Archie and Lily regularly dine and dance at the Flamingo Club, which has long been assumed to be an alternate name for the renowned Stork Club. Archie takes many others there as well, and quite often those he meets during his investigations have either seen him there or he has seen them. Not only does Archie excel at his job with bravery, resourcefulness, and intelligence, but he has the savoir faire to dance, dine, and socialize with even the most famous and affluent of New York. In the time of swing, jazz, and big band, Archie danced the night away.
From the A&E TV Series, A Nero Wolfe Mystery | Christmas Party
From the A&E TV Series, A Nero Wolfe Mystery | THE MOTHER HUNT
From the A&E TV Series, A Nero Wolfe Mystery | Door to Death
From the A&E TV Series, A Nero Wolfe Mystery | Champaign for One
RIP 1965 (One of NYC's first "pocket parks"
Archie & Lily could do it better!
image of the book cover
by Jane K. Cleland
Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe stories are some of the world's most popular and enduring, due in no small part to Mr. Wolfe's sidekick, Archie Goodwin. Archie is every woman's dream man. He's tall. He's dark. He's handsome. He loves to dance. And he's one heck of a detective, determined to protect any woman who needs protecting. By looking at him through female characters' eyes, it's easy to see why women, me included, swoon.
Archie has a long term girlfriend named Lily Rowan. Their mutual attraction—think magnets to steel—is evident as soon as they meet. (Some Buried Caesar) They banter. They flirt. They share the values of ethical fair play and loyalty, yet they're all business when they need to be. As an example of their rapport, consider these brief excerpts. After Archie escapes from a bull by flinging himself over a fence, Lily calls him Escamillo. Later in the story, Archie says:
I glanced at my wrist and saw it was 10 minutes to 5, which reminded me that Lily Rowan was coming for orchids at 5 o'clock and gave me something to do, namely, devise a remark that would shatter her into bits. She had the appearance of never having been shattered to speak of, and it seemed to me that she was asking for it. To call a guy Escamillo in a spirit of fun is okay, but if you do so immediately after he has half-killed himself hurdling a fence on account of a bull chasing him, you have a right to expect whatever he may be capable of in return…
Later in the same book, Archie reports:
Her eyes moved up me and over me, up from my chest over my face to the top of my head, and then slowly traveled down again.
"Not to you, Escamillo," she said.
I wanted to slap her, because her tone, and the look in her eyes going over me, made me feel like a potato she was peeling.
Yes, they're kindred spirits, all right, but they differ, too, of course, in at least one essential way. In Death of a Dude, Archie backs into a parking space and remarks that Lily always drives in forward; this, Archie says, is one of the chief differences between them. Isn't that lovely? Sigh. What a guy!
Archie is completely trustworthy, too. In The Father Hunt, Lily hires Amy Denova to research her father for a book she plans on commissioning about him. Amy is in trouble and confides in Archie. Archie doesn't say a word, even to Lily. How many men do you know who are that circumspect? With Lucy Valdon, a client we meet in The Mother Hunt, Archie is supportive and kind, even driving out to the beach to deliver some bad news in person because he thought it would be easier for her to hear it in person than on the phone. How many men do you know who are that thoughtful?
Luckily, women appreciate him. For instance, Sarah Jaffee (Prisoner's Base) says:
"Have I ever met you before?'
"Not that I remember, and I think I would. Why?"
"You seem to know exactly the right things to say, as if you knew all about me."
I feel the same as Sarah, as if Archie knows me well, and further, that he cares about me deeply. I know, I know, we've never actually met. I understand that he's a fictional character. I get it. Sort of. But the reality is that to me, he's real. I used him as the model for Ty, my protagonist, Josie's boyfriend. For example, in Killer Keepsakes, I wrote:
Ty was at my computer in the den, scrolling down a website. I didn't recognize it.
"Hey," I said. "What are you looking at?
"That new country place, Denim and Diamonds. I thought maybe we could go dancing this weekend."
"Oh, that sounds wonderful! Let's go dancing now." He turned to face me. "You want to?"
"Sort of. Yes. Not really."
"I admire a woman who knows her own mind."
Ty and Archie share many qualities, but of course, there's only one Archie. Archie is sexy, substantive, smart, fun-loving, honest, and flexible. He's caring and faithful. He's funny and charming. And he's a tough guy with a helluva kidney punch. Sigh. Writing this, I feel myself growing light headed. Read some of Rex Stout's wonderful Nero Wolfe stories and you, too, will swoon over Archie. Without question, he's the mystery genre's quintessential hunk.