When WWII began, Mr. Stout turned his energies to supporting the war effort, including chairman of the War Writers Board, master of ceremonies of the radio program, "Speaking of Liberty," and member of several national committees. (For more information on Rex Stout's war years, see the page "Rex Stout's war-time activities.")

During these years, he stopped writing Nero Wolfe novels, but virtually pioneered a new format, the novelette or novella. Presumably he did this because it took less time to write than a novel and he needed some income during this period. Each novella was published in a magazine before being released in a multi-novella book. Mr. Stout's original Nero Wolfe publisher, Farrar & Rinehart, published the first two such novella collections, Black Orchids and Not Quite Dead Enough, each containing two novellas. In about 1945 he switched publishers to Viking Press (Bantam for subsequent paperback printing). In 1946 John C. Farrar, who was a personal friend of Stout, left Farrar & Rinehart, which then became Rinehart & Company, to found Farrar, Straus.

When the war ended, Mr. Stout resumed writing Wolfe novels. He also continued producing novellas, about 3 every year or two, until about 1962. In 1965 the next and last novella collection, the threesome, Trio for Blunt Instruments (1965), was published.

Three instances of novella alternates have been discovered to date:

  • two had plot differences between their initial magazine printing and the book (hardcover/paperback) printings
  • a third novella had its original version published posthumously in Death Times Three.


The Saturday Evening Post titled their printing of this story as "The Counterfeiter's Knife" in January, 1961. Viking published it in Homicide Trinity in April, 1962, unaltered but for the title, which became "Counterfeit for Murder." In the Introduction to Death Times Three (wherein "Assault on a Brownstone" is published for the first time anywhere), John McAleer discusses the changes in the two stories at length. That Rex Stout rewrote all but the first seven pages is itself amazing. In addition, he kept the original version, but never submitted it for publication. John McAleer states in the Introduction of Death Times Three:

"A perusal of the two versions of "Counterfeit for Murder" shows that Hattie Annis' reappearance is so thoroughly desirable that it completely justifies Rex Stout's repudiating his folly in snuffing out a character that was endowed with her remarkable vitality. But was that the actual reason for his decision? We can only conjecture because, on July 11, 1972, when I asked Rex why he had rewritten this story, he said, "There must be a reason, but I have forgotten what it was." We know, at least, that Rex was not acting on the advice of anyone else, either editor or friend, because, in the twenty-three-day interval that elapsed between his completing the original and beginning the rewrite, he had shown the manuscript to no one. He arrived at the decision entirely on his own."

Click here to read the full Introduction.


The American Magazine printing of April, 1947, differs from the Viking printing of the novella in Trouble in Triplicate, 1949.  There are plot point differences at the very beginning of the story and a substantial change to the ending scene -- wherein WOLFE GETS THE GIRL, not Archie!  For a full description, see the Before I Die Alternate Endings page.


The original, shorter version published by Viking in And Four to Go is entitled Murder Is No Joke. Prior to publication in any form, the Saturday Evening Post (SEP) requested that Mr. Stout expand it. He complied with their request, expanding and making substantial plot changes. They published it as Frame Up for Murder in June/July, 1958. "Frame Up" was completed only two months before Murder Is No Joke was published by Viking (February 14, 1958)––presumably too late to make the printing date.

According to a letter from Viking (see below), the long version (Frame Up for Murder) was to have been used by Bantam in the paperback printing. Obviously, that did not happen. Further exploration of the files may reveal a reason for that as well as why Stout submitted to Viking the shorter "Joke" version prior to this story's actual publication in SEP.

In the Introduction to Death Times Three (wherein Frame Up for Murder is published in book form for the first time), John McAleer discusses the changes in the two stories at length. Most notable is that Flora Gallant is transformed from a 45 year-old bitter frump to a 26 year-old lovely who bewitches Archie. Inspector Cramer's role is expanded in the longer story. McAleer notes many interesting differences between these two versions. Click here to read McAleer's comments.

From A Stout Fellow, by O. E. McBride

50. "Murder Is No Joke"  (Novella)

Written August 5-15, l957 -- 10 days writing time, 1 day off.
Set on a Tuesday and Wednesday in August of 1957.
Published in the Saturday Evening Post as "Frame-Up For Murder" in June/July, 1958.
Published in book form in And Four To Go, February 14, 1958.

50(a). "Frame-Up For Murder"  (Novella)
Rewritten and expanded version of Murder Is No Joke
Written Nov. 23-Dec. 5, 1957-11 days writing time, 2 days off.
Set on a Monday through Wednesday in August of 1957.
Published in the Saturday Evening Post on 6/21, 6/28 and 7/5/58.
Published in book form in Death Times Three, December 1985.

Letters from the Rex Stout Archives at Boston College
(Collins was Stout's overseas publisher, not Viking.)

Murder is No Joke

Frame Up for Murder