REX STOUT – Bad for Business. First published in The Second Mystery Book, Farrar & Rinehart, hardcover, 1940. Paperback reprints include: Dell #299, mapback edition, 1949; Pyramid #R1166, A Green Door Mystery, April 1965; as well as several others.

   There is a story behind the publishing history, and if I have any of the details wrong, please inform me. This is the second of three novels Stout wrote about New York City private eye Tecumseh Fox. When offered to The American Magazine for prior publication in abridged form, the editor rejected it and would accept only if Stout was able to rewrite it as a Nero Wolfe story.

   Needing the money, so I have been led to believe, Stout agreed, and the story appeared in the November 1940 issue of the magazine as the first Nero Wolfe novella, “Bitter End.” The latter did not appear in book form until after Stout’s death in a limited edition collection titled Corsage (1977).

   I haven’t read the shorter version, so I don’t know, but it must have been quite a rewrite job. Tecumseh Fox may live in the same world as Nero Wolfe (although the latter isn’t mentioned, Dol Bonner is, and several of the very peripheral players, including Rusterman of NYC restaurant fame) are, but he’s (apparently) independently wealthy, gregarious, and certainly most unlike Wolfe, possessing a very definite eye for the ladies.

   Which is how he gets hooked on solving this case of a murdered owner of a food products emporium (Tingley’s Tidbits): one of Dol Bonner’s female associates is also the niece of the murdered man, and a small incident on a busy Manhattan street brings both Fox and Amy Duncan most coincidentally together.

   Maybe it was me, but I don’t think the story reads like a Nero Wolfe tale, either. It’s a pure puzzle story from beginning to end, for one thing, without anything remotely resembling the connection that exists between Wolfe and Archie, and nothing like the jaunty and often witty way in which Archie tells his tales.

   The story’s quite enjoyable, nonetheless, but any reader expecting another Nero Wolfe novel in only subtle disguise is going to end up disappointed.