His Nero Wolfe series was a big influence on my decision to try writing mysteries, so I was honored to be invited to toast his detective Nero Wolfe at the 2017 Wolfe Pack Banquet. Thinking of the series recently, I thought I’d share my tribute:
I am incredibly honored to be invited to toast the man we salute at this banquet. I am also incredibly intimidated, for I do understand how little he cares for my sex, for lengthy speeches other than his own as he explicates a crime, and for anything that stands in the way of eating, tending his orchids, and solving murders.
But I must beg his and your indulgence to thank him for being my source of comfort earlier this year. I had open heart surgery a few months ago, and then pneumonia that sent me back to the hospital. I was as weak as a kitten when I returned home the second time, unable to do or concentrate on anything. I tried reading a friend’s bestseller and had to quit on page two. The New Yorker magazines piled up, and the computer was not an option. In desperation, I went into my study, not to write – that was out of the question – but to look for something, anything, that would help me through those dark days.
And there he was: Fer-de-Lance, The Golden Spiders, Gambit, The League of Frightened Men… More modest than the man himself, many of my copies are skinny, yellowed Bantam or Pyramid editions, their spines broken and their corners stubbed. I have read them all more than once. I love them deeply and, in those tough weeks, they gave me what no other literature could – the ability to slip out of my misery. The brownstone on West 35thStreet, where there’s always something amazing on the menu, where Archie is typing up notes or making wise cracks, and the orchids await the precise sound of the elevator every morning and afternoon. That’s where I spent my recuperation, and so…
Will you join me in raising a toast to the greatest detective, the brilliant mind we count on for clarity and justice, the unique character who is as alive to us today as he was when he first introduced himself to readers in 1934…the great Nero Wolfe.