Rex Todhunter Stout ( December 1, 1886 – October 27, 1975) was an American writer noted for his detective fiction, particularly the 33 novels and about 40 novellas that featured the detective Nero Wolfe and his assistant Archie Goodwin between 1934 and 1975.
In 1959, Stout received the Mystery Writers of America’s Grand Master Award. The Nero Wolfe corpus was nominated Best Mystery Series of the Century at Bouchercon XXXI, the world’s largest mystery convention, and Rex Stout was nominated Best Mystery Writer of the Century.
In addition to writing fiction, Stout was a prominent public intellectual for decades. Stout was active in the early years of the American Civil Liberties Union and a founder of the Vanguard Press. He served as head of the Writers’ War Board during World War II, became a radio celebrity through his numerous broadcasts, and was later active in promoting world federalism.
He was the long-time president of the Authors Guild, during which he sought to benefit authors by lobbying for reform of the domestic and international copyright laws,[specify] and served a term as president of the Mystery Writers of America.
Stout was born in Noblesville, Indiana, in 1886, but shortly afterwards his Quaker parents John Wallace Stout and Lucetta Elizabeth Todhunter Stout moved their family (nine children in all) to Kansas.
His father was a teacher who encouraged his son to read, and Rex had read the entire Bible twice by the time he was four years old. He was the state spelling bee champion at age 13.
Stout attended Topeka High School, Kansas, and the University of Kansas, Lawrence. His sister, Ruth Stout, also authored several books on no-work gardening and some social commentaries.
He served in the U.S. Navy from 1906 to 1908 (including service as a yeoman on Theodore Roosevelt’s presidential yacht) and then spent about the next four years working at a series of jobs in six states, including cigar-store clerk.
In 1910–11, Stout sold three short poems to the literary magazine The Smart Set. Between 1912 and 1918, he published about 40 works of fiction in various magazines, ranging from literary publications such as Smith’s Magazine and Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine to pulp magazines like the All-Story Weekly.
Not his writing, but his invention of a school banking system in about 1916 gave him enough money to travel in Europe extensively.
About 400 U.S. schools adopted his system for keeping track of the money that school children saved in accounts at school, and he was paid royalties.
In 1916, Stout married Fay Kennedy of Topeka, Kansas. They divorced in February 1932:xx and, in December 1932, Stout married Pola Weinbach Hoffmann, a designer who had studied with Josef Hoffmann in Vienna.