Summer Reading… and Eating

The archives staff recently completed work on three collections related to American mystery author and political activist Rex Stout. We had great fun learning all about Stout and his work as an author through the material he created and retained himself, from the perspective of a collector (Judson Sapp), and from the relentless research of his authorized biographer (John J. McAleer, PhD).

Stout_Comics

“Nero Wolfe” Comic Strip, drawn by Mike Roy. Box 66, Folder 5, Rex Stout papers, MS.1986.096, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Stout’s books star a genius-but-reclusive detective, Nero Wolfe, and his more adventurous sidekick, Archie Goodwin. The books inspired several radio and television series over the years, but one of our favorite spinoffs is the Nero Wolfe comic strip, which ran during the 1950s in American newspapers.  (See the pre-publication proofs from our collections, above.)

Photograph of Stout with popovers and Too Many Cooks-themed centerpiece from Wolfe Pack dinner. Box 41, John J. McAleer papers, BC.1995.016, and Box 56, Judson C. Sapp papers, MS.1996.022, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Besides being a crime-solving genius, Wolfe was also known as a gourmet, and likewise Stout loved cooking and collecting recipes. He published a Nero Wolfe cookbook, as well as this collection of more personal recipes in The American Magazine. Like many of Stout’s enthusiasts, his biographer sought to make connections between Stout’s tastes and Wolfe’s.  Included in the in-depth interview questionnaires mailed back and forth between Stout and McAleer is this humorous tidbit regarding food: Stout did indeed enjoy peanut butter, donuts, and finnan haddie (separately, we hope!)

In his political life, Stout was part Archie, part Nero. His active, Archie personality was involved in groups such as Freedom House and the Society to Prevent World War III, and his scripts for the World War II radio series, Our Secret Weapon, were passionate, at times even virulent. But in this episode from October 4, 1942, “The Lie Detective,” Stout channels his inner Nero and dissects Axis Powers propaganda in order to rebut it, piece by piece.

Three stages of an episode of Our Secret Weapon: source material, script, and finished product. Box 48, Folder 2, and Box 51, Folder 11, Rex Stout papers, MS.1986.096, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Stout’s fans are extremely dedicated and form a group known as the Wolfe Pack. Our collections also contain some of their memorabilia, including mugs, bags, and even a photograph of the great detective’s canine namesake.

Stout_WolfePack1

Stout fan memorabilia, Box 42, John J. McAleer papers, BC.1995.016; Box 45, Judson C. Sapp papers, MS.1996.022; and Box 1. Folder 3, Rex Stout papers, MS.1986.096, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

To learn more about Rex Stout and his work, please consult the new finding aids for the Rex Stout papers, the Judson C. Sapp papers and Collection of Rex Stout, and the John J. McAleer faculty papers, or contact the Burns Library reading room at 617-552-4861 or burnsref@bc.edu.

  • Annalisa Moretti, Processing Assistant, John J. Burns Library

About John J. Burns Library of Rare Books and Special Collections at Boston College

The University’s special collections, including the University’s Archives, are housed in the Honorable John J. Burns Library, located in the Bapst Library Building, north entrance. Burns Library staff work with students and faculty to support learning and teaching at Boston College, offering access to unique primary sources through instruction sessions, exhibits, and programming. The Burns Library also serves the research needs of external scholars, hosting researchers from around the globe interested in using the collections. The Burns Library is home to more than 200,000 volumes and over 700 manuscript collections, including holdings of music, photographic materials, art and artifacts, and ephemera. Though its collections cover virtually the entire spectrum of human knowledge, the Burns Library has achieved international recognition in several specific areas of research, most notably: Irish studies; British Catholic authors; Jesuitica; Fine printing; Catholic liturgy and life in America, 1925-1975; Boston history; the Caribbean, especially Jamaica; Nursing; and Congressional archives.
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