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When was Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin born?

The Black Orchid (A Nero Wolfe Group)

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1stoic First Message
Sep 20, 2006, 12:24pm Top

I don't have the references in front of me at the moment, but from the various books, I speculate that Wolfe was born somewhere around 1895, which would make him about 19 at the start of WWI: young and foolish. Archie would be about 10 years younger (birth date 1905) which would have him around 24 when he went to work for Wolfe in the late 20's.

2quartzite
Sep 20, 2006, 4:00pm Top

I remember reading once that Stout deliberately and cleverly kept things vague and throughout the series portrayed Wolfe was about fiftyish and Archie in ealy to mid-thirties, thus avoiding the problem of other long running series where the detective become severely geriatric. Preseumably he took less care about this in earlier books where he probably did not consider that he would be using the same charcacters upto 40 years later.

3Eurydice
Sep 21, 2006, 7:34am Top

Agreed; so I have read, and so he did. :) Also, in the earliest books, Wolfe's birthday would have fallen c. 1885 - 1890; much like his author's.

Over My Dead Body is from 1938, if I recall. Twenty years after the end of the war. He would have to have been in his late twenties, at least, in 1918, to suit both the plot and his suggested age. Forty-eight, perhaps, but not younger.

I can't cope with Wolfe being younger. :) Not sure why. Later, of course, his birthdate crept behind him as he edged into more and more modern territory - carefully vague and obscured, as quartzite says. And Archie's likewise.

4Eurydice
Sep 21, 2006, 7:37am Top

(Admission: he could have been as young as forty-six. I just don't want to think it. ;) )

5cogitno
Edited: Sep 22, 2006, 2:31am Top

In a memo dated 15 September, 1946, Rex Stout states Wolfe's age as 56. A facsimile of the memo is reproduced at the end of the 1995 Bantam edition of Fer-de-Lance. It goes on to fully describe Wolfe's physical characteristics, including a small brown mole just above his jawbone, half way between his ear and chin!

A description for Archie and the Brownstone is included in the Memo. It states Archie's age as 32. The Memo is titled:

"Not For Publication
Confidential Memo
From Rex Stout"

Saul of course, is nondescript);.

6Eurydice
Sep 22, 2006, 2:53am Top

Excellent. Thank you, cogitno. You've saved my feelings as well as my sanity. :) Wolfe just shouldn't be under 50, whatever I was prepared to allow.

7stoic
Oct 11, 2006, 2:29pm Top

If Archie was 32 in 1946 that would make his birth year in 1914. Since Fer-de-Lance was written and set in 1933, Archie would have to be 19 years old and he had been already working for Wolfe for seven (?) years. I think this is a case where the author, several years after the fact, just pulled a number out of the air without considering what it does to his timeline.

Frankly, I was stretching the age to the youngest possible when I said Wolfe was born in 1895 and Archie in 1905. Evidently, Stout wanted Wolfe to be significantly older than Goodwin but I can's see Archie being so young in the 30's.

And, yeah, the age thing went to hell when the 60's rolled around.

8Eurydice
Oct 12, 2006, 2:34am Top

I think the essential point is, they simply didn't age. The ages stayed steady from the first volume. They merely moved through time; they weren't touched by it. Hence, calendar issues are abound to be confusing and irrational, if one assumes a normal progression was intended.

9MrsLee
Nov 19, 2006, 12:24am Top

And yet, we may still meet Archie walking down the street in New York, unchanged. Now wouldn't that be fine?

10Eurydice
Nov 20, 2006, 9:35am Top

Just lovely!

I see I made a mistake above, writing 'abound' where I meant 'bound.' It's probably precisely because they DO 'abound'!

11Linkmeister
Nov 22, 2006, 8:17pm Top

When an author starts with a series, he/she is well-advised not to fix an age for the main characters. I just found Elizabeth Peters's Amelia Peabody books, and Amelia's age is given in book one. The second book wasn't written until six years later, and then it snowballed until she finished with 18 books about her fictional characters. I read an interview in which she stated that she didn't want to have her characters chasing the bad guys down with their canes. Even so, it's a stretch at the end of the series in 1922, because at that point Amelia would be in her early 70s.

12hailelib
Edited: Nov 22, 2006, 8:35pm Top

I think that Peabody's and Emerson's ages are part of the reason that the 'children' are the more active agents in the later books.

Has anyone read Emma Lathen's books? Here the authors solved the problem by having John Putnam Thatcher and his associates stay the same age thru the series although the world aged around them.

13Eurydice
Nov 22, 2006, 10:38pm Top

Sounds very Stoutian. :)

14Eurydice
Nov 22, 2006, 10:41pm Top

Hm. Coming back to your question, hailelib; I haven't read Emma Lathen's books, but heard of them for the first time in the last month. Will try to amend the unread status, soon. What's your own pick for her best book?

15hailelib
Edited: Nov 23, 2006, 8:10am Top

Eurydice

Picking a favorite would be very difficult. I would try one of the earlier ones like Banking on Death or A Place for Murder. A couple that I'm likely to reread are a little later: Pick up Sticks and By Hook or by Crook.

16Linkmeister
Nov 23, 2006, 12:32pm Top

I've read and own four or five Lathen books; they never appear on my public library's shelves, though, nor do I often see them in bookstores.

I liked Murder without Icing because of Thatcher's conversation with an up-and-coming hockey star on what to do with the money he was making after his new venture started making money. There's Thatcher saying to himself, "why can't our new Trust department employees understand this the way this athlete does?"

17Sackler
Nov 23, 2006, 6:10pm Top

The 1st Emma Lathen that I read was Accounting for Murder, but I recommend any of them.

18Eurydice
Nov 24, 2006, 1:41pm Top

Thanks to all three of you for the recommendations. I'll look out for one of the above, or order a copy soon!

19tgpaul
Jun 26, 2007, 11:24am Top

Archie is 32 and Wolfe is 54. Always.

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