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Nero Wolfe, found in New York

July 23, 2010 | 12:33 pm


Last week, Jacket Copy looked at a various projects focused on authors' homes. Today, we bring you something slightly different -- the real-life home of a fictional character.

When I was in New York for the Book Expo publishing conference, trundling to Javits Center from the subway, I stopped in a shadow for no particular reason and found myself face to face with a plaque declaring that I was before the home of Nero Wolfe.

Wolfe was a rotund, cranky, orchid-growing genius detective, notorious for never leaving his house. His assistant Archie Goodwin did the legwork around the city -- as well as narrated the stories. Goodwin was a snappy dresser, slick with the ladies, and by turns respectful of and frustrated by Wolfe, who was both brilliant and difficult.

Neither, I should add, ever existed.

Both were the creation of Rex Stout, who published his first Nero Wolfe mystery in 1934 and his last -- 70-some books later -- in 1975. 

The books have prompted dedicated fandom. In 1996, the Wolfe Pack, a group of Stout's most dedicated readers, had the above plaque made and mounted. It's attached to 454 W. 35th St., which they identify as "the probable site of the fictional brownstone."

Sadly, there is no greenhouse full of orchids on the roof.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo credit: Carolyn Kellogg