Where There's a Will (novel)
|Where There's a Will|
|Publisher||Farrar & Rinehart|
|Publication date||June 10, 1940|
|Media type||Print (Hardcover)|
|Pages||272 pp. (first edition)|
|Preceded by||Over My Dead Body|
|Followed by||Black Orchids|
Where There's a Will is the eighth Nero Wolfe detective novel by Rex Stout. Prior to its publication in 1940 by Farrar & Rinehart, Inc., the novel was abridged in the May 1940 issue of The American Magazine, titled "Sisters in Trouble."
The famous Hawthorne sisters — April, May and June — visit Nero Wolfe in a body to ask his help in averting a scandal. After the shock of their brother Noel's death in a hunting accident three days before, they have been dealt another shock at learning the terms of his will, which are sure to cause a sensation once they are made public. Even if the three sisters agree to honor the will (which leaves nothing to each of them but a piece of fruit), they are certain their sister-in-law, Daisy Hawthorne, will contest it and bring the matter into open court. They suggest that Wolfe come at the problem from the other end, and persuade Noel Hawthorne's primary beneficiary — a young woman named Naomi Karn — to relinquish the bulk of the inheritance.
Their conference is interrupted by the arrival of their brother's widow. Once a most beautiful woman, Daisy Hawthorne was horribly disfigured by her husband in an accident. She is now famous as a tragic and quite unsettling figure — "the lady who wears a veil."
"I sat and stared at it," Archie wrote, "trying to ignore an inclination to offer somebody a ten-spot to pull the veil up, knowing that if it was done I'd probably offer another ten-spot to get it pulled down again."
After a somewhat menacing confrontation, Daisy is assured by Wolfe that he will consider her as well as the Hawthorne sisters as his clients, and will negotiate with Miss Karn on their behalf.
Later that day, another conference in Wolfe's office is interrupted. Inspector Cramer of Homicide arrives at the brownstone to inform the Hawthorne sisters that the shooting accident that killed their brother was no accident at all.
The unfamiliar word
"Nero Wolfe talks in a way that no human being on the face of the earth has ever spoken, with the possible exception of Rex Stout after he had a gin and tonic," said Michael Jaffe, executive producer of the A&E TV series, A Nero Wolfe Mystery. Nero Wolfe's erudite vocabulary is one of the hallmarks of the character. Examples of unfamiliar words — or unfamiliar uses of words that some would otherwise consider familiar — are found throughout the corpus, often in the give-and-take between Wolfe and Archie.
- Caracoles, chapter 5. Seated in the red chair, Naomi Karn begins her conversation with Nero Wolfe with an evasive maneuver. Wolfe wiggles a finger at her and states, "Let's don't start with caracoles."
Cast of characters
- Nero Wolfe — Famous fat detective
- Archie Goodwin — His assistant
- April Hawthorne — Beautiful actress
- May Hawthorne — Her intellectual sister, president of Varney College
- June Hawthorne — The oldest sister
- John Charles Dunn — June's husband, U.S. Secretary of State
- Andrew Dunn and Sara Dunn — Their children
- Celia Fleet — April's secretary
- Daisy Hawthorne — Veiled widow of Noel Hawthorne, brother of the three famous Hawthorne girls
- Glenn Prescott — Eminent attorney who drew Noel Hawthorne's will
- Eugene Davis — His partner
- Naomi Karn — The woman of the case
- Inspector Cramer — Of the New York homicide squad
- Fritz Brenner — Wolfe's chef and major-domo
- Saul Panzer, Fred Durkin, Orrie Cather and Johnny Keems — Detectives in Wolfe's employ
Reviews and commentary
- Jacques Barzun and Wendell Taylor Hertig, A Catalogue of Crime — Endless talk over how to keep a kept woman from inheriting millions which only she thinks have been left her, and then — after deceased is shown to have been murdered — more talk about who did it. Wolfe spots the criminal by looking closely at six small photographs (poorly reproduced in the book) and applying his knowledge of floriculture."
- Herbert Mitgang, Dangerous Dossiers: Exposing the Secret War Against America's Greatest Authors — While [World War II] was on, Stout, who had organized the Writers' War Board and became its chairman, was placed on something called the "General Watch List." Hoover himself, according to a heavily censored page marked Confidential, requested Byron Price, director of Censorship, Federal Trade Commission Building, Washington, to include Rex Stout of Brewster, New York, on "General Watch List No. 49."
The FBI watched what Stout wrote and somehow turned his fiction into suspicious fact. Because, for example, of a story that appeared in the May 1940 issue of American Magazine called "Sisters in Trouble," he was labeled what might be called "prematurely anti-Nazi." A highly imaginative document from Los Angeles (correspondent's name censored) to the FBI's Communications Division in Washington claimed that the story was "either a deliberate attempt to convey a meaning other than the solution of a mystery story — or else the whole thing is full of coincidences. Note the almost exclusive German cast of characters, particularly Fritz Brenner. Could Fritz refer to the German Consul in San Francisco, and could Brenner have any reference to the Brenner pass? Could 'Nero' refer to Rome by any chance? While for the purposes of the story, April, May and June are the names of three sisters, couldn't it also mean that for three months, or until July, somebody's back was to the door — maybe the door to the Balkans or the Mediterranean?"
When it served its purposes, agents of the FBI could turn into literary critics, finding, however ludicrous, damning symbols in fiction.
Un incidente di caccia (Radiotelevisione Italiana)
Where There's a Will was adapted for a series of Nero Wolfe films produced by the Italian television network RAI (Radiotelevisione Italiana). Directed by Giuliana Berlinguer from a teleplay by Vladimiro Cajoli, Nero Wolfe: Un incidente di caccia first aired July 13, 1969.
The series of black-and-white telemovies stars Tino Buazzelli (Nero Wolfe), Paolo Ferrari (Archie Goodwin), Pupo De Luca (Fritz Brenner), Renzo Palmer (Inspector Cramer), Roberto Pistone (Saul Panzer), Mario Righetti (Orrie Cather) and Gianfranco Varetto (Fred Durkin). Other members of the cast of Un incidente di caccia include Paola Mannoni (Mary), Gianna Piaz (Clotilde), Esmeralda Ruspoli (Amelia), Antonio Pierfederici (Glenn Prescott), Mariolina Bovo (Diana Karn), Edmonda Aldini (Daisy Hawthorne), Pier Paola Bucchi (Sara Dunn) and Claudio Gora (John Charles Dunn).
- 1940, The American Magazine, May 1940, abridged as "Sisters in Trouble"
- 1940, New York: Farrar & Rinehart, June 10, 1940, hardcover
- In his limited-edition pamphlet, Collecting Mystery Fiction #9, Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe Part I, Otto Penzler describes the first edition of Where There's a Will: "Red cloth, front cover and spine printed with black; rear cover blank. Issued in a mainly black, white, and orange pictorial dust wrapper … The first edition has the publisher's monogram logo on the copyright page."
- In April 2006, Firsts: The Book Collector's Magazine estimated that the first edition of Where There's a Will had a value of between $4,000 and $7,500.
- 1940, The Philadelphia Inquirer, a Gold Seal Novel, December 29, 1940, abridged
- 1941, London: Collins Crime Club, March 17, 1941, hardcover
- 1942, New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1942, hardcover
- 1944, New York: Lawrence E. Spivak, Bestseller Mystery #44, abridged as Where There is a Will, paperback
- 1946, New York: Avon #103, 1946, paperback; photos can be found between pages 162 and 163
- 1971, London: Tom Stacey, 1971, hardcover
- 1992, New York: Bantam Crimeline ISBN 0-553-29591-8, 1992, paperback, Rex Stout Library edition with introduction by Dean R. Koontz
- 1995, New York: Bantam Books ISBN 0-553-76301-6 March 1995, trade paperback
- 2006, Auburn, California: The Audio Partners Publishing Corp., Mystery Masters ISBN 1-57270-551-5 October 28, 2006, audio CD (unabridged, read by Michael Prichard)
- 2010, New York: Bantam ISBN 978-0-307-75635-0 May 26, 2010, e-book
- Quoted in Vitaris, Paula, "Miracle on 35th Street: Nero Wolfe on Television," Scarlet Street, issue #45, 2002, p. 36
- Where There's a Will, Farrar & Rinehart edition, page 74
- Barzun, Jacques and Taylor, Wendell Hertig. A Catalogue of Crime. New York: Harper & Row. 1971, revised and enlarged edition 1989. ISBN 0-06-015796-8
- Mitgang, Herbert, Dangerous Dossiers: Exposing the Secret War Against America's Greatest Authors (1988, Donald I. Fine, Inc.; Hardcover ISBN 1-55611-077-4), p. 222
- "Not only are the pictures so small that they are useless in providing a clue to the reader, but the leafless trees were a mistake for an event that was supposed to have happened in July of 1939," wrote Rev. Frederick G. Gotwald in The Nero Wolfe Companion (Number 2, 1989, Salisbury, North Carolina, p. 48). Rex Stout received many letters of complaint, biographer John McAleer reported. "The blooper had been Farrar & Rinehart's. Bundling up a representative selection of letters received, Rex sent them to John Farrar with a covering letter that was but faintly civil." (McAleer, John, Rex Stout: A Biography, 1977, Little, Brown and Company; ISBN 0-316-55340-9, p. 280)
- Townsend, Guy M., Rex Stout: An Annotated Primary and Secondary Bibliography (1980, New York: Garland Publishing; ISBN 0-8240-9479-4), pp. 20–21. John McAleer, Judson Sapp and Arriean Schemer are associate editors of this definitive publication history.
- Penzler, Otto, Collecting Mystery Fiction #9, Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe Part I (2001, New York: The Mysterious Bookshop, limited edition of 250 copies), p. 16
- Smiley, Robin H., "Rex Stout: A Checklist of Primary First Editions." Firsts: The Book Collector's Magazine (Volume 16, Number 4), April 2006, p. 33
|Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Where There's a Will|
- Nero Wolfe: Un incidente di caccia at the Internet Movie Database
- wiki collection of quotations from Where There's a Will