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

Photo courtesy of nerowolfe.org

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 https://www.criminalelement.com/blogs/2014/12/some-buried-caesar-75-years-of-rex-stouts-high-ground-gal-lily-rowan-jane-k-cleland 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.

Comments

  1. Jody Darden

    This is an interesting theme! Sounds good.

  2. Gordon Bingham

    Agree with her essay on women in the Wolfe novels. would love to try her own opus.

  3. Rebecca Brothers

    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.

  5. Katherine Marion

    I hadn’t thought of my Nero Wolfe library in some time. Thanks for the reminder, especially about Lily!

  6. Janet Robinson

    As I’m approaching retirement age & more time to really read more, I’ll look forward to Lily’s adventures with Nero Wolfe!

  7. Susan Adamson

    The thought of Lily approaching the age of 100 is daunting. Thankfully, she, Archie, and Wolfe never really age, which is most satisfactory!

  8. Thomas Walker

    Great article. Love to read things concerning Nero Wolfe

  9. Francis Cardosi

    Added to my Amazon wish list.

  10. L Peters

    added to my wish list. thanks

  11. Marcia Taylor

    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

  14. cheryl wong

    thanks for the chance

  15. lasvegasnv

    Intriguing

  16. Marjorie Manharth

    Sounds like a very good read to me.

  17. Marjorie Manharth

    Sounds like a very good read to me.

  18. jennifer sullivan

    would love this

  19. umhmmihearu

    Enticing, will have to add to wish list,

  20. Julie N

    I feel lucky

  21. Vicky Boackle

    looks great.

  22. Loren Palmer

    all in on this 1!

  23. Chi Shannon

    I’m intrigued 🙂 I’d love to check this out 🙂

  24. HESTER MAYO

    Looks like a winner!![b][/b]

  25. Dawn K

    cool

  26. ron frampton

    like to read

  27. Rhonda Struthers

    I am a huge Nero Wolfe fan and would love to win this.

  28. Matthew Roren

    big fan of Nero Wolfe would love to win this!

  29. Karen Hester

    Mystery and antiques sounds like a great combination

  30. Daniel Morrell

    sounds like a fun one!

  31. Shauntea Crutcher

    Seems like a story that I would enjoy.

  32. Irene Menge

    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.

  33. Carolyn Dileo

    I’m a huge fan! Looks great!

  34. lynette thompson

    What a perfect book, looks like a great story

  35. Doris C. Losey

    sounds like good reading

  36. Russell Moore

    Wolfe, Archie, and of course, Lilly are all old friends. A new look is welcome.

  37. Karen Mikusak

    Would love to win!

  38. Mary Ann Brady

    Sounds great. Would love to win. Thx.

  39. Linda Peters

    always on the look out for a good read, thanks

  40. rickel bart

    i’d love it!

  41. keith james

    I am a fan of Rex Stout and the great gourmand Nero Wolfe.

  42. truckerofbc

    Thanks for the chance

  43. Sharon Kaminski

    I am a avid reader and would to read Lily’s Adventures with Nero Wolfe.

  44. Mike Rogers

    Looks great.

  45. Joe Hauser

    Very nice

  46. Kermit Crissey

    Sounds like a book I will enjoy!!!!!

  47. Steven Wilber

    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.

  48. Tad Ottman

    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.

  49. Laurence Coven

    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.

  50. Janice Milliken

    Looking forward to reading Blood Rubies some dark stormy evening by the fireplace.

  51. Deanna Stillings

    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!

  52. Amy Lilly

    Excited to read Blood Rubies!

  53. Clydia DeFreese

    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!!!

  54. Cindy Hipolito

    Female sleuths deserve more recognition! Thanks for the giveaway.

  55. Thomas Walcher

    I am glad to be reminded about Nero Wolfe. This will cause me to reread some of them.

  56. Desmond Warzel

    Count me in, please!

  57. Sally Winkleblech

    A book about a woman, a mystery, and antiques. Can’t wait to read this book.

  58. Crystal Blackburn

    Lily Rowan is a great character.

  59. Brenda Tucker

    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.

  61. Heather Freeman

    I would really like to read this. Thanks for the chance.

  62. Ed Nemmers

    I would like to read the work of Jane K. Cleland.

  63. Mallory Bailey

    This sounds like an interesting read!

  64. elaine fisher

    to all a happy and safe holiday season

    needed a gift idea … thanks

  65. Lisa Pecora

    I’d love to read this!!

  66. Debra Kidle

    Looks great!

  67. Rochelle Berger

    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!

  69. wendy hinrichs

    I would love to win this!! Sounds Great!

  70. Sand Lopez

    Sounds good!

  71. barbara stenby

    looks like an interesting read

  72. Lawrence Mercer

    Always ready for a good read, so make me a winner!!

  73. Kim Keithline

    I would love to read it!

  74. rscikki

    love the plot

  75. Lily Kwan

    Thanks for the great giveaway!

  76. Buddy GarrettSlayer

    It sounds great. This is my favorite genre.

  77. Suzanne Rorhus

    Sounds interesting!

  78. CherylMc

    looks good

  79. elizabeth findlay

    Wolf could not have done it with out Archie. Would love to check this one out.

  80. Betty Curran

    It’s been a while since I read any Nero Wolf. I need to re-read some of my favorites.

Comments are closed.