Archie Goodwin (fictional detective)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Archie Goodwin meets Flora Gallant in part one of
Rex Stout's "Frame-Up for Murder" illustrated by
Austin Briggs for The Saturday Evening Post (June 21, 1958)

Archie Goodwin is a fictional character in Rex Stout's mysteries. The witty narrator of all the stories, he recorded the cases of his boss, Nero Wolfe, from 1934 (Fer-de-Lance) to 1975 (A Family Affair).

Character[edit]

I know pretty well what my field is. Aside from my primary function as the thorn in the seat of Wolfe's chair to keep him from going to sleep and waking up only for meals, I'm chiefly cut out for two things: to jump and grab something before the other guy can get his paws on it, and to collect pieces of the puzzle for Wolfe to work on.


— Archie Goodwin in The Red Box (1937), chapter 12

Archie is Wolfe's live-in assistant in the private investigation business Wolfe runs out of his comfortable and luxurious New York City brownstone house on West 35th Street. Wolfe rarely leaves the brownstone, so Archie does most of the actual investigating, followed by reporting his findings to Wolfe, who solves the mystery. Archie is a skilled observer and has trained his memory so that he can make verbatim reports, oral or typewritten, of extended conversations. He is even outstanding in typewriting, claiming his average speed is six to seven pages per hour, but when he's really hurrying, he can type up to ten pages per hour (Before Midnight, chapter 11).

He also does Wolfe's bookkeeping and banking, types his correspondence, and keeps the germination and other records for the orchids Wolfe raises as a hobby. His salary is $200 per week (Too Many Women, chapter 5), however later it is $400 per week ($600 per week and a half, Death of a Dude, chapter 6). Archie's hobbies include dancing (usually at the Flamingo), poker, and baseball. He was a fan of the New York Giants until they relocated to San Francisco in 1957, then later became a fan of the New York Mets when that team was founded in 1962. Unlike his employer, Archie has only one conspicuous eccentricity: his favorite drink is milk.

Regardless of what year the story takes place, Archie and the other principal characters in the corpus do not age. Archie is in his early 30s.[1][2] He was born on October 23[3] in Chillicothe, Ohio.[4] At age 12 he lived in Zanesville.[5] In The Rubber Band (chapter 7) we find that Archie has a sister in Ohio who once sent him silk pajamas for his birthday.

Rex Stout was never overly concerned with consistency in the Wolfe books, and Archie himself can relate unreliable information with ease,[6] so some specifics of Archie's background vary in the corpus. In Fer-de-Lance we learn that Archie's parents died when he was a child, but in The Final Deduction (chapter 10) his mother is still living.

The most concentrated — but suspect — biography of Archie comes from Too Many Women (chapter 27), in which Mrs. Jasper Pine has his background investigated. She tells Archie that his father's name is James Arner Goodwin (Archie himself implies his father's name was Titus; he tells Lily Rowan to use the name Mrs. Titus Goodwin when he asks her to call Wolfe pretending to be his mother in Some Buried Caesar), that his mother's maiden name is Leslie, that he has two brothers and two sisters, and that he was born in Canton, Ohio. Archie never mentions the alleged brothers and second sister in the series. "Rex thought Mrs. Pine — who was the kind of person who supposes money can buy anything — got what she deserved," wrote Stout's authorized biographer John J. McAleer. He quotes Stout: "Of course Archie was born in Chillicothe. I don't know how he got Mrs. Pine's dick misinformed."[7]

Although he is from the American Midwest, Archie has the "street smarts" to handle just about any situation he finds himself in, and he knows New York City like the back of his hand. Though he freely admits that there is no one better than Saul Panzer in many aspects of investigative work, such as remembering faces and tailing people, Goodwin is one of the most competent private detectives in the city. He has a long-time social relationship with Lily Rowan, a wealthy society woman, but they do not try to limit each other's social lives, and Archie has many passing love interests throughout the series. The only serious affair apart from Lily that he shares with the reader is Lucy Valdon, with whom he has a series of extended assignations during The Mother Hunt, prompting Wolfe and Fritz to fear that Archie may finally settle down. This does not happen, and Lucy Valdon did not appear in any other story although she receives a mention in A Right to Die.

When Wolfe disappears for an extended period in In the Best Families, Archie rents an office of his own and works as an independent detective. During this time, Archie writes, "My idea was to net more per week than I had been getting from Wolfe, not that I cared for the money, but as a matter of principle." Later, Archie needles Wolfe, pointing out that he made a little more than double the amount that Wolfe had been paying him; Wolfe claims not to believe it.[8]

Portrayals[edit]

Timothy Hutton portrayed
Archie Goodwin in A&E TV's
A Nero Wolfe Mystery
(Andrew Eccles)

Influence[edit]

External links[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ McAleer, John, Rex Stout: A Biography. Boston–Toronto: Little, Brown and Company, 1977 ISBN 0-316-55340-9, pp. 383, 565. Rex Stout prepared a confidential memo dated September 14, 1949, providing physical descriptions of Archie and Wolfe. Under the heading "Description of Archie Goodwin", Stout begins: "Height 6 feet. Weight 180 lbs. Age 32." When he was later asked by biographer John J. McAleer at what age Archie was fixed in his own mind, Rex Stout replied, "I like 34."
  2. ^ In "Man Alive", Cynthia Nieder says "Even Bernard is seven years older. After all, I'm only twenty-one" followed by Archie's narration "Cynthia's statistics had informed me that [Bernard] was four years younger than me" … therefore, Archie is 32.
  3. ^ The League of Frightened Men (1935), chapter 12, describes Archie's new wallet; "Wolfe had given it to me on October 23rd, at the dinner-table, and I didn't even know he knew when my birthday was."
  4. ^ "The Cop-Killer"
  5. ^ The Silent Speaker, chapter 10
  6. ^ The Final Deduction, chapter 10
  7. ^ McAleer, John, Rex Stout: A Biography. Boston–Toronto: Little, Brown and Company, 1977 ISBN 0-316-55340-9, page 249
  8. ^ In the Best Families, chapters 12 and 13.