Rex Todhunter Stout, 1886 - 1975

portrait of Rex Stout


Born: 1 December 1886, Noblesville, Indiana
Died: 27 October 1975, Danbury, Connecticut

The Stouts moved to Topeka, Kansas within months of Rex's birth. The son of Quaker parents, at age four he had read the entire Bible, twice. At age nine he was known as a prodigy in arithmetic. At thirteen he was the state spelling champion. He attended Topeka High School and the University of Kansas at Laurence, then joined the Navy and served as warrant officer on Teddy Roosevelt's yacht for two years. He devised a school banking program in 1916 that was used in over 400 US cities, while he started his writing for the pulps, touching on romance, science fiction, and mystery. After three novels, he wrote Fer-de-lance, his first mystery novel featuring the fat (a seventh of a ton) stay-at-home genius detective Nero Wolfe and his energetic legman Archie Goodwin. That was in 1934, a month before his death his 72nd Nero Wolfe mystery, A Family Affair, was published. Generally a liberal, although with a hawkish tilt, Stout was on the original board of the ACLU. His output slowed during World War II as he coordinated the work of American writers for the war effort and had a syndicated radio program, Our Secret Weapon, by which he meant the truth, in which he gleaned and rebutted the nonsense in Axis propaganda broadcasts. At the height of the McCarthy era he received a subpoena from the House Un-American Activities Committee, and ignored it. The feud with the FBI that surfaced in his 1965 The Doorbell Rang was real, he was on Hoover's of "those individuals known to be hostile to the Bureau".

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