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Authors: The Broken Vase

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Rex Stout_Tecumseh Fox 03

BOOK: Rex Stout_Tecumseh Fox 03
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Rex Stout

R
EX
S
TOUT
, the creator of Nero Wolfe, was born in Noblesville, Indiana, in 1886, the sixth of nine children of John and Lucetta Todhunter Stout, both Quakers. Shortly after his birth the family moved to Wakarusa, Kansas. He was educated in a country school, but by the age of nine he was recognized throughout the state as a prodigy in arithmetic. Mr. Stout briefly attended the University of Kansas, but left to enlist in the Navy and spent the next two years as a warrant officer on board President Theodore Roosevelt’s yacht. When he left the Navy in 1908, Rex Stout began to write freelance articles and worked as a sight-seeing guide and itinerant bookkeeper. Later he devised and implemented a school banking system which was installed in four hundred cities and towns throughout the country. In 1927 Mr. Stout retired from the world of finance and, with the proceeds from his banking scheme, left for Paris to write serious fiction. He wrote three novels that received favorable reviews before turning to detective fiction. His first Nero Wolfe novel,
Fer-de-Lance
, appeared in 1934. It was followed by many others, among them
Too Many Cooks, The Silent Speaker, If Death Ever Slept, The Doorbell Rang
, and
Please Pass the Guilt
, which established Nero Wolfe as a leading character on a par with Erle Stanley Gardner’s famous protagonist, Perry Mason. During World War II Rex Stout waged a personal campaign against Nazism as chairman of the War Writers’ Board, master of ceremonies of the radio program
Speaking of Liberty
, and member of several national committees. After the war he turned his attention to mobilizing public opinion against the wartime use of thermonuclear devices, was an active leader in the Authors Guild, and resumed writing his Nero Wolfe novels. Rex Stout died in 1975 at the age of eighty-eight. A month before his death he published his seventy-second Nero Wolfe mystery,
A Family Affair
. Ten years later a seventy-third Nero Wolfe mystery was discovered and published in
Death Times Three
.

The Rex Stout Library

Fer-de-Lance

The League of Frightened Men

The Rubber Band

The Red Box

Too Many Cooks

Some Buried Caesar

Over My Dead Body

Where There’s a Will

Black Orchids

Not Quite Dead Enough

The Silent Speaker

Too Many Women

And Be a Villain

The Second Confession

Trouble in Triplicate

In the Best Families

Three Doors to Death

Murder by the Book

Curtains for Three

Prisoner’s Base

Triple Jeopardy

The Golden Spiders

The Black Mountain

Three Men Out

Before Midnight

Might As Well Be Dead

Three Witnesses

If Death Ever Slept

Three for the Chair

Champagne for One

And Four to Go

Plot It Yourself

Too Many Clients

Three at Wolfe’s Door

The Final Deduction

Gambit

Homicide Trinity

The Mother Hunt

A Right to Die

Trio for Blunt Instruments

The Doorbell Rang

Death of a Doxy

The Father Hunt

Death of a Dude

Please Pass the Guilt

A Family Affair

Death Times Three

The Hand in the Glove

Double for Death

Bad for Business

The Broken Vase

The Sound of Murder

Red Threads

The Mountain Cat Murders

This book is fiction. No resemblance is intended
between any character herein and any person,
living or dead; any such resemblance is
purely coincidental
.

THE BROKEN VASE
A Bantam Crime Line Book / published by arrangement
with the Estate of the Author

PUBLISHING HISTORY

Farrar & Rinehart edition published in 1941
Bantam edition / April 1982
Bantam reissue edition / August 1995

CRIME LINE
and the portrayal of a boxed “cl” are trademarks of Bantam Books, a division of Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc.

All rights reserved.
Copyright © 1941 by Rex Stout.
Introduction copyright © 1995 by Sister Carol Anne O’Marie.
No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.
For information address: Bantam Books.

eISBN: 978-0-307-76820-9

Bantam Books are published by Bantam Books, a division of Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc. Its trademark, consisting of the words “Bantam Books” and the portrayal of a rooster, is Registered in U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and in other countries. Marca Registrada Bantam Books, 1540 Broadway, New York, New York 10036.

v3.1

Contents
Introduction

R
ex Stout is so closely associated with his two great partners in crime, the omniscient Nero Wolfe and his fast-talking sidekick, Archie Goodwin, that it comes as a surprise to many of us that early in his career Stout wrote several mysteries featuring other detectives.

Hard-boiled private eye Theodolina (Dol) Bonner made her only full-length appearance in
The Hand in the Glove
. Alphabet Hicks, a brilliant but disbarred Harvard Law School graduate, tried his hand at detecting in a novel by the same name. Even Inspector Cramer, a regular in the Nero Wolfe series, appears alone in
Red Threads
.

Between 1939 and 1941 Rex Stout wrote three mysteries,
Double for Death, Bad for Business
, and
The Broken Vase
, featuring a part–Native American private investigator by the name of Tecumseh Fox.

Some Stout aficionados claim that the shrewd and suave Tecumseh Fox was modeled on the young Stout himself. Like Stout, Fox is a Renaissance man with a broad and diverse education and a mind that wanders without any hesitation from music and Chinese art to the intricacies of pruning vines, winter mulching, and calving. Like his creator, who was an avid gardener, Fox is an animal-loving farmer who takes time from his sleuthing to work his land.

Fox, described as medium size and height, dislikes shaving; Stout, always thin and wiry, wore what some called a scraggly, billy-goat beard. Neither man had much use for the movies. Perhaps coincidentally, Fox was the name of the road beside the Stout family’s forty-acre farm in Kansas. And both men lived in Brewster, New York.

What the Tecumseh Fox series does most surely reflect is Rex Stout’s great admiration for the work of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and his fascination with Doyle’s creation, Sherlock Holmes.

The Broken Vase
is written in the same classic puzzle-solving style. Stout chooses his case. Then, arming Fox with awe-inspiring intelligence and a certain “Holmesiness,” Stout sets him about solving it. Fox dives right in. Not above affecting a disguise, he stares at the ceiling, pulls at the tip of his ear, and then, after taking in all the details, he makes deductions from what others have understandably missed.

As a private investigator, Fox broods, pontificates, and, after his thoughts “dodge nimbly” around his brain, pulls all the loose ends into one neat, tight, reasonable solution.

For me, much of the enjoyment of reading
The Broken Vase
came from Fox’s—and, of course, Stout’s—nineteen-forties view of life. It was refreshing to read a whole novel in which “I’m a son of a gun” and “Can it” express the ultimate in frustration and the only F word is in “For the love of Mike.”

It was great fun revisiting a world where people ordered highballs, forty-five miles per hour was the speed limit, and the Nazis were the bad guys.

I had nearly forgotten about lead nickels, income tax as a new idea, that ten thousand dollars once was a lot of money, and that people actually said “whizbang.”

When he wrote the series, Stout was said to have considered
Double for Death
his best detective story. Critics, however, were not so kind to Tecumseh Fox. They called him “contrived rather than created.” Neither did readers take to the sometimes farmer–sometimes sleuth.

On the whole
The Broken Vase
, the last of the series, fared very poorly. One bookseller suggested that the chief mystery about the book was who wrote it! He ventured that Rex Stout could never had done such a bad job.

Apparently Stout saw the light. He put Techumseh Fox to an early and eternal rest. His two immortals, Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin, appeared once more and continued together, neither aging, for the next forty-one years.

Although panned in its day,
The Broken Vase
seems to be doing better with old age. Recently a first edition in mint condition was valued at somewhere in the neighborhood of five hundred dollars. Not too shabby for a flop!

And the critical bookseller? He probably wishes he’d stocked up on the remaindered copies.

—Sister Carol Anne O’Marie

Chapter 1

O
n that raw March night chilling drafts swirled treacherously around the corners backstage at Carnegie Hall—the icy puffs and currents which on bygone nights had sent a perspiring Paderewski or Heifetz or Chaliapin in headlong flight to the dressing room and had kept Melba’s or Sembrich’s maid vigilantly on guard at the door to the stage, with an ermine wrap ready for the diva’s hot bare damp shoulders. That, of course, was at the intermission or the end; it was now only eight-fifteen and nothing had happened yet on the great bare stage to make a strong man perspire. Any one who thinks a violin virtuoso is not a strong man should try the “Devil’s Trill” with muscles of anything less than steel.

BOOK: Rex Stout_Tecumseh Fox 03
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