A Nero Wolfe Simulation – #1

Having wrapped up my ‘The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes’ column at BlackGate.com and deciding to take a break from the entire Holmes world, I’ve immersed myself in Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe books. It’s my favorite series. And I’ve been writing some scenes featuring Wolfe and/or Archie Goodwin. Eventually I’ll be plotting out and writing a couple of short stories, but for now, I’m just working on emulating Stout’s voice as best I can. I will say, writing Wolfe and Archie is a ton of fun!

I was sitting at the little table in the kitchen of the brownstone on West 35th Street, eating wheat cakes with maple syrup. Fritz stood at the stove, eyeing my progress, gauging when to start another. I had The Times open before me and didn’t mind that the agreeable weather would be continuing for a few more days. Having grown up in Ohio, I had adapted to Fall in New York City with no difficulties at all. “How is he?” Fritz asked, breaking our comfortable silence.

He was referring of course, to our employer, Nero Wolfe: The man who took following a routine to levels never before aspired to by mortal man. But on this particular Tuesday morning, he had awoken to a coughing fit and complained of a sore throat.

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I Made the REH Foundation Awards Prelim List

Howard_FoundationPlaqueVery much to my pleasant surprise, my name has popped up on the preliminary list for the 2017 Robert E. Howard Foundation awards.

The Cimmerian—Outstanding Achievement, Essay (Online)

(Essays must have made their first public published appearance in the previous calendar year and be substantive scholarly essays on the life and/or work of REH. Short blog posts, speeches, reviews, trip reports, and other minor works do not count.)

BYRNE, BOB – “Steve Harrison: REH’s Private Detective” – REH: Two Gun Raconteur Blog

The Venarium — Emerging Scholar

(The following candidates have recently begun making significant contributions to Howard scholarship through publications and/or presentations over the past few years. Previous winners are not eligible)

BYRNE, BOB – Contributed to TGR Blog and organized “Discovering REH” series for Black Gate

I was a Finalist for The Black River – Special Achievement award last year for my efforts in organizing the ‘Discovering REH’ series. As I said all along, the popularity and success of that series was due to the excellent essays being written by our guest posters.

I’m flattered to even be considered for The Venarium and happy that at least a few folks like my Steve Harrison essay. I’m a huge REH fan, and I’m rather critical of his Harrison works, which makes it kind of ironic.

Whether I make it on to the Final List or not, I’m just happy to have my name show up in REH circles. I’m working, as time allows, on an essay that discusses “The God in the Bowl,” which is usually considered one of the weaker Conan stories, as a solid police procedural. The nominations might be the kick in the pants I need to get going on it!

I mostly write about mystery stuff, but I’ve done some pieces on fantasy and sword and sorcery, which I have been reading for going on four decades. And Robert E. Howard is simply the best writer in the genre that I’ve found yet.

A Nero Wolfe Mystery

Wolfe_PictureSometimes, I’m not exactly “with it. I did not discover Nero Wolfe for quite a while. In fact, it was after I had seen a couple episodes of the A&E television show that I decided to buy one of the books and check him out.

One of the best decisions I ever made, as the Wolfe Corpus is now my favorite mystery series of them all, ahead of even Solar Pons and Sherlock Holmes. So, this week over at BlackGate.com, I wrote up a post about that sadly short-lived series at A&E. It’s a really, really good show. Head on over and check it out.

Maigret – Starring Mister Bean (sort of)

MaigretI quite like Mister Bean. Well, the television episodes: not so much the movies. But I think Rowan Atkinson is brilliant. And his hour-long comedy special was hilarious. Johnny English is my favorite spy spoof.

So it was a bit of a surprising move when the makers of a new series of tv movies featuring Georges Simenon’s Inspector Maigret decided to cast Atkinson in the lead. The first two have aired and two more are in the production stages. Atkinson doesn’t do a bad job and I wrote about the whole thing over at BlackGate.com. There is certainly room for improvement, but I think they’re definitely worth watching.

Click on over and read what I had to say. Or don’t. But you might be sorry. Then again, you might not be…

A new Nero Wolfe Story – ‘Stamped For Murder’

wolfe_greenstreetWell, sort of. I’m a huge fan of Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe books. In fact, it’s my favorite series of them all. I’ve re-read the Corpus (what the collection is called) several times and I’ve got all the Robert Goldsborough pastiches as well.

As I wrote here, there was a Wolfe radio series starring Sidney Greenstreet. It’s fair, at best. But I went ahead and took one of the episodes and turned it into an 11,000 word story. There are a few changes here and there, but I kept as much of the original dialogue and scenes in place as a I could.

If you like Nero Wolfe (and why wouldn’t you?), swing on over and check it out. Then let me know what you think of it.

And if you’re not familiar with Nero Wolfe, this post I wrote over at BlackGate.com is worth a look.


The Final Problem – Not Enough to Save Sherlock

holmes_bbcfinalproblemParts of The Final Problem were interesting and the tension was high throughout. But the final confrontation at Musgrave Manor was completely idiotic and ruined the episode. The psychobabble was tolerable to that point. I will say it was the best episode since the season two finale.
I do like that the last image (for me) of the season/series is a plaque reading Rathbone Place, as opposed to having Holmes and Watson running towards the screen ala Baywatch – really?
If there is a season five, at least there will be no more of the worst Moriarty ever filmed. This show really likes to keep dead people on-screen. Might as well be The Living Dead.
You’re going to see posts about how divided the fan base is over Sherlock, and many inaccurate comments that it’s due to purists who can’t take something different. That’s a completely erroneous view. During the first two seasons, Sherlock was almost universally liked by fans and critics alike. Sure, there were a few crusty folks who only want the original stories and Jeremy Brett. And that’s fine. But it was a negligible number.
The stories in seasons one and two were a brilliant updating of Sherlock Holmes. It was clever yet still reverential to the original tales. After that, the storylines (which were sadly lacking in Holmes deducing and solving crimes) catered to new fans and became exercises in Steven Moffat and Mark Gattis showing how clever they could be. And showing how they didn’t need Doyle for their version of Holmes. And that crippled the show, with huge numbers of fans (including me) turning on it.
That divide occurred during season three.
Bill Martell, a Holmes fan with over a dozen produced screenplays, said the following on his FB page:
The genius of S1 & S2 was that they took the Doyle original stories and found the elements that were the same then and now so they were updated without significant changes. S3 & S4 seem to focus on changing what makes the story’s work. Instead of being about the case they focus on the character *at the expense of the case*. So Dying Detective becomes Lying Detective and is all about Watson’s grief over the death of his wife and Holmes’ guilt over his part in that death. That stuff is not just screenwriter invention it goes against the basics of how the original stories worked.
I hope they pack it in. Just as someone wrote over a hundred years ago that old Sherlock Holmes never seemed to be the same after he came back from the Reichenbach Falls, Sherlock wasn’t the same after season two ended. There were pieces of season four that sounded echoes of seasons one and two, but not nearly enough.
And one last thought. “It is what it is” became the catchphrase for the last two episodes. I think there are valid interpretations ‘in episode,’ – meaning, related to the actual stories. But I think it’s also Gattis and Moffat telling Sherlock fans who criticize the show, “This is what we’re doing with Sherlock Holmes and if you don’t like it, tough sh**.” They don’t care that supporters turned into opponents. “Watch it or not. Like it or not. It is what it is. And that’s whatever we want it to be.”

A Holmes Christmas Carol at Black Gate

christmastree_victorianToday over at BlackGate.com, it’s a retelling of Charles Dickens’ classic, taking place at 221B Baker Street. At over 11,000 words, it’s a full-blown Holmes short story. Click on over!

It is with a certain sense of misgiving that I relate the following tale, which took place during the Christmas season of 1902. I had moved out of our Baker Street lodgings earlier that year, having married only a few months before that most festive of holidays. I now had rooms in Queen Anne Street and was quite busy with my flourishing medical practice. A newly married man, I once again found myself as head of a household, with all of the duties thereof. I saw Holmes infrequently, but had found the time to visit him the day before Christmas. Certain that he would have no plans of any kind, I extended to him an invitation to join my wife and I for Christmas day.

Holmes rebuffed my attempts to have him share in the holiday spirit with us. “Watson, I have no use for the Christmas season. Is it rational to believe a man rose from the dead? And even if it were, do you not see the hypocrisy of it all? For one day, a man will give a beggar a farthing, because it is Christmas. He would pass by that beggar 364 other days and pay him no mind. That is Christmas?”

I could not recall Holmes being so churlish. When we had roomed together, he had not been an avid celebrator of Christmas, but he did accommodate my warm feelings towards the season. Now, left to his own devices, it seemed that his natural contrariness was shining through. I made one last effort to have him spend a pleasant dinner at the Watson household. It was to no avail.