I finally felt that I was unpacking large crates by swallowing the excelsior in order to find at the bottom a few bent and rusty nails, and I began to nurse a rankling conviction that detective stories in general profit by an unfair advantage in the code which forbids the reviewer to give away the secret to the public—a custom which results in the concealment of the pointlessness of a good deal of this fiction and affords a protection to the authors which no other department of writing enjoys.
It is not difficult to create suspense by making people await a revelation, but it demands a certain originality to come through with a criminal device which is ingenious or picturesque or amusing enough to make the reader feel the waiting has been worth while.
Almost the only difference was that Nero Wolfe was fat and lethargic instead of lean and active like Holmes, and that he liked to make the villains commit suicide instead of handing them over to justice.
But I rather enjoyed Nero Wolfe, with his rich dinners and quiet evenings in his house in farthest West Thirty-fifth Street, where he savors an armchair sadism that is always accompanied by beer.
Lovecraft’s “boyhood game” has since been championed by other critics and by writers such as Joyce Carol Oates and Stephen King.
Almost everybody I know seems to read them, and they have long conversations about them in which I am unable to take part. Now, except for a few of the Father Brown stories by Chesterton, for which I did not much care, I have not read any detective stories since one of the earliest, if not the earliest, of the imitators of Sherlock Holmes—a writer named Jacques Futrelle, now dead, who invented a character called the Thinking Machine and published his first volume of stories about him in 1907.To be sure of getting something above the average, I waited for new novels by writers who are particularly esteemed by connoisseurs, and started in with the recent volume of Nero Wolfe stories by Rex Stout: “Not Quite Dead Enough” (Farrar & Rinehart). Here was simply the old Sherlock Holmes formula reproduced with a fidelity even more complete than it had been by Jacques Futrelle almost forty years ago.Here was the incomparable private detective, ironic and ceremonious, with a superior mind and eccentric habits, keen on money, and regarding himself as an artist, given to lapsing into apathetic phases of gluttony and orchid-raising as Holmes had his enervated indulgence in his cocaine and his violin, but always dramatically reviving himself to perform prodigies of intellectual alertness; and here were the admiring stooge, adoring and slightly dense, and Inspector Lestrade of Scotland Yard, energetic but completely at sea, under the new name of Inspector Cramer of Police Headquarters.The veteran was Wayne Barlowe, a mild, bespectacled man in his fifties; he had collaborated with del Toro on “Hellboy” and had helped define many of the creatures in “Avatar,” including the Great Leonopteryx, the flying beast that Jake Sully tames on the planet Pandora.Barlowe still draws with pencils, and he sat in a sunny corner room.So I have read also the new Agatha Christie, “Death Comes as the End” (Dodd, Mead), and I confess that I have been had by Mrs. I did not guess who the murderer was, I was incited to keep on and find out, and when I did finally find out, I was surprised.Yet I did not care for Agatha Christie and I never expect to read another of her books.When del Toro looked at it, he said, “I love the idea of the floating things!” Cthulhu was surrounded by satellite parasites, just as some sharks are haloed by schools of fish. “Great.”Cthulhu has, in fact, made one previous appearance in our pages: in the issue of November 24, 1945, in which Edmund Wilson reviewed Lovecraft’s writings.Cthulhu also shows up in Lovecraft’s novella, “At the Mountains of Madness,” which del Toro is currently preparing to film.In the Profile, Zalewski describes a pre-production session at which an art team working for del Toro showed the director their ideas for the monsters in the movie, including Cthulhu.