aris_tgd: "Sophi broke down in tears, like a diesel car that had run out of petrol." (Lyttle Lytton Sophi tears car petrol)
[personal profile] aris_tgd posting in [community profile] milk_and_orchids
Hello, everyone! Thanks so much for jumping in on the last post!

The next set of books has a couple of my favorites: Over My Dead Body, with the introduction of Carla Lovchen and the Montenegro backstory and the ridiculous Madam Zorka, and The Silent Speaker, with all of its board-room politicking and the amaaaaazing Phoebe Gunther! Also, a bunch of short stories, and more fantastic Archie-and-Nero banter than you can shake a trouser leg at.

Over My Dead Body
Where There's a Will
Black Orchids, "Black Orchids"
Black Orchids, "Cordially Invited to Meet Death"
Not Quite Dead Enough, "Not Quite Dead Enough"
Not Quite Dead Enough, "Booby Trap"
The Silent Speaker
Too Many Women

I've always admired the short story/novella-length stories, since it's so difficult to write a satisfying mystery in that length. And I feel like most of Rex Stout's short mysteries work for me.

What are some of your favorite bits from these books?

Does anyone have a favorite killer/killer reveal scene?

Do you think the whole "Talk the murderer into killing himself" thing is another hangover from other mystery writers? I didn't even remember it was a thing in Nero Wolfe until I reread some of these discussion posts. I know Dorothy Sayers had Peter Wimsey do that quite a bit, though. It seems like the kind of behavior Wolfe grows out of.

And last but not least, a bit of business: Do we want to have another catch-up post for the Zeck books, then finish Trouble in Triplicate, then In the Best Families, or do we want to cover Trouble in Triplicate first and then have a catch-up on Zeck? I am happy either way, but I feel like we should throw open the discussion posts on Trouble in Triplicate to signups again.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-07-19 04:46 am (UTC)
liviapenn: miss piggy bends jail bars (remains sexy while doing so) (Default)
From: [personal profile] liviapenn
Another thing I notice when you break the books up into blocks like this is how the treatment of female characters is evolving. Most of the female characters in the first six books fall into two categories -- charming but vaguely helpless ingenues (mostly set up at the center of love triangles or just there for Archie to flirt with) or else total monsters of one sort or another (Dina Lazlo, Dora Chapin, Calida Frost) who usually end up being the killer but don't really have a lot of depth. But starting with "Some Buried Caesar" and the introduction of Lily Rowan as a cast member the female characters start to get a lot more interesting AND usually there are more of them.

I haven't done the math, but I do get the feeling that there are significantly more female characters, on average, than there were in the first "block" of books. "Over My Dead Body" has Carla, Neya and Zorka, "Where There's A Will" has all the sisters & etc, "Cordially Invited..." has Bess, Janet and Maryella, "Not Quite..." has Lily, Ann and whats-her-name, the cranky old lady who hates pigeons (or is it squirrels?) "The Silent Speaker" iirc only really focuses on Phoebe Gunther & Mrs. Boone, but they're both great. And of course "Too Many Women" has... maybe too many women. (Since the books are so tightly in Archie's POV, I sort of doubt there's any books that actually pass the Bechdel-- I've never actually read it with that in mind-- but at least this is now a universe where you would expect those conversations to happening at all.)

And there's a lot more women who aren't just there (as their function in the story) to be passive participants in the mystery plot -- usually just witnesses who get interviewed by Wolfe & Archie and provide/withhold clues. There's a lot more who actually have their own goals that they actively fight for and their actions drive the plot, like Carla & Neya, the SUPER AWESOME PHOEBE GUNTHER, and Dorothy Bruce in "Booby Trap" who I absolutely now believe is actually an undercover Peggy Carter. :D

(no subject)

Date: 2015-07-20 03:33 pm (UTC)
liviapenn: miss piggy bends jail bars (remains sexy while doing so) (Default)
From: [personal profile] liviapenn

Lily is amazing. I feel like she could have so easily been this flat Mary Sue/perfect girlfriend type character... she's super rich, but not SNOBBY rich, because her parents were working class! And she never wants to get married so Archie doesn't have to worry about losing her! And Wolfe likes her, and etc. and etc., but she's also just... kind of TOTALLY CRAZY PANTS (in a way that I actually adore in many fictional characters, like Phryne Fisher -- characters who just DO WHAT THEY WANT ALL THE TIME and never think about etiquette or consequences or whatever. Wolfe is like this in a way -- he doesn't care about the law, he cares about his own sense of honor.)

Like, I think Lily is actually incredibly intelligent and energetic and driven, but in the 30s/40s a young beautiful socialite type has no outlet for that energy and it just drives her crazy, so she goes around pulling strings and poking people to see how they react.

And this leads into her ridiculous behavior in "Not Quite Dead Enough" where she has to behave RIDICULOUSLY in order for the plot to kick off, but it doesn't really seem OOC based on what we know of her from "Some Buried Caesar." (Like at the end of SBC where she goes in on the plan to frame the guy for murder-- you could say "why is she doing this just on Archie's say-so??? She barely knows him!!" But she's clearly thought it through and is satisfied with what she's going to do.)

And it's interesting because you kind of get this view of Lily filtered through Archie's POV, and he thinks all women are basically Mysterious Alien Beings anyway. It's like he doesn't even REALIZE how edgy Lily is. Another of Archie Goodwin's typical Massive Blind Spots, or things he doesn't think about too hard-- except when he has to, like again in "Not Quite Dead Enough" where he absolutely is NOT going to discard her as a murder suspect. Archie absolutely thinks Lily would STRANGLE A WOMAN WITH HER OWN SCARF. Even in "Death of a Doxy" when Orrie is accused of murder he has to think about it for a while! In short, Lily Rowan is a scary force of nature and Archie loves it.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-07-19 05:08 am (UTC)
liviapenn: miss piggy bends jail bars (remains sexy while doing so) (Default)
From: [personal profile] liviapenn
And last but not least, a bit of business: Do we want to have another catch-up post for the Zeck books, then finish Trouble in Triplicate, then In the Best Families, or do we want to cover Trouble in Triplicate first and then have a catch-up on Zeck? I am happy either way, but I feel like we should throw open the discussion posts on Trouble in Triplicate to signups again.

How about a single post for the last two stories in "Trouble in Triplicate" (whoever posts it can link at the top back to my old post for "Before I Die" -- I'd be happy to get some new comments on it *g* and then the Zeck books?)

(no subject)

Date: 2015-07-20 03:33 pm (UTC)
liviapenn: miss piggy bends jail bars (remains sexy while doing so) (Default)
From: [personal profile] liviapenn

YAY! Works for me.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-07-19 10:40 pm (UTC)
dorinda: Randolph Scott smiles at Cary Grant. (Randolph_Cary)
From: [personal profile] dorinda
I'm planning to watch the A&E adaptation of The Silent Speaker tonight, if possible, and I figure I'll have more to say on that later.

In the meantime, I will be utterly predictable and say that this batch of books has another bunch of personal things in them that I adore. There's the WWI background in Over My Dead Body, for instance, and the Montenegro connection that will come back so wonderfully in Black Mountain.

But even better, there's is Wolfe's complete breakdown--luckily arrested by Archie grabbing it with both hands--in Not Quite Dead Enough, "Not Quite Dead Enough". I mean--he's WEARING ARCHIE'S MAROON SWEATER, you guys. He went into Archie's room--his castle-- and took it right out of his bureau, and put it on. The sheer level of unmooredness that shows says a lot. And of course Archie knows just how to snap him out of it! Very satisfying.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-07-20 11:33 pm (UTC)
dorinda: Randolph Scott smiles at Cary Grant. (Randolph_Cary)
From: [personal profile] dorinda
I rewatched the adaptation last night, and it is so good! It's distilled down perfectly to the most important setpieces--and scenes like the dramatic one where Wolfe strikes Ash and Archie leaps between them and grabs Wolfe just as Ash punches at him, and the punch hits Archie in the back, that one is exactly how I imagined it when I read it.

That scene is GREAT. I love everything about it, the climax most of all. Wolfe is just not a hitter, you know? I mean, he hardly even ever touches another human being in the most ordinary of ways, and here he instinctively smacks an inspector of police in the face! And Archie's instinctive as well, launching himself at Wolfe both to restrain and to protect him, and taking the blow meant for him ♥ . It's like the big dramatic scene in a gunfight or something, with the devoted sidekick flinging himself in the path of the bullet, except here nobody has to get killed. Best of both worlds, really. :D

And the casting and performance of Phoebe Gunther is extraordinary! The wit and competence and unpredictability and sheer charm just radiate off her in waves, and Archie being repeatedly run rings around is believable and adorable. They have a real chemistry.

Plot-wise, as in the book, I always find that Wolfe's Dramatic Nervous Breakdown is more enjoyable to me during re-reads/re-watches than it was the first time through. I think maybe because it really only makes any sense in retrospect, once we know he's doing it to string things along as long as he possibly can. Before I knew that, I felt kind of lost--it never felt real to me, given Wolfe's operatic ejaculations (which were never a part of his earlier/true freakouts/relapses), but I never felt comfortable just shrugging and being like 'welp if he's faking he must have something up his sleeve I'll wait and see' for some reason. No real idea why...maybe I was impatient myself to see the murderer unmasked, and didn't feel like waiting around any more than the rest of the characters did? Now knowing what it means, though, during rewatches/re-reads I can just settle in and enjoy it--Wolfe's pajamas, Wolfe's ridiculous idea of what a complete Nervous Collapse looks like (instead of mining his own history of breakdowns), Doc Vollmer being an amiable co-conspirator.

(Boy, Vollmer never knew what he was getting into when he moved in next door! --or was he there first and Wolfe moved in later?)

(no subject)

Date: 2015-07-20 01:16 am (UTC)
minnaway: (Default)
From: [personal profile] minnaway
I have a soft spot for The Silent Speaker--it was the very first Rex Stout book I read as a pre-teen or teenager. I don't think I quite realized until much later that things like Cramer buying Wolfe an orchid (!!!) were actually quite atypical.

Some of the Archie lines that grabbed me and made me a fan:

Re: GG Spero, "The reliance of his three per cent under par in lip tightness was not for the sake of what he might tell me, but what he might tell about me."

"Solomon Dex was a blurter."

"I looked at the wall clock. It said two minutes to four. I looked at my wrist watch. It said one minute to four. In spite of the discrepancy it seemed safe to conclude that it would soon be four o'clock."

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