Christmas Presence

The first weekend in December is Wolfe Weekend. This year, Betty and I were honored to attend.Image may contain: 1 person, standing and indoor

                Nero Wolfe, the rotund private detective who lived in a brownstone in Manhattan, serves as the namesake for the weekend. This eccentric genius, the creation of Rex Stout, was featured in 72 stories published between 1934 and 1975. Mr. Wolfe rarely left home. Instead, he sent his man, Archie Goodwin, out onto the streets of New York to gather witnesses. The crime solving pair have been featured in books, movies and television.

The Wolfe Pack, the official Nero Wolfe Society, gathers every year in New York City for a weekend of forums and discussions on the Nero Wolfe canon. The highpoint event is a banquet Saturday night featuring song parodies, toasts to the principal characters of the books, a keynote address and awards. Members from across the country attended this year’s banquet, the guests included surviving members of Rex Stout’s family.  The evening was presided over by the “Werowance,” an Algonquian term meaning tribal chief or leader. Archie calls Wolfe the Werowance throughout Too Many Cooks, a mystery set at a resort hotel in West Virginia.

The annual awards are: the Nero Award for the best American mystery novel written in the tradition of the Nero Wolfe stories and, the Black Orchid Novella Award for the best submitted novella that conforms to the tradition of the Nero Wolfe series. This year, I was honored to be named the winner of the Black Orchid Novella Award. My story, The Black Drop of Venus, will appear in the July/August issue of the Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine.

Two years ago, the Wolfe Pack gifted me with this award. That story, A Meter of Murder, became my first published piece of fiction. I went to the banquet not knowing what to expect. This year, Betty and I returned. We had the chance to renew friendships and to meet devoted mystery fans who make writing these stories fabulous fun.

At a later time, we can discuss the novella as a story form. As the blogger during the Christmas week, I should like to reflect upon the gifts of the year and to express sincere gratitude for the favors I have been given.

I wish to again express my thanks to the Wolfe Pack for recognizing my story. In particular, I would like to thank Jane Cleland, acclaimed author and chair of the Black Wolfe1Orchid Novella Award Committee. She has become a mentor and a friend, a relationship I trace back to the award which brought us together.  I am grateful to Linda Landrigan, the editor of Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. She remains a continuing source of encouragement who never misses an opportunity to help me make connections with the greater community of mystery writers.

We began our holiday celebrations by jetting off the weekend after Thanksgiving to Manhattan. The city was on display with store windows decorated, skaters in Bryant Park and the last remnants of Fall color floating down from the trees of Central Park. The entire weekend became a gift we unwrapped as fully as we could during our brief stay, the first present of the season. It is my sincere hope that your holiday is as bright.

4 thoughts on “Christmas Presence

  1. Great post, Mark, and a huge congratulations for your award. It had been many years since I had read a Wolfe story, until Jane Cleland asked me to present the toast to Archie at the Wolfe Pack dinner at Bouchercon in Toronto last October. I read a few of Rex Stout’s stories to refresh my memories of Archie and gang, and thoroughly enjoyed them. I fully agree with everything you say about Jane Cleland. I first met her when we were both MFA students at Western Connecticut seven years ago, and she has been a wonderful mentor and friend to this novice author, too.

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  2. Thanks Brian. So to continue the thread, Jane introduced me to Paula, our agent extraordinaire. Paula prevented Bruce from boarding an elevator at Malice Domestic in order to introduce me. That interrupted elevator ride led to this part time gig.

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  3. Congratulations, Mark. I’m looking forward to reading the Black Drop of Venus. I was lucky enough to meet Jane Cleland at Bouchercon this year. She’s an extraordinary person. Happy New Year.

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