Saturday, August 18, 2012

Nero Wolfe and Omar, the Egyptian.

The Nero Wolfe series, written by Rex Stout, has some of the best plot-driven mysteries written in the detective genre. However, for me, it was not the tight plot, nor the plausible conclusion to many cases that well characterizes the corpus that was nominated for ‘Best Mystery Series of the century’ at Bouchercon 2000, a convention of creators and devotees of mystery and detective fiction.

What I love about Nero Wolfe series is the world of Nero Wolfe.

For those who haven’t read any Nero Wolfe fiction, let me tell you some introductory facts. Nero Wolfe doesn’t leave his home, yes, not even for solving his cases. The “1/7th of a ton” sleuth operated from home, which yet was different from any home. Nero Wolfe, who has expensive tastes, lives in a comfortable and luxurious New York City brownstone on West 35th Street. The brownstone has three floors, plus a large basement with living quarters, a rooftop greenhouse also with living quarters, and a small elevator, used almost exclusively by Wolfe. An amateur orchid grower, Wolfe has 10,000 plants in the brownstone's greenhouse. He employs three live-in staff to see to his needs.

Nero’s entourage includes Archie Goodwin, his slick witty assistant, and the narrator of the series, Fritz Brenner, the ever innovative Swiss cook (in one case, I remember Nero Wolfe participating in a cookery competition with fellow elites and he devastates them thanks to Brenner), and Theodore Hortsmann, the orchid nurse living on the premises.
When Nero isn’t solving a crime, he’s either eating, drinking or tending to his orchids. And that covers quite some pages.

Now what does my new series, ‘Omar, the Egyptian’, has to do with this world classic series written by Rex Stout.

Though I have written a number of novels, mainly in the mystery and detective genre, my story always had the plot as the uncontested hero. The whole assortments of characters were players in the drama, no definite hero.

So, a dream of writing a detective series with a protagonist, a hero, was still to be fulfilled. However, I some concerns; first, the obligation of using a definite set of characters (protagonist and supporting characters) in a number of works, second the burden of crafting the character of the protagonist of the series. The protagonist, the sleuth, was the single character guaranteed to be with you in every single installment of the series. So, his character had to be carefully carved out. He had to be unique, interesting (better loveable) and above all convincing in attitude as well as in technique.

I had to look for guidance in the tens of detective series I had read before. Starting with Agatha Christie, both of her detectives; Miss Marple and Poirot were almost one-dimensional, Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes was all Victorian vibe, Arsene Lupin was a laughable character. Hardboiled heroes like Hammett’s Sam Spade, Chandler’s Philip Marlowe or the more violent version like Spillane’s Mike Hammer lingered on my mind for some time. Then, there was Nero Wolfe, and his elaborate world.

What was different about Nero Wolfe, was that he was a fantastic character, unique, intriguing and loveable and then believably human.

Omar, the Egyptian, is nothing like Nero Wolfe: he is young, cool and almost hermetic in his tastes. However, he is equally human, and just like Nero Wolfe, enjoys his own world in contemporary East Boston, Eastie, along with a cool set of remarkable characters. However, his world is hell more dangerous than the Nero’s, and with that, you can expect his cases to more challenging and intriguing.

Don’t take my word for it. Starting today, the first installment of this series; “Quantum Lapse”, is available on Amazon (and soon on other venues), while the next “All Roads lead to Zippos” will be available on Amazon September 15. Check it out.

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