League of Frightened Men: First Edition
League of Frightened Men: First Edition

Thirty men, bankers, doctors, taxi drivers, lawyers, professors, salesmen -- all were working, eating and sleeping in the shadow of the fear of death. They had been threatened by one of their college classmates -- Paul Chapin, the artist and writer with a crippled leg, and they knew that his was not an idle threat.

Two who shared that fear died. A third disappears. Those remaining lose their nerve. Their appeals to the police are fruitless, for their Nemesis has so astutely obscured his trail that the police do not even believe he is there. Then Evelyn Hibbard, the niece of the third victim, the man who disappeared, goes in desperation to Nero Wolfe.

Nero Wolfe concludes the case, shatters the fear and collects his fees, all his wits and intuition are needed, not only to corner the murders but also to protect his own life from the vengeance of the man he hunts. Here is one of the most extraordinary cases of that amazing modern detective, the beer-drinking, orchid-loving fat man, Nero Wolfe.

[Hibbard:] "In these eleven days I have learned that psychology, as a formal science, is pure hocus-pocus. All written and printed words, aside from their function of relieving boredom, are meaningless drivel. I have fed a half-starved child with my own hands. I have seen two men batter each other with their fists until the blood ran. I have watched boys picking up girls. I have heard a woman tell a man, in public and with a personal application, facts which I had dimly supposed were known, academically, only to those who have read Havelock Ellis. I have seen a tough boy of the street pick up a wilted daffodil from the gutter. It is utterly amazing, I tell you, how people do things they happen to feel like doing. And I have been an instructor in psychology for seventeen years! Merde! Could I have a little more whisky?" (p. 138)

A great story: opens with Archie's summary of a newspaper article about Paul Chapin, a man who claimed to have written a book about a murder he committed. Notable also for the character of Andrew Hibbard, the first of many psychologists to pass through Stout's pages....