Dec 4 2014 12:00pm

Some Buried Caesar: 75 Years of Rex Stout’s High-Ground Gal, Lily Rowan

To Lily and Sally and all Rex Stout’s Gals who try to do the right thing.

This is the 75th anniversary of the publication of Rex Stout’s Some Buried Caesar, the first time we meet Lily Rowan, one of the great hottie-totties in crime fiction literature. Lily is Archie’s main squeeze. You know Archie, right? Archie Goodwin, Nero Wolfe’s amanuensis, whom I’ve described in another entry for this blog, as crime fiction’s quintessential hunk. Lily is tough and gorgeous and as honest as the day is long.

About a year ago, when rereading one or another of Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe stories for the umteenth time, I became aware of a theme in the opus that I had never before noticed: gals who try to do the right thing.

Some series spoilers throughout, but if you haven’t read these yet, don’t wait another seventy-five years!

Archie admires them. Mr. Wolfe respects them. Fritz (Mr. Wolfe’s chef and housekeeper) frets over their presence—he’s afraid they’ll weasel their way into Mr. Wolfe’s esteem and take over his kitchen. Those of us who know Mr. Wolfe’s misogynist soul could reassure Fritz, but you know how it is with fearfulness; if you’re afraid, you’re afraid, and that’s the end of it. And I think these gals who take the high ground, their grasp tight on their moral compasses, are undervalued and underappreciated.

There’s Amy Jackson, for instance, better known as Julie Jacquette, who can say the alphabet backwards and who puts her life on the line in Death of a Doxy to help catch her friend’s killer.

There’s Madeline Sperling who, in The Second Confession, helps Archie learn facts about her family and her father’s guests. She invites him to visit when he was pretty much persona non grata, telling him that he was welcome ... that if she can’t let him in openly, she’d just as soon he stay out. She was helpful and supportive and she didn’t push. As an aside, Archie said he was going to follow up with her, and I’ve always been sorry that he didn’t. I like Madeline Sperling.

There are others, of course: Annabel Frey, who, in In the Best Families, tried to hire Archie to find a killer; Mr. Wolfe’s daughter, Carla Britton, who in Black Mountain, goes to Montenegro to protect the cause she and Mr. Wolfe’s best friend, Marko, cared so much about, and who died for her efforts; and let’s not forget Phoebe Gunther from The Silent Speaker who, Mr. Wolfe said, “...displayed remarkable tenacity, audacity, and even imagination in using the murder of Mr. Boone for a purpose he would have desired, approved, and applauded.” Phoebe also died trying to do the right thing. And how about Sally Blount from Gambit? Sally sells her jewelry to raise $22,000—a fitting amount, she thinks, because she’s 22 years old. She hires Mr. Wolfe to save her father from being convicted of a crime he didn’t commit in the face of extraordinary opposition. Her mother, as well as Dan Kalmus, her father’s lawyer, even her father himself tell her, beg her, even order her to stop. But she sticks with it, because as she explains to Archie and Mr. Wolfe, this is the first good thing she’s ever done.

But to me, the ultimate gal who does the right thing in Mr. Stout’s world is Lily Rowan. If the best the timid can expect is to go unnoticed, it’s fitting that we celebrate Lily 75 years after she was first introduced to the world. Timid, she’s not. Lily is bold and fearless. Some might even call her brazen. There was the time, for example, during World War II, that she used her pull and pierced the military wall of silence to find out which flight Archie was on.—can you imagine the chutzpah that took? (By the way, Lily is also the only woman in the United States who ever necked with Mr. Wolfe, but that’s a tale for another time.) Lily personifies commitment and passion. She’s generous and kind, the sort of person you want in your corner when push comes to shove. That’s the kind of character I love rooting for, and that’s why I’m such a fan of Lily.

This sweepstakes has ended. Thanks for entering!

Comment below for a chance to win a copy of Blood Rubies by Jane K. Cleland, the latest in a series featuring another Lily, Lily Prescott of the world of antiques, that is. 

To enter, make sure you're a registered member of the site and simply leave a comment below.

TIP: Since only comments from registered users will be tabulated, if your user name appears in red above your comment—STOP—go log in, then try commenting again. If your user name appears in black above your comment, You’re In!

Blood Rubies Comment Sweepstakes: NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN.  A purchase does not improve your chances of winning.  Sweepstakes open to legal residents of 50 United States, D.C., and Canada (excluding Quebec), who are 18 years or older as of the date of entry.  To enter, complete the “Post a Comment” entry at beginning at 11:00 a.m. Eastern Time (ET) December 4, 2014. Sweepstakes ends 110:59 a.m. ET December 11, 2014. Void outside the United States and Canada and where prohibited by law. Please see full details and official rules here. Sponsor: Macmillan, 175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010.

Jane K. Cleland once owned an antiques and rare books business in New Hampshire, and  now lives in New York City. Her first novel, Consigned to Death, was an Independent Mystery Booksellers Association bestseller and was nominated for the Macavity, Agatha, and David book awards. The second in the series, Deadly Appraisal, won the David Award for Best Novel, as did the seventh, Dolled Up for Murder.

Subscribe to this conversation (must be logged in):
Jody Darden
1. jldarden
This is an interesting theme! Sounds good.
Gordon Bingham
2. gordonbingham
Agree with her essay on women in the Wolfe novels. would love to try her own opus.
Rebecca Brothers
3. RileyC
Great to see some Nero, Archie, and Lily appreciation. But I really do need to dig the books out and read them again because the memory of the time Lily and Nero necked escapes me completely.
4. stitchkat
I hadn't thought of my Nero Wolfe library in some time! Thanks for the reminder, especially about Lily.
Katherine Marion
5. stitchkat
I hadn't thought of my Nero Wolfe library in some time. Thanks for the reminder, especially about Lily!
Janet Robinson
6. Robinsoncat
As I'm approaching retirement age & more time to really read more, I'll look forward to Lily's adventures with Nero Wolfe!
Susan Adamson
7. Nerophiliac
The thought of Lily approaching the age of 100 is daunting. Thankfully, she, Archie, and Wolfe never really age, which is most satisfactory!
Thomas Walker
8. twalker
Great article. Love to read things concerning Nero Wolfe
Marcia Taylor
11. Met123
I am all about a mystery so this is right up my alley.
12. Shannon Baas
Looks like a good book.
13. susan wiener
This looks great. Hope I win it. ty
19. umhmmihearu
Enticing, will have to add to wish list,
Chi Shannon
23. anastasiafall
I'm intrigued :) I'd love to check this out :)
26. ron frampton
like to read
Rhonda Struthers
27. redherring
I am a huge Nero Wolfe fan and would love to win this.
Matthew Roren
big fan of Nero Wolfe would love to win this!
Karen Hester
29. rosalba
Mystery and antiques sounds like a great combination
Shauntea Crutcher
31. tiac32
Seems like a story that I would enjoy.
Irene Menge
32. Goldenmane
Sounds great! I truly enjoyed Nero Wolfe. I think I'll read those books again. I also love antiques and would love to win this book. I'd enjoy reading about the world of antiques seen from the other side.
lynette thompson
What a perfect book, looks like a great story
Russell Moore
36. russrpm
Wolfe, Archie, and of course, Lilly are all old friends. A new look is welcome.
Linda Peters
39. linnett
always on the look out for a good read, thanks
keith james
41. kdj617
I am a fan of Rex Stout and the great gourmand Nero Wolfe.
42. truckerofbc
Thanks for the chance
Sharon Kaminski
43. casaflamingos
I am a avid reader and would to read Lily's Adventures with Nero Wolfe.
Steven Wilber
47. dragonreader
I am a huge Nero Wolfe fan. Have read almost all the books and watched the A&E series.

I haven't read anything by Cleland, but the book sounds interesting.
Tad Ottman
48. tottman
I love Nero Wolfe. I'm listening to them on audible this time through and just listened to a couple Lily books, Some Buried Caesar and In the Best Families. I'm a bigger fan of Lily everytime I read a story she's in.
Laurence Coven
49. Holmes
Has anyone seen the Christmas chapbook that Mysterious Bookstore and Otto Penzler give away to customers. It's called Wolfe Trap--a great story about Lyon, this other mountain of a man who tries to Ape his hero Nero Wolfe in every way. It's written by Loren D. Estleman. It's excellent except Lily or Bizarro Lily is not in it.
Janice Milliken
50. msjiva
Looking forward to reading Blood Rubies some dark stormy evening by the fireplace.
Deanna Stillings
51. reader123
Lily is also very rich. She does not have to worry that her speech and/or actions will lose her that gorgeous roof over her head! I think she's fun, but the people with everything to lose have more guts!
Clydia DeFreese
53. clydia
I'm sorry to say I never read any NERO WOLFE books. Maybe I can do that in the New Year. Thanks for the information!!!
Cindy Hipolito
54. mysuccess
Female sleuths deserve more recognition! Thanks for the giveaway.
Thomas Walcher
55. TomWalcher
I am glad to be reminded about Nero Wolfe. This will cause me to reread some of them.
Sally Winkleblech
57. sallyw
A book about a woman, a mystery, and antiques. Can't wait to read this book.
Brenda Tucker
59. rango3
Lily sounds like a woderful character, thanks for the chance to win the book.
60. Holmes
if you like book about mysterys, a woman and antiques, try the novels of Barbara Allan. You'll be in heaven.
Heather Freeman
61. MissieFaye
I would really like to read this. Thanks for the chance.
elaine fisher
64. elfette
to all a happy and safe holiday season

needed a gift idea ... thanks
Rochelle Berger
67. tallcapp
It has been many years since I read the Rex Stout, Nero Wolfe series. This evoked fond memories.
68. Tim H. Moss
Good deal, count me in!
wendy hinrichs
69. Wendyh
I would love to win this!! Sounds Great!
Lawrence Mercer
72. lcmercer
Always ready for a good read, so make me a winner!!
76. Buddy GarrettSlayer
It sounds great. This is my favorite genre.
elizabeth findlay
79. eafindlay
Wolf could not have done it with out Archie. Would love to check this one out.
Betty Curran
80. willitara
It's been a while since I read any Nero Wolf. I need to re-read some of my favorites.
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