Monday, March 9, 2015

Review: Archie Goodwin - Nero Wolfe's Legman

Born in Ohio. Public high school, pretty good at geometry and football, graduated with honor but no honors. Went to college two weeks, decided it was childish, came to New York and got a job guarding a pier, shot and killed two men and was fired, was recommended to Nero Wolfe for a chore he wanted done, did it, was offered a full-time job by Mr. Wolfe, took it, still have it.
— Archie Goodwin addressing the suspects in "Fourth of July Picnic" (1957)

I was introduced to Archie Goodwin first through reading Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe series then watching the TV series starring Maury Chaykin and Timothy Hutton.  So it was with great pleasure that I had the opportunity to read two books featuring Wolfe's "legman" Archie in a new adaption of Stout's Nero Wolfe, now undertaken by author Robert Goldsborough.

The first was Archie Meets Nero Wolfe: A Prequel to Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe Mysteries which I though was a very well done introduction to a character that featured so prominently in Stout's "Nero Wolfe" novels - all the usual suspects are introduced in this prohibition era setting.

This was then quite recently followed by Archie in the Crosshairs, taking place in the late 1940s possibly early 1950s - about 20 years after their first meeting. And as for this outing, loved it!  This episode tackles yet another mystery to be solved by the almost reclusive Nero Wolfe with the aid of his side-kick, Archie Goodwin. I read this in one sitting as the pace and style of writing kept me intrigued to the very end. I read the complete Nero Wolfe series quite a number of years ago, and these new additions faithfully follow Stout's originals.

For further reading, could I suggest Goldsborough's Archie Meets Nero Wolf, then Stout's books, followed by Goldsborough's, possibly finishing with Archie in the Crosshairs. This would get you up-to-date with all things Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin.

Further Reading:
Nero Wolfe on wikipedia
Rex Stout on wikipedia
Robert Goldsborough on wikipedia

Review: Gerald Posner: God's Bankers

"God’s Bankers has it all: a rare exposé and an astounding saga marked by poisoned business titans, murdered prosecutors, mysterious deaths of private investigators, and questionable suicides; a carnival of characters from Popes and cardinals, financiers and mobsters, kings and prime ministers ..."

So with that I was eagerly anticipating a journey into the underbelly of Vatican politics and double-dealing from the time of Peter to our current Pope Francis. However, the early years were briefly touched upon until we reach the reign of Gregory XVI (1831 - 1846) when the cash-strapped Church was looking for ways to boost their coffers. Thus, the age of lay-financiers, prelates and shady businessmen begins with the Church taking uncertain steps into the world of investment and money-lending. From the reign of Leo XIII the Vatican Bank steps tentatively onto the world stage whilst headed by a select group of financial outsiders, steering the Bank through revolutionary Italy, the stock-market crash and the creation of the Papal State - the Vatican City. It is in the 20th century that the Vatican Bank takes a rather interesting stance on Germany during the 1930s and 1940s - the Vatican has spread its investments thought Fascist Italy and Germany, and is at odds with itself over preserving financial independence and fighting communism or speaking out against documented atrocities. We then move forward through the years of assisting war criminals to the influx of dubious Italian and Sicilian businessmen into the banking hierarchy, and support for fledgling anti-communist movements worldwide. 

This a is lengthy tome - with copious notes. It is not a light read - and the reader may find themselves re-reading past chapters.