Rex Stout, Forest Fire
Gay (and quite a few heterosexual) readers of classic mystery novels have pondered the relationship between Rex Stout’s private detective hero, Nero Wolfe, and his young, good-looking assistant, Archie Goodwin. Wolfe is so much a misogynist that he will not even shake a woman’s hand. He and Archie share that famous brownstone home on New York’s West 35th Street. They do not share a bedroom, although they have certainly slept together in the same room on the few occasions that Wolfe has agreed to set foot outside his home. And what about those phallic-shaped orchids with which Nero Wolfe is obsessed? It is fun to speculate, outrageous as the speculation might be, and despite critics denouncing such gay subtext conjecture as requisite of immediate dismissal. Everyone appears to agree that Wolfe and Archie have a father-son relationship, but what that implies on a heterosexual level may not be the same as the implication as seen from a gay or Freudian viewpoint. To confuse the issue further, there is the question of which character is modeled after Rex Stout. In physical appearance, Stout is Nero Wolfe, but in terms of personality he is Archie Goodwin. Rex Stout is both Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin-and what does that make of any psychological interpretation of the Wolfe-Goodwin relationship?