The Wolfe Pack is a forum to discuss, explore and enjoy the 73 Nero Wolfe books and novellas. The organization promotes fellowship and extends friendship to those who enjoy these great literary works of mystery through a series of events, book discussions, and a journal devoted to study of the genius detective, Nero Wolfe, and his intrepid assistant, Archie Goodwin.
Wolfe fans were first brought together by the "Mammoth New Nero Wolfe Contest" sponsored by Viking Press in 1969. The contest appeared in a New York Times Book Review advertisement for William S. Baring-Gould's book, Nero Wolfe of West 35th Street.
Among the many people who correctly answered the simple questions about the Corpus was a young fan named Ellen Krieger, who was disappointed that Viking never pursued a Wolfean Society after the advertising campaign ended.
Four years later, Professor John McAleer was working on his biography of Rex Stout. Wishing to meet Wolfe fans, he obtained the contest mailing list. McAleer began a correspondence with several people on the list, including Krieger. She expressed an interest in joining a Wolfe group, and McAleer suggested a name: The Wolfe Pack.
In 1977, the Murder Ink bookstore held a dinner to celebrate the publication of Professor McAleer's biography of Rex Stout. A questionnaire was distributed at the dinner to determine interest in creating a Wolfe Pack. Six months later, the completed questionnaires were given to Krieger. Then, on June 6, 1978, six strangers met and the Wolfe Pack was born. Officers were elected and Krieger became the group's first Werowance.*
* "Werowance" is an Algonquian word meaning tribal chief, leader, commander, or king, notably among the Powhatan confederacy of Virginia. It is a title or nickname by which Archie Goodwin addresses Mr. Wolfe in Too Many Cooks, which takes place in West Virginia, originally the western part of the state of Virginia.
The Wolfe Pack has over 500 members throughout the world.
- November 9, 1977 -- The NY Times story regarding the first Black Orchid Banquet, a continuing event for 40 years and counting
- September 10, 1984 -- Letter from NYC Mayor Edward I. Koch to The Wolfe Pack commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of Fer-de-lance, the first Nero Wolfe novel
- November 29, 1986 United Press International -- Wolfe Pack to Honor Late Hoosier (clipping from files of the Noblesville, IN Library
- March 27, 1994 -- The New York Times covers The Wolfe Pack, interviewing some members
- June, 1996 -- Plaque at 454: Chelsea-Clinton Times
- June, 1996 -- Plaque at 454: NY Daily News
- August 11, 1996 -- Plaque at 454: NY Times
- November 16, 1997 -- Plaque at 454: Jimmy Breslin finds 454 (Newsday)
- January 22, 1999 -- The New York Times includes The Wolfe Pack Book Discussions in its roundup of literary groups, "For Bookworms Who Want to Talk About It"
- December, 2002 -- The New York Times covers the Nero Award
- August 24, 2003 -- The New York Times "FYI: Nero Wolfe? Try 454"
- June 5, 2005 -- The New York Times Maps the Brownstone
- November 21, 2007 -- Read Otto Penzler's article in The New York Sun about "The Wolfe Pack and the Thirtieth Black Orchid Banquet"
- February, 2008 -- The Hudson Current (Hudson Co., NJ) interviews Jean Quinn, the editor of The Gazette
The Wolfe Pack publishes a journal, The Gazette, twice a year. Members contribute articles on topics related to the Corpus, i.e., Wolfe's mysterious past, how he views doctors, lawyers, and secretaries, his politics and ethics. Of course, the many facets of the Wolfe milieu, from art collection to Zeck, from his diet to orchids, are discussed by contributors. Regular columns include Wolfe Whistles, mentions of Nero Wolfe in the media, and WWWolfe, Internet addresses for sites of interest to members. Click here to read a sampling of articles from back issues.
We hold a variety of activities and programs throughout the year
The Black Orchid Banquet
Named for Wolfe's prized black orchids, the banquet celebrated its 37th anniversary
December 5, 2014
This annual event is held in New York City on the first Saturday of December, in honor of Rex Stout's birthday, December 1. The Assembly sessions in the afternoon preceding the banquet discuss and explore aspects of the Corpus. Speakers have included a New York City coroner, president of an orchid society, a nutritionist, and natives of Montenegro, where Wolfe spent his formative years and, quite possibly, was born. The assembly is followed by the oldest and most important event, the Black Orchid Banquet where Wolfe Pack members and their guests gather for a meal prepared using recipes from The Nero Wolfe Cookbook.
(click the button to read a review of the cookbook)
Keynote speakers have included:
- Michael Jaffe, Executive Producer of the A&E series, A Nero Wolfe Mystery
- Robin Winks, mystery book reviewer for the Boston Globe, professor at Yale, and Wolfe Pack founding member (click here to read Professor Winks' obituary)
- the Press Secretary to the Lt. Governor of NY, a Police Inspector
- a New Yorker (and VERY renowned comic author/illustrator) named Archie Goodwin
- Polly Whitney, a mystery writer who built a model of the brownstone
- noted authors including Lawrence Block, Jane Haddam, and Donald Westlake
- Stephen Schwartz, award-winning musical theatre lyricist and composer (Pippin, Godspell, Wicked, etc.)
The Plaque at 454 West 35th Street
Although the Wolfe books give addresses that place Nero Wolfe's brownstone in the Hudson River, the Wolfe Pack located the probable residence. In 1996, a plaque was affixed to 454 West 35th Street and dedicated by Commissioner Henry Stern, Department of Parks and Recreation, New York City. Click here to visit the Wolfe Pack's scrapbook regarding 454 W. 35th Street with photos, press clippings, etc.
The Literary Awards
The Nero Award
At the annual Black Orchid Banquet, the Wolfe Pack presents the annual Nero Wolfe Award to an author for literary excellence in the mystery genre. Past winners of the award include Martha Grimes, Dennis Lehane, Laura Lippman, and Sharyn McCrumb, all of whom attended the banquet. For more information, visit The Nero Award page.
The Black Orchid Novella Award
To celebrate the novella format, an important part of the corpus of Rex Stout, the Wolfe Pack and Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine have partnered to sponsor the Black Orchid Novella Award. Jane Cleland, long-term Wolfe Pack member, is the chair of the event. Jane says, "At every mystery conference and event I attend, people are excited about the opportunity to write a novella—and they're excited about the great prize—$1,000 from Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine—plus, of course, publication in the magazine!"
For further information regarding procedures, submission directions and other information, use the "Literary Awards" menu to the left.
Varied Other Activities
Wolfe loves shad roe and, to Archie's dismay, can eat it three times a day during shad season. A Spring event finds members enjoying a Shad Roe dinner (or "The Archie" alternative) and writing songs and limericks to celebrate Wolfe, Archie, and Rex Stout. Other dining events have included Montenegrin dinners, a Real Montana Trout Deal, and a birthday party for Archie, featuring his favorite dishes.
Bi-monthly Book Discussions are held in mid-town Manhattan. A discussion leader summarizes the selected book, provides background information, and introduces various topics for discussion.
A favorite Fall event is a Brunch Hunt. The group embarks on a detective mission using a series of directions, based on the Corpus, to locate the previously undisclosed restaurant. The hunt ends in a brunch where members and their guests enjoy Wolfean conversation.
Here a member wrestles down a clue (Hickory Caesar Grindon of course) at the December 2002 Brunch Hunt in Lower Manhattan.
Other events have included:
- a trip to The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia (TWICE), which served as Stout's model for Kanawha Spa in Too Many Cooks
- a picnic at Rex Stout's home, High Meadow (The Stout family invited members to picnic on the grounds of the family home designed and built by Stout.)
- special screenings of the two 1930's films based on Nero Wolfe: Meet Nero Wolfe and The League of Frightened Men.
- a special destination was Toronto, where the Wolfe Pack visited the set of the A&E T. V. Series (by invitation). Pack members met and mingled with the cast and crew.
- other events have included a Halloween Party, racetrack outings featuring a race named for Nero Wolfe, and interactive mystery games.
Feel free to take a look at The Wolfe Pack Scrapbook for more information and pictures of events from the past few years