This week I was reading Please Pass the Guilt, another (gasp!) dead tree book, and the next to last in the proper Nero Wolfe canon. (I’ll just pretend that the Nero Wolfe books written by authors who aren’t named Rex Stout don’t exist, in much the same way I pretend that the “Matrix” film series consists of only one movie.)
In this particular novel, Wolfe, having no clues and desperate for a crack he can pry open, has placed an ad in the newspapers offering a large reward for information. Naturally enough, this, according to Archie, brings out the “obvious screwballs”. And also this guy:
When I turned after closing the door, he handed me a piece of paper, the ad clipped from the Times, and said, “I will see Mr. Nero Wolfe.”
“Perhaps,” I said. “He’s busy. You have information?”
“I am not sure. I may have.”
Not a screwball. Screwballs are sure.
Despite being written over the course of about half a century, spanning the Depression to Stagflation, with the most recent ones being around forty years old now, a lot of the content in the Nero Wolfe books is fairly timeless. Including, unfortunately, Archie’s observation about screwballs. They were sure then, and they’re still sure now.
Speaking of people who are sure about things, we just happen to have one (an extremely minor character) lying around in the section of Father’s Books that I’m currently editing.
“So what church are you from?”
“I beg your pardon?”
“You’re selling Bibles, right?” Then, when he didn’t respond immediately: “Don’t tell me I’m wrong. I know a Bible salesman when I see one.”
Well, why not?
“Yes,” he said. “I am a Bible salesman.”
Spoiler alert: He isn’t.