Printed Page Bookshop
August 2023

Rex Stout: the boy genius who never stopped achieving
It's safe to say there'll never be another mystery writer like Rex Stout.  For starters, "mystery writer" was but one of many things he accomplished. Yes, he wrote 46 books featuring his sedentary detective, Nero Wolfe, but that was merely one facet of his fascinating life.
Stout was, among other things, a banker, yachtsman, manager of 3,000 writers of propaganda during World War II, gentleman farmer, big businssman, cigar salesman, pueblo guide, hotel manager, architect, cabinet maker, pulp magazine writer, proponent of world government, crow trainer, jumping-pig trainer, mammoth pumpkin grower, conversationalist, politician, orator, potted-plant wizard, gastronome, musical amateur, president of the Author's Guild and usher.  Oh, and he was also a child prodigy.
Stout was born in 1886, the sixth of nine children.  A whiz in arithmetic, he was a public character in his native Kansas and was exhibited all over the state by age 9.  The boy was blindfolded while someone wrote a long column of figures on a blackboard.  Then the blindfold was removed and he was turned around, and within a few seconds, he could give a correct total. 
Fearing that his personality would be warped, Rex's parents called a halt to the exhibitions and took him out of school for a time.  In this period, he finished reading his way through his father's library - 1,200 volumes of biography, history, philosophy, and fiction.
After he graduated from high school (he won a statewide spelling contest while there) and a brief university stay, he joined the Navy.  Upon discharge, he drifted into magazine writing, cranking out a potboiler a month.  He tired of that, created a banking program for children, and eventually retired at age 41 with $400,000 in 1927 -- about $7 million in 2023 dollars   
Stout went to Paris to write serious fiction.  He turned out four novels, all to favorable critical comment.  But the Depression reduced his fortune, so he turned to new ways to make quick money writing.  The detective novel proved the solution.  His first Nero Wolfe book, "Fer-de-Lance," came out in 1934 and brought in solid cash.  Many others followed. 
As World War II approached, Stout carried on a personal campaign against Hitlerism, eventually hosting several radio programs that debunked Nazi propaganda.  He was also chairman of the War Writers Board and was a frequent and eloquent speaker at forums and rallies around the country.  
After the war, he resumed his Nero Wolfe novels. (Wolfe supposedly was inspired by the fictional Mycroft Holmes, solved crimes by pure brain power, abetted by his efficient legman, Archie Goodwin.  The vowels in Nero Wolfe are in the same order as Sherlock Holmes.  Who knew?)
The Nero Wolfe books sold more than 45 million copies.  "I write for 39 consecutive days each year," he said.  "I figure six weeks for a book but I shave it down."
One of our co-owners, Dan, once had a long conversation with one of Stout's daughters, Rebecca. "He used to come down from writing and say, 'You won't believe what Nero did today,'"  she told him.
"He was a wonderful, wonderful father."

This Month's Puzzler
On August 15, 1887, this woman was born in Kalamazoo, Michigan. At age 12, she moved with her family to Appleton, Wisconsin, where her father became the proprietor of a general store. He went blind several years later, and she spent her adolescence running the business while still in high school. At age 17, she began working for a local newspaper and, shortly after that, became a reporter for the Milwaukee Journal. Her childhood dream, though, was to become a novelist, and in 1911, she published her first novel, "Dawn O'Hara."

In 1912, she moved to New York City to test her abilities on a larger stage. For a decade, she wrote novels and short stories, but without much success. Her career was given a huge boost when her 1924 novel "So Big" was awarded a Pulitzer Prize, but her life was forever altered in 1926 when her novel "Show Boat" was adapted by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II into an enormously successful Broadway musical (it was later made into three separate films). The royalties from "Show Boat" were so impressive that she often referred to it as her "oil well."

She collaborated with George S. Kaufman on a number of Broadway plays, including "Dinner at Eight" (1932) and "Stage Door" (1936). She also wrote a number of other best-selling novels that were later adapted into films, including "Cimarron" (1930), "Saratoga Trunk" (1941), and "Giant" (1952).

In "A Kind of Magic" (1963), one of her two autobiographies, she wrote:

"Living in the past is a dull and lonely business; and looking back, if persisted in, strains the neck-muscles, causes you to bump into people not going your way."

Who is this woman?   (Answer below)

Visit the Rocky Mountain Book and Paper Fair -- on us!
Printed Page and 50 or so of our fellow bookseller friends will be participating in the Rocky Mountain Book and Paper Fair, September 8-9 at the easy-to-reach Douglas County Fairgrounds.  If you've never been to a book fair, you're in for a treat.  Imagine a big bookstore with a collection of books never before seen in one place -- and never to be seen again -- and you get some idea of what's in store.  Printed Page has free passes to the fair, and you can get one by dropping by the store.  (If that's not practical, send us your mailing address.)

Puzzler answer

Edna Ferber.  If you like our Puzzler, find more on our Facebook page.  
Thanks to Dr. Mardy Grothe for the use of his puzzler.  Visit him at

© 2023 Printed Page Bookshop  

Check out Printed Page Bookshop on Yelp! Review Printed Page Bookshop on Google Follow Printed Page Bookshop on Facebook
powered by emma