Bitter End (novella)
Illustrated by Carl Mueller
|Published in||The American Magazine|
|Publication date||November 1940|
"Bitter End" is the first Nero Wolfe mystery novella by Rex Stout, originally published in the November 1940 issue of The American Magazine. The story is a re-working of Stout's Tecumseh Fox story Bad for Business, published later that year.
"Bitter End" first appeared in book form in the posthumous limited-edition collection Corsage: A Bouquet of Rex Stout and Nero Wolfe edited by Michael Bourne, published in 1977 by James A. Rock & Co., Publishers. It subsequently appeared in Death Times Three, published by Bantam Books in 1985.
The story starts out where someone has evidently tampered with a jar of pate at the residence of one Nero Wolfe. Poison is suspected and an outraged Wolfe vows to find the dastardly culprit behind this assault on his palate. As fate would have it, Miss Duncan, niece to My Tingley of Tingley's Tidbits who makes the pate, arrives to engage Wolfe to investigate the product tampering. Among the close knit circle of suspects is: Miss Yates, in charge of production; Mr Cliff, a VP of a competing firm; Philip, Mr Tingley's adopted son; Mr Judd, a mysterious banker who is also looking to buy Tingley's Tidbits; and Miss Murphy, assistant to Miss Yates.
The investigation takes a turn for the worse when Mr Tingley is found murdered in his office and Miss Duncan apparently struck unconscious at the scene. The homicide brings Wolfe's foil Inspector Cramer into the story. With the looting of papers at Tingley's office, the murder may not be related to the product tampering, but rather the curious birth and adoption of Philip who may be set to inherit the business.
But in the end, deductive reasoning and a careful examination of the facts presented soon turns up the guilty party.
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Rex Stout's publisher Farrar & Rinehart scheduled the Tecumseh Fox novel Bad for Business for November 1940 release. Like many of Stout's stories, the book was offered to The American Magazine for advance publication in abridged form.
"To Stout's surprise," wrote biographer John McAleer, "Sumner Blossom, publisher of The American Magazine, refused to pursue the Fox piece but offered Stout double payment if he would convert the story into a Wolfe novella. To Blossom's surprise, and maybe his own, Rex effected the transformation in eleven days. As he explained to me later, by then he had already become deeply committed to the war against Hitler and needed the money."
- 1940, The American Magazine, November 1940:55–56
- 1977, Corsage: A Bouquet of Rex Stout and Nero Wolfe, edited by Michael Bourne, Bloomington, Indiana: James A. Rock, 1977:87
Death Times Three
- 1985, New York: Bantam Books ISBN 0-553-25425-1 December 1985, paperback
- 1995, New York: Bantam Books ISBN 0-553-76305-9 January 2, 1995, trade paperback
- 2000, Newport Beach, California: Books on Tape, Inc. ISBN 0-7366-5638-3 September 27, 2000, audio cassette (unabridged, read by Michael Prichard)
- 2010, New York: Bantam ISBN 978-0-307-75588-9 May 5, 2010, e-book
- McAleer, John, ed., introduction to Death Times Three (The Rex Stout Library). New York: Bantam Books, December 1985, reissue edition January 1995, ISBN 0-553-76305-9
- Townsend, Guy M.; McAleer, John J.; Sapp, Judson C.; Schemer, Arriean, eds. (1980). Rex Stout: An Annotated Primary and Secondary Bibliography. New York and London: Garland Publishing, Inc. ISBN 0-8240-9479-4.
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