Long ago I discovered this marvelous set of mystery stories written by Rex Stout. My parents had a few paperback copies lieing around and I gobbled them up. “Gobble” being a good word to associate with the heavyweight but non-peripatetic Wolfe, a gourmand, a raiser of orchids, and a genius who occasionally solved crimes for a fee. Archie Goodwin was from the mid-west but operated perfectly as Wolfe’s legman principally in Manhattan. Goodwin went out and detected and operated as a human tape recorder, remembering verbatim conversations involving many people. He would return to the brownstone residence/office of Wolfe and replay the conversation. He also was kept on by Wolfe as a personal goad. To goad Wolfe in to taking work when income was needed. Also to goad the police. To escort and beguile young women involved in cases. Archie was the narrative voice of the series of books. He and I share the same birthday in the autumn. For a long time I wished that I would grow up to be just like him. Brave, smart, funny, and honest.
Stout began the series in the depression years and continued it into the 1960s or was it the 70s. Right now a stack of copies of his stories are in a place of honour on my library shelf. Some are falling to pieces, acidic pulp pages, tattered copies that have been read and reread many, many times. I am considering going on a summer long expedition to get a complete set of these old treasures.
Alberto Manguel was born in Buenos Aires in 1948, was educated there, and was a friend of Jorge Luis Borges late in Borges’s life. He was raised in Israel where his father was the Argentine ambassador. In 1984 he became a Canadian citizen. Manguel is a gifted anthologist, translator, editor, and occasional novelist. He now lives in France
I just finished reading The Library at Night and felt compelled to see if my local small town library had any other books by him. Found A History of Reading on a bottom shelf, unfortunately covered in dust. I am part way through it and plan to keep searching out his books.
I have been remembering my early history of reading and sat down and made a list of libraries I have studied in or at least visited. My current library is about 3000 books. It includes some old leather bound volumes that belonged to my grandfather, Dr. William Gibson, of Kingston. These include poetry by Coleridge, novels by Stevenson. Books that I inherited from my parents include many of Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin mysteries. I still have a book I requested as the only gift I wanted for a birthday when I was about 12, A History of Warfare by Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery. I still have it. One book I still value very much although it is in tatters and is marked up in several colours of ink, is a paperback edition from Faber and Faber of T. S. Eliot’s Four Quartets.
If you have an interest in reading, in collecting books, in libraries, in the magic of words then by all means available, go find these two titles and enjoy them.
recommended T. Jefferson Parker’s Little Saigon. excellent thriller, I will be hunting for more of his work.
reading Big Trouble by J. Anthony Lukas, which is one of those marvelous history books that pauses along the main route and provides mini histories – for example, I found out that the Elks were first formed in NYC mainly by actors who needed a club to drink on Sundays when new blue laws were introduced….the main route is the trial of men accused of conspiracy in the murder of former Idaho Governor Francis Steunenberg in 1905. It describes the battles between miners, mine owners, unions, the Pinkertons and other detective agencies (mainly spies for big business in this time period) and who shows up but Clarence Darrow, Ethel Barrymore, Eugene Debs, and baseball pitcher, Walter Johnston. It is a big book and a big story and a wonderful read.
The Life of the Notorious Civil War General Dan Sickles. Then Congressman Sickles murdered his wife's lover in sight of the White House but was acquitted; went on to a brave record in the Union Army. At Gettysburg he was wounded by a cannon ball and had a leg amputated. In 1864, he was the leading Democrat for Lincoln. He had begun his career as a South appeasing Democrat of Tammany Hall in New York City. A fascinating read.