Saturday, 19 April 2008

When I first met Nero Wolfe

I first read a Nero Wolfe mystery probably back during Christmas of 1993 (it was about that time or the year after), where my parents bought my brothers and I a comic book adaptation of The Red Box. The comics was part of a French series that was adapting crime fiction, with iconic characters such as Arsène Lupin, Mr. Wens, Rouletabille and of course Sherlock Holmes. Arsène Lupin's stories, the first I discovered, seemed quite closely adapted, and so were Wolfe's, but the Sherlock Holmes series were a big disappointment: they just invented their own stories, which were quite pale in comparison to Conan Doyle's originals. The Rouletabille series was quite uneven and not very faithful either, they used material from other novels of Gaston Leroux and put the character in it for the sake of it, so instead of being straight crime fiction stories, they often verge into the supernatural or science-fiction. I don't like mix of genres.

So at Christmas 1993 (or so), I got La Cassette rouge and I was blown away. great, witty writing, a nice mix of whodunit (which I was loosing interest into at that time) and hardboiled fiction (which I was slowly but surely getting into), a detective both very eccentric and yet not really mundane. Wolfe had his own sense of justice and could be merciless. He was not your amateur sleuth. And Archie Goodwin sure was no Watson: he had the writing skills and the attitude of private eyes such as Philip Marlowe. I don't know why I lost touch with Rex Stout's characters. Maybe because I didn't like the previous adaptation (which we got next Christmas), Les Compagnons de la peur (The League of Frightened Men), which didn't have the same artist drawing the characters, and the writing of the adaptation wasn't quite polished yet. Maybe it was because I couldn't find the original novels in my little town of Chicoutimi. Maybe it was because I took the decision to read serious literature. In any case, the comic books series was short-lived and I lost sight of the very large Nero Wolfe, until I regained interest in him reading the entry on him in the Thrilling Detective website and until I found Murder in Style/Plot it Yourself in the local library. So I intend to read more.

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