Fleming vs. Stout

MC This post is off-topic and, in a first for this blog, will not offer a comparison between the literary 007 and the corresponding film adaptation. Who knows? Maybe a preview of what this blog will turn into once I am done with Fleming’s books. In addition to James Bond, I am a big fan of Nero Wolfe, Rex Stout’s brilliant detective and gastronome who, together with his loyal right hand man Archie Goodwin, solves confounding murders in post-War New York City. So I was intrigued when, while reading OHMSS for the most recent novel vs. film post (below), I came across a reference to Wolfe. Specifically, during one passage, M (as cantankerous as ever) asks Bond:

What the devil’s the name of that fat American detective who’s always fiddling about with orchids, those obscene hybrids from Venezuela and so forth? Then he comes sweating out of his orchid house, eats a gigantic meal of some foreign muck and solves the murder?

007 replies:

Nero Wolfe, sir. They’re written by a chap called Rex Stout. I like them.

M then pronounces that the Stout books are “readable” and continues to lambast orchids. This appears to be a Fleming shout-out to Stout, who he apparently admired. But it got me drawing some comparisons between the main characters in the Bond and Wolfe novels. M-Dinner-Jacketimages-2 M, plainly, bears a strong resemblance to Nero Wolfe. Both are, to use a word Wolfe once used to describe himself as, “magisterial.” They are both the ultimate bosses in their respective stories; their authority is never seriously challenged. Both are nearly always in a bad mood. They both also enjoy good food and drink. M frequents the Blades club in London and Fleming usually describes his meals in considerable detail, as he often does when Bond dines during the course of a mission, often down to the vintage of the wine Bond enjoys. Nero Wolfe, by contrast, rarely takes meals outside of his home (unless he hits Rusterman’s) and frequently debates culinary matters with his loyal cook, Fritz. Like Fleming, Stout also carefully describes Wolfe’s meals in great detail. Finally, Wolfe religiously tends to his exotic orchids; M, meanwhile, paints — exclusively — watercolors of the wild orchids of England.

007 and Archie also share some similarities. Both are street-wise tough guys who are the characters that actually get their hands dirty by carrying out the bosses’ orders, often with little regard for their own safety.   Both are also insufferable, and sharply dressed, ladies’ men (although, interestingly, both of these traits are magnified in the film (Bond) and television (Wolfe) versions of the books). In addition, both are loyal to a fault; the only difference is that Bond serves his government, while Archie serves a private detective, often working in tension with the police. images-3images-4 Pretty cool.

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