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Get to Know Rex Stout, Beloved Creator of Nero Wolfe

Stout's iconic character is far from the only fascinating thing about the author's life.

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  • Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Who the heck is Rex Stout, you ask? Only the brilliant mind behind two of mystery fiction’s most beloved characters: armchair detective Nero Wolfe and his sidekick, Archie Goodwin.

Stout passed away on October 27, 1975. Yet he left behind a mystery series starring two clever sleuths who possessed all the charm and wit of Sherlock and his dear Watson—and who lived on after Stout's passing thanks to faithful adaptations written by Robert Goldsborough.

In honor of Stout and his contributions to the mystery genre, we did a little detective work of our own and came up with a handful fascinating tidbits about the author himself. 

1. Stout was on an FBI list.

Stout’s novel The Doorbell Rang was placed on the FBI’s ‘Not to Contact’ list in 1965—a list that the FBI created featuring authors whose books were considered suspicious and threatening to the government. Due to the book’s content, J. Edgar Hoover, the Director of the FBI at the time, thought Stout to be a communist or a communist spy, therefore placing his name on this unspecified list.

Related: 8 Essential Rex Stout Mystery Books 

2. Stout served in the U.S. Navy.

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  • Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Stout dropped out of university to enlist in the U.S. Navy. For the two years he spent in the Navy, he was warrant officer on President Theodore Roosevelt’s yacht. He then left to write pulp fiction for various magazines, thus beginning his fiction career.

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3. Stout sold cigars.

Just one of his 30 different jobs, Stout worked at a cigar store for four years. During this time, he continued writing and selling his poems, stories, and articles to numerous magazines.

Related: Nero Wolfe Takes On a Corrupt Organization and High-Profile Murder Case 

4. Stout invented a school banking system.

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  • Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Four hundred U.S. schools adopted Stout’s banking system in order to keep track of student savings. Stout was paid a commission for each account, gaining enough money to travel around Europe, most notably Paris, where he wrote his first book, How Like a God.

5. Stout was an overachiever.

His ingenious school banking system aside, Stout has received numerous awards. His first two Nero Wolfe novels, Fer-de-Lance and The League of Frightened Men, are considered the most influential works of mystery fiction. He served as the 14th president on the Mystery Writers of American in 1958. He received the prestigious Grand Master Award in 1959, followed up with a silver Dagger Award 10 years later. In 2014, Rex Stout was posthumously selected to the New York State Writers Hall of Fame.

Related: Read Like Nero Wolfe with Robert Goldsborough’s Favorite Books 

All photos: Wikimedia Commons