Rex Stout (1886-1975) is one of the most beloved mystery novelists of all time, best known for creating the corpulent genius Nero Wolfe. Born in Indiana, Stout was a child arithmetic prodigy who spent his leisure time reading every book in his father's twelve-hundred-thousand-volume library. After two years in the navy--which he passed playing whist on Theodore Roosevelt's yacht--Stout began organizing children's field trips to banks, where he was paid a commission for every student who opened a savings account. He made a fortune, and in the late 1920s retired to write serious fiction.
After the Depression wiped out his savings, Stout began writing detective stories. Fer-de-Lance (1934) introduced Nero Wolfe, master of deduction, and his indefatigable assistant, Archie Goodwin. Over the next four decades, Stout published dozens of stories and novels starring the quirky pair, earning him a place in the mystery novelist's pantheon alongside Agatha Christie and Erle Stanley Gardner. He died in Connecticut in 1975.