, and he’s fun to watch. He’s fun to hear from. He’s the narrator of the book. So I thought this second book would do a good job of representing both of these ideas, the bringing together or marrying of the British mystery novel and American mystery novel. I’m interested in hearing your thoughts as well. We chose this second book. Do you agree with this selection? Is there another book we should have chosen? And would it have been Fer-de-Lance?

Ira Brad Matetsky  09:07
There were a lot. I would not have started with Fer-de-Lance. We’re often asked what books should you start with? And there are people who say, I think it’s the Red King who said, “begin at the beginning and go on til you come to the end.” But I wouldn’t have begun with Fer-de-Lance. If we only had one book to talk about, this is an interesting choice. The League of Frightened Men is one of my favorites of the Nero Wolfe books. But my predecessor, the former Werowance, the man who led the Wolfe Pack for 15 years before I did, ranks it as his least favorite. This is not a completely typical Nero Wolfe novel. It is by far the longest just in terms of length. And as a psychological we talked last time about Rex Stout and his career as a “serious novelist.” There are psychological even psychosexual themes in this book that you would not find in one of the books written after the war. I don’t want to say they were lighter. I certainly don’t want to say they were formulaic by the end. Although there are a lot of recurring motifs, of which the two of you have read one book already put your finger on last time. This is not a completely typical Nero Wolfe reading experience. Having said that, I would say to a reader, if you liked this book, you will probably enjoy reading many of the other Nero Wolfe books, if you dislike this book, because you thought it was a little longer, a little too complicated, a little too heavy, then you still might enjoy reading the later Nero Wolfe books. If you disliked the characters and the basic setting, then Nero Wolfe probably is not for you.

Carolyn Daughters  11:12
I think it would. This is my biased take, but I think it’d be hard to not at least like reading Archie Goodwin and Nero Wolfe. I actually like both of them.

Sarah Harrison  11:25
Definitely. They’re great characters. What’s the typical book when you get that question, Ira? What do you tell people?

Ira Brad Matetsky  11:36
It’s complicated. One of the books that said outside the brownstone is the fifth book in the series. It’s called Too Many Cooks. It’s not set in the brownstone at all. It is set at a resort which Rex Stout calls Kanawha Spa, West Virginia, which is clearly based on a real resort that still exists called the Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. The Wolfe Pack just held a series of events there. It’s a great book. It’s a well-plotted mystery. It has some complicated by today’s standard racial aspects that were very progressive on these issues. But the characters in West Virginia are using terminology that we would not use today, to say the least. So we have that complicated. But some people might enjoy starting there. But it’s very atypical because Wolfe several hundred miles away from New York City. My favorite of the shorter stories is called Too Many Detectives. It features not just Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin, but Wolfe is thrown together with a group of others. There’s a divorce evidence-gathering type of detective, and there’s a very high-end white collar type of detective, and a hardboiled character type of detective. And you see Nero Wolfe interacting with his professional colleagues, who come at them from different sources. But you also get a slice of how Rex Stout might have written some of these other characters. That story, though, is set not in New York, but in Albany, New York. They’ve been summoned to meet with officials up there. In our last podcast episode, we talked about how I ordered three or four books out of a catalog. And I started with a book called The Golden Spiders, which is basically random, and it’s one of the last books I would tell people to start with. It’s one of the books that has those hardboiled scenes. It has an unusually sympathetic murder victim. It gets very heavily involved in the politics of the day. The two of you, I would say, probably should read that fairly soon. You’re reading Nero Wolfe, but either no circumstances what I say this is a typical representative example of the books by Rex Stout. You can start anywhere. And if you haven’t been grabbed by page 25, it may not happen. The example I keep coming back to Sherlock Holmes because most of your viewers will be familiar with the Sherlockian canon. You wouldn’t somebody new to Sherlock Holmes with A Study in Scarlet. But if they happen to read it, they get to the American section and say, Hey, my book is mis-bound. There were 70 strange pages.

Sarah Harrison  14:54
Exactly. That’s how we started.

Ira Brad Matetsky  14:58
But if you happen to start with A Study in Scarlet, it doesn’t mean you’ve been spoiled. But it starts somebody new, probably with The Hound of the Baskervilles or with The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. But you could start anywhere. You can start Nero Wolfe anywhere. This is probably as good a place as any.

Carolyn Daughters  15:15
I mentioned Whose Body by Dorothy Sayers. There’s a psychopath in that book, and there’s arguably a psychopath in The League of Frightened Men. Paul Chapin is such an interesting character. I think that’s another draw to this book, aside from the fact that I liked Nero Wolfe, and I like Archie Goodwin. That general plot I thought was interesting. I would love to talk a little bit about how there are all these guys who are going to pay Nero Wolfe and how he distributes costs equitably. There are all these things that I think are really interesting about this book. But Paul Chapin is among the interesting elements of this book.

Ira Brad Matetsky  16:00
Paul Chapin is a remarkable character as per The New York Times review, he’s almost a throwback to Rex Stout saying, okay, I’m going to take some of the more traditional novel, a character out of one of those books he had written a couple of years earlier, and he’s throwing in this very different milieu of the multilayered murder mystery, where you have the two crimes that Nero Wolfe is called upon to solve. We’re not going to spoil anything, but you have the two crimes that Nero Wolfe was called upon to solve. And then you have this additional crime out of left field that gets added to the mix. This business of Nero Wolfe rounding up the group of clients, again, is not typical, but it does come up a couple more times later in the book. There’s a book called And Be a Villain, which is the first of the three books that feature Arnold Zeck. Zeck is Wolfe’s Professor Moriarty character. And a similar motif is used. But it’s something that’s interesting. And again, without spoiling anything, something that seemed to be throwaway line about investigating everybody’s wealth turned out to be part of the mystery. For all of the length of this book, there’s not a lot of waste because everything becomes irrelevant. And it’s a very solvable mystery. You certainly don’t read later Nero Wolfe, for a fair play, can you solve this? Rex Stout was not Agatha Christie, was not there at the Sayers, was not John Dixon Carr or Ellery Queen. By the 1950s, he’s capable in a 220-page book of having Saul Panzer walk into the evidence into the office on page 210. And say, I’m back from Peru with the evidence, Mr. Wolfe. This book, I think, is, people would say, maybe they got it, maybe they didn’t, but there’s a “fair play” mystery in here.

Carolyn Daughters  18:24
Here’s my challenge to fair play. And I want to hear from you, Ira, and Sarah. Paul Chapin writes these books, he is our Moriarty in this book. And I thought, wow, he would have made an amazing Moriarity for a series of books. We’re at least led down this path thinking okay, Paul Chapin. And he writes these books, and Nero Wolfe goes off and read the books because Nero Wolfe is very thorough, and, boy, he loves research. He likes a deep dive. At one point, Archie is saying he thinks Paul Chapin must be the murderer. He thinks Paul Chapin did this and did that. And Nero Wolfe counters that by saying if you had read Paul Chapin’s books you would know X, Y, or Z. And I thought, well, but the reader can’t read Paul Chapin’s books. So Nero Wolfe has an inroad into Paul Chapin that Archie doesn’t because Archie chooses not to read and that we, the readers, don’t have because we don’t have the books.

Ira Brad Matetsky  19:32
That’s fair. And that’s going to remind me to recommend yet another Nero Wolfe book with that theme. It’s called Plot It Yourself. It’s set in the world of publishing, and it was written the year after Rex Stout was president of the Mystery Writers of America. He was president of the Authors League, the Authors Guild, he was very knowledgeable about the publishing industry. Read that book, and then we’ll come back and talk about how he uses his ability to read books off screen. He also likes to drop the names of books that he thinks are real books that he thinks his readers should be reading, typically books written by his friends or people he admired.

Sarah Harrison  20:18
Oh, that’s cool.

Ira Brad Matetsky  20:21
In The League of Frightened Men, he mentions a book called The Native’s Return by Loyzé Adamich, which is about a Yugoslav American, Slovenian American, who returns to Yugoslavia. It was based upon that book that Rex Stout later reveals that Nero Wolfe was born in Montenegro. That becomes a motif of the later books. It hadn’t really evolved by this book. It comes from that real-world influence. The other thing to know about publishing in this book is that obscenity prosecutions in the 1930s were very real. When Rex Stout published his serious novels, which weren’t pornography or anything, but they had what we would call adult themes. They had to be vetted by Morris Ernst, the great lawyer who fought obscenity cases and defamation cases and is the lawyer who wrote the case that resulted in the obscenity trial of Ulysses by James Joyce that declared that book as being not obscene. This was all very real in 1930, in 1935, and Rex Stout was very much aware of it.

Carolyn Daughters  21:43
Because Paul Chapin himself has to defend his book in a courtroom at one point in The League of Frightened Men. We hear that early in the book.

Ira Brad Matetsky  21:51
He probably was thrilled by the publicity.

Carolyn Daughters  21:55
That’s what Rex Stout wrote.

Ira Brad Matetsky  21:57
Bennett Cerf of Random House, and Morris Ernst arranged for a copy of Ulysses to be seized. The government just wanted to quietly and not do anything about it. And he wanted to be able to sell it above the table. And so they brought about this test case. Paul Chapin would have loved that strategy.

Carolyn Daughters  22:23
A hazing event at Harvard leaves Paul Chapin disabled. And there are all of these Harvard students, his peers, who were directly or indirectly responsible for this act. I  thought this was a really interesting launching point for the story and also this character. Sarah, I would like to hear what you think about Paul Chapin? How did his history as to where he got where he is today and his response to these events from decades earlier? How did that? How did that strike you?

Sarah Harrison  23:09
What I liked about it is, what you guys have touched on, which is this is a pretty psychological book. And the way that this group of men are driven by their guilt over it, and the way that they interpret events, based on the guilt that they feel and the way that Paul Chapin himself grows to despise pity and doesn’t want any more of pity. Is this really interesting? Just a psychological driver of the plot? And I love to hear you noted a little bit about Mrs. Burton. What I liked about her was she said I never felt sorry for him. I never liked him. I didn’t pity him.

Ira Brad Matetsky  23:57
Well, I went to Princeton, so I have no problem with disparaging anything connected with Harvard. I can’t say I remember everything about when I first read this book, which would probably be on the order of 30 years ago at this point. But I do remember asking myself what to make of this character. And as it happened, I read this book well out of order I came to it relatively late, which has gotta get at the time was just a function of which books happened to be in print, and available to me. And I remember thinking this character, and I wasn’t as familiar. I don’t know if I realized when I was reading it if I had gone back and noticed the copyright date, and so forth. But I remember thinking this characteristic of it is an order of magnitude more deeply developed than the typical not serious character in one of the Nero Wolfe books. Rex Stout is still, although he’s almost 50, still a relatively inexperienced author in the mystery field. He’s almost combining genres here. You can call it a rookie mistake, or you can call it freedom from convention that comes to be comes from being new. I haven’t had a chance yet to listen to your, your Dorothy Sayers episode. But in Whose Body, Dorothy Sayers made the elementary mistake of having the murderer turn on a clue that was not printable in 1920, to revise the novel as a result. And when I read Whose Body years later, I remember thinking the key to the murder is very weak. That’s because she had to rewrite the plot in about a half an hour or the magazine wouldn’t print it. I’ll tell you all about that offline if you’re not familiar with it.

Sarah Harrison  26:14
Wow. No, we didn’t have that. But go back and listen to the episode, listeners, and imagine that as part of it.

Ira Brad Matetsky  26:20
Rex Stout is still finding his way, developing the character. But yet, for the second book, he knew by the time that he wrote The League of Frightened Men, he was going to write more books. This book was actually serialized in the Saturday Evening Post, for the equivalent of what would be $100,000 or more in today’s money. And he knew that Nero Wolfe was going to be at least an important part of his future writing. He probably didn’t know that there were going to be 72 stories. So he was still finding his way. And yet, while the book, in some ways is a little different from the typical Nero Wolfe book, you’re in that universe. You don’t have the feeling that you do with some authors that the author really hasn’t figured out the characters yet. You are already even in Fer-de-Lance,the first book. You were already in the Nero Wolfe universe. There were some rough edges to be sanded down. But you’re already there.

Carolyn Daughters  27:36
Let’s talk a little bit about the Wolfe Pack, because I am dying to know about this organization.

Sarah Harrison  27:43
This is to me sounds like one of the most active mystery organizations we have heard about. And you’re in multiple organizations. Tell us about the Wolfe Pack.

Ira Brad Matetsky  27:53
So, about the Wolfe Pack — do you want the pretentious version or the vernacular version? The Wolfe Pack is the International Literary Society for Rex Stout. The Wolfe Pack is the Nero Wolfe fan club. Okay, thank you. We are a group started in New York in the 1970s.We are national and even international. We have about 650 paid members, and more people than that subscribe to our Facebook group, which is linked on the website. We have in-person events, such as the gathering we had at the Greenbrier that I mentioned. We have an annual assembly and banquet on the first Saturday of December each year in midtown Manhattan. It’s the first Saturday in December to honor the birthday of Rex Stout, which was December 1. This year he will be 138. We publish a publication called the Gazette, the Journal of the Wolfe Pack. It’s called the Gazette because that is the newspaper frequently mentioned in the Nero Wolfe books. We have a bimonthly book discussion group that meets in New York. In past years, we’ve also had groups that met in Boston and in other cities. Those are relatively less active right now. If anyone has a critical mass of Wolfe-ian’s in their in their city, we’d be happy to work with you on setting up a group. During the pandemic, we also started an online (via Zoom) book discussion group. And even though we’ve been able to resume holding in-person events, I’ve kept that going. We do have members who are not able to get to the book discussion in New York either because they live remotely from New York or they are more comfortable online. And so we hold those every two months as well. We read the books in order. We began with Fer-de-Lance. And a moderator has a discussion, a little bit similar to this, but we focus specifically on the book. We might have anywhere between 20 and 40 people. It’s limited to our members only to keep the size down, especially when people were not able to get to the in-person events. And so that’s something that’s available. We have a website, which is probably the leading source of information about the Nero Wolfe books, and Rex Stout. We have a twice-a-year publication. I mentioned the Gazette, and it’s a wonderful group. And I hope some of your listeners will want to join us for further information. Visit nerowolfe.org to find the signup information if people want to join either via PayPal or by mail. If you have questions, you can reach me at werowance@nerowolfe.org.

Sarah Harrison  31:29
That’s a great place to ask you about Werowance. So that is your title. You’re the president of the Wolfe Pack.

Ira Brad Matetsky  31:39
The title probably gets disproportionate attention in one of the books. One of the books I mentioned a few minutes ago, Too Many Cooks, is set in West Virginia, and the opening scene of the book features Archie Goodwin helping Nero Wolfe get on the train from Penn Station in New York to West Virginia. Mr. Wolfe doesn’t like to leave the house certainly doesn’t like getting on a contraption like a train. We saw he didn’t want to get in a car in The League of Frightened Men either. And in conversation, Archie mentions that the Algonquin Indian Native American tribes that inhabited that part of West Virginia call their leader or chief the “Werowance.” And so the head of the Wolfe Pack dating back to the 1970s when it was founded by Ellen Krieger, has been called the Werowance. We’ve had a lot of stability. I’m only the third Werowance in 45 years.

Sarah Harrison  32:42
Wow. That’s amazing. And so you recently did an event.

Ira Brad Matetsky  32:52
We recapitulated the plot of Too Many Cooks by Rex Stout. The book involves Nero Wolfe being invited to give a talk at a convention of the world’s 50 greatest chefs, Les Quinze Maîtres, at this world-renowned resort in West Virginia. Wolfe is invited. This was a period of time when haute cuisine was basically French cuisine. In fact, our keynote speaker at last year’s banquet was a professor at Yale who’s written about American culinary history and how so much of it was originally French dominated. And Nero Wolfe is invited to give a talk to Les Quinze Maîtres on the campus of the Greenbrier about American contributions to cuisine. Of course, while Wolfe is there, a murder takes place, so it becomes a murder mystery. All the Nero Wolfe books are murder mysteries, although you don’t see a lot of blood and so forth. So we recapitulated the book was published. This is probably the only mystery novel, certainly only a mystery novel of the 1930s, that was published with an appendix of recipes.

Sarah Harrison  34:12
That is so cool. I’m getting that.

Ira Brad Matetsky  34:14
We had the Greenbrier of world-renowned chefs who recreated for us the French dinner at the American dinner based upon the menus and the recipes that were contained in this book. And in the Nero Wolfe cookbook.

Carolyn Daughters  34:28
It’s just right up your alley, Sarah.

Sarah Harrison  34:29
I know I’m dying to go, honestly, I love cooking historical recipes or literary recipes.

Ira Brad Matetsky  34:40
I have some items that I will send you. We’ll talk offline later. Send me your postal address. I have a couple of items for you. This unfortunately could not go for every listener. But we’re going to be bringing out a book called The Best of the Gazette, hopefully at the end of this year or at the latest next year, which will reprint some articles about some of the recipes, some of the cooking aspects. Fritz is a character in the books, Fritz Brenner, the chef who runs the household. There’s a lot of dialogue between Nero Wolfe and Fritz about menus and about what ingredients to use, about the recipes. The chef at the Greenbrier said to us that a lot of Rex Stout recipes were overly dramatic.

Sarah Harrison  35:39
What does that mean? In recipe terms?

Ira Brad Matetsky  35:41
How complicated something is to prepare. How you should mix it for half an hour. No, you mix it for three minutes. Rex Stout made the recipes more complicated than necessary. But a lot of the books are about a lot of the discussion. The books are about food. One of Nero Wolfe’s best friends is the owner and chef at a restaurant in Manhattan called Rusterman’s. He gets murdered. Nero Wolfe has to go to Yugoslavia to solve the murder in one of the later books called The Black Mountain. Another of Wolfe’s hobbies is the orchids on the roof. And a couple of times he has to go out and solve orchid-related crimes. It’s really a lot of fun.

Sarah Harrison  36:37
That’s awesome. Yeah, that brings up one of the things we had.

Ira Brad Matetsky 36:41
We do the Greenbrier trip every few years, so I’ll make sure you’re invited next time.

Sarah Harrison  36:46
Oh, please, please. Yeah, we would love that. We would record a special episode.

Ira Brad Matetsky  36:49
In the meantime, come to the Black Orchid Banquet in December.

Sarah Harrison  36:54
That sounds like a ton of fun, too. Even just reading this single Nero Wolfe book, I was really struck with the food, the food discussions. They had a recipe in there I wanted to ask you about. It was when Archie was dreaming of breakfast. He describes the breakfast. He says he lined a casserole with butter. Put in it six tablespoons of cream, three fresh eggs for Lambert sausages, salt, pepper, paprika, and chives. And I thought, I could make that. But what is Lambert sausage? I can’t find it on Google.

Ira Brad Matetsky  37:29
Okay, thank you now found the question. I think I’ve been keeping up fairly well. I’ve away from my library. There is a series of annotated information.  I could probably look that up. If it’s real. It may be something that Rex Stout invented. You’ve stumped the band with that one.

Sarah Harrison  38:01
All right, well.

Carolyn Daughters  38:02
And you did Google it.

Sarah Harrison  38:03
I have Googled it. But I was like, did this die out in the 30s? Maybe they don’t have Lambert sausages anymore.

Ira Brad Matetsky 38:16
If you remind me with an email, I will check my library when I get home. And by the time we record your next episode, I will have shared with you the Wolfe Pack’s collective learning on what a Lambert sausage might have been.

Sarah Harrison  38:28
That’s awesome. And I will make it and we’ll post it on our website or social media if folks want to see this delicious breakfast casserole.

Ira Brad Matetsky 38:36
Well, the plot of Too Many Cooks, which I just mentioned, revolves around Nero Wolfe’s desire to have one of the famous chefs from Spain share with him the recipe for a breakfast sausage called saucisse minuit. Subsequently, the chef says, No, I don’t give anyone that recipe. When Nero Wolfe is asked to solve the murder that takes place while he’s at the chef’s convention, he says I’ll solve it only if he’s given the recipe for saucisse minuit. So that was served at the Greenbrier.

Sarah Harrison  39:15
Okay, cool. So that chef makes his own sausages.

Ira Brad Matetsky  39:18
That recipe I can get you.

Sarah Harrison  39:20
That would be awesome. Yeah, we had talked earlier, and you mentioned there is, in fact, a Nero Wolfe cookbook that’s out of print.

Ira Brad Matetsky 39:29
But there were actually a couple. The Nero Wolfe cookbook was compiled in the 1970s by Rex Stout, but really edited by a cookbook editor named Barbara Burn. It’s out of print, but copies are relatively easy to find.

Sarah Harrison  39:47
I found it on eBay.

Ira Brad Matetsky 39:48
There were also older editions. I don’t know whether the most recent Bantam reprinting of Too Many Cooks includes the recipe section, but plenty of older versions do and there was also, as a promotional item, a recipe box that was created when Rex Stout participated for the American magazine on a 10 or 12 city tour. Every year, the magazine would get four or five of its authors to go on a tour around the country, promoting themselves in the magazine. The other well-known author that year was Gene Sarazen, the golf pro, who had written an article about golf. And so in every city Sarazen and Rex Stout would go out and play around of golf. Rex Stout probably lost every batch. I think he said he won 8 out of 300 holes. He clearly has a better recipes.

Ira Brad Matetsky  41:04
The Black Orchid banquet is all about names. We call ourselves the Wolfe Pack. It’s a fairly obvious name, or logo was drawn by Dan Wilson, the well-known cartoonist who my father had the first comic art-related gallery in New York in 1974. In the first Dan Wilson exhibition, sidenote, little cute little logo. The first suggestion that there be a Nero Wolfe fan club was made as early as 1940. And the suggestion was that we would be called the Werewolfes. At that point, that didn’t pan out. The Black Orchids is the name of a Nero Wolfe novella published in 1941. A murder takes place while Nero Wolfe is visiting the New York Orchid Show. A grower has managed to successfully breed the elusive black orchid, and Nero Wolfe sends Archie to go look at it. Archie describes it. And finally, Nero Wolfe is so jealous that he leaves the house, which he does more frequently than what he wants to admit. And he goes to the convention center and looks at the black orchids. Of course, an orchid grower is killed, and we’re off to the races. And just like Wolfe’s price for solving one murder was the recipe for saucisse minuit, his price for solving this murder is a black orchid that he can put in his orchid room. It’s another book that’s well worth reading. And my predecessors decided that that would be the name of of the dinner. There was a bookshop opened by an old a couple. One of the owners had been a colleague of mine at my first law firm, but he decided instead to open a mystery mystery bookshop, and it was called the Black Market Bookstore. And they sold mysteries for many years but specialized in Rex Stout and Nero Wolfe. That store is gone now unfortunately, but I bought many of my copies there.

Sarah Harrison  42:18
That’s awesome. Well, we’re getting close to our time, but I want to hear a little bit about the Black Orchid banquet.

Sarah Harrison  43:15
When you give out your awards, are those given to modern authors? Who are the modern authors?

Ira Brad Matetsky 13:31
We have an awards committee. For many years, one of Stout’s daughters was one of the judges. Now one of his granddaughters is one of the judges. We also have some experienced writers and editors. We give out an annual Nero award to a current non-American mystery novel in more or less the Nero Wolfe tradition, meaning not lots of overt sex and violence. And we give an annual novella award, the Black Orchid Novella Award, in combination with Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine. Their editor, Linda Landrigan, is on our steering committee that’s given to an original novella each year. That, in addition to a small cash stipend, gets the author publication in Alfred Hitchcock. Information about eligibility and submissions for those awards is on the website. It is not a requirement by any means that the winners come to the Black Orchid Banquet and accept the award in person. But we’ve been very lucky, very fortunate and our awards have achieved enough recognition. Typically the author’s do come and accept the award in person to make a few remarks. It’s a highlight of the banquet each year.

Sarah Harrison  43:33
Sounds amazing. I want to go to all the things, Carolyn.

Carolyn Daughters  43:56
I know. We have to fill the calendar even more, and our calendars are already pretty crazy right now.

Ira Brad Matetsky  44:46
The other banquet that there’s usually a keynote speech we have five toasts to Nero Wolfe, to Archie Goodwin, Rex Stout, and Fritz, the chef. We have freeform song parodies, which are a highlight every year. It just a lot of fun. There’s an assembly in the afternoon, where a couple of people give presentations. We do a book discussion sometimes the night before. By all means, people should make it a point to attend one year.

Carolyn Daughters  45:51
It’s incredible. I want to do this very much.

Sarah Harrison  45:56
I know you have a hard stop. And I feel terrible because we haven’t even got to talk about your work and your articles and your editing in the Wolfeian universe. But we’re definitely going to post links.

Carolyn Daughters  46:09
Yes, thank you so much for being a guest with us today. You’ve been wonderful on both of these episodes.

Sarah Harrison  46:18
Not only will we post links to the Wolfe Pack and all the websites, but I’m gonna put together on our Amazon store a list of all the books Ira mentioned, as well as his books, and anything that we’ve touched on in the discussion. So check that out. Ira, if folks want to find you, how would they do that?

Ira Brad Matetsky  46:38
I also agree that we could talk endlessly about Rex Stout and Nero Wolfe. And the people who were present at the Greenbrier events will tell you that I did. And if you have any more questions later or need more information, or if any of the readers have questions, feel free to reach out to me. Thank you very much on behalf of myself and the Wolfe Pack for having me.

The best place to find us is at the Wolfe Pack website, nerowolfe.org. They can find how to reach me by my Wolfeian email werowance@nerowolfe.org. But more important than finding me is finding the group at NeroWolfe.org. (You can also find information about Ira on the Tea, Tonic & Toxin website.)

Carolyn Daughters  47:13
Next up in our 2024 reads is Death in the Stocks by Georgette Heyer. When a man is found dead in an English village, Inspector Hannasyde must unravel an eccentric family’s secrets. This 1935 Golden Age Classic is a cross between a traditional mystery and a historical romance. We’ll be joined by special guest Jennifer Kloester. You can learn about all our 2024 book selections at teatonicandtoxin.com. You can also comment, weigh in, and follow along with what we’re reading and discussing @teatonicandtoxin on Instagram and Facebook. And you can subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.

Sarah Harrison  47:50
Right. And until then, folks, stay mysterious.

Recent Episodes

Regency Romance Mystery Novel

Regency Romance Mystery Novel

Jennifer Kloester, expert on all things Georgette Heyer, joins Sarah and Carolyn from her home in Melbourne, Australia, to talk about regency romance mystery Death in the Stocks. Georgette and Jennifer make quite the team. We were riveted. You will want to listen in.

Listen →
Phantom Orbit by David Ignatius

Phantom Orbit by David Ignatius

David Ignatius is known for his uncanny ability to predict the next great national security headline, and his newest book, Phantom Orbit, had us on the edge of our seats. We’re talking space warfare, folks. This thriller is intriguing from start to finish. READ THIS BOOK!

Listen →
Rex Stout, Nero Wolfe & Archie

Rex Stout, Nero Wolfe & Archie

Okay, so we said we love Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin, but what we really meant is that we like Nero and love Archie! Rex Stout, you created a gem of a character in Archie. We talk all about it with Ira Brad Matetsky (The Wolfe Pack), who joins us on a second episode!

Listen →

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *