Monday, 28 March 2016

Easter Parade by Rex Stout


First published in Look magazine 1957

First published in the collection And Four To Go in 1958

 
Easter Parade 1
 
Easter Parade 2
 
 
 
The exodus had started. I planted my left foot on the edge of her box, heaved myself up, and caught the edge of the next-door box with my right foot with a fancy spread-eagle. It was too near a split to be comfortable, but at least I was up high enough to focus over the heads of the crowd. A glance showed me that Tabby had left his niche and edged through to the line of exit. Out they came, all flavors. The men ran from cutaways to sacks and from toppers to floppies, not more than half of them with topcoats, and the women displayed an assortment of furs, coats, jackets, stoles, suits, and hats for the birds. I shot a couple to warm up the camera, and once I thought I spotted my target, but the man with her was not Milliard Bynoe, and as she approached I saw that her orchid spray wasn’t Vanda, but Phalaenopsis. Then suddenly there she was, headed straight toward me, with a man on either side of her, and the one on her right was Bynoe. Her fur jacket, sable or long-haired hamster or something, was open, and drooping below her left shoulder was a ten-inch spray of glowing pink. She was one of the most attractive objects I had seen that day, and as she got closer and I aimed the camera for another shot the back of my mind was reflecting that you couldn’t find a better argument to persuade a man to marry a woman twenty years his junior, which was what Millard Bynoe had done.


 
Easter Parade




Another Easter Special….

My edition of the Rex Stout short story collection And Four to Go has an excellent introduction by the very fine crime writer Jane Haddam – three of the four stories have a ‘holiday’ theme, and she herself has done a raft of such mysteries. Talking about this one, she says:
“Easter Parade,” for instance, was originally published in Look magazine with color pictures to accompany the text. The fair-play clues to the puzzle were supposed to be in the photographs. Although I have not seen these photographs, I know from report that there is a hardcover edition of And Four to Go that includes them, but in black and white. Having read the story without them, I can say that they are not strictly necessary. Stout was too careful to leave all the responsibility for planting clues up to some camera.
--- but she wrote that in 1992. Nowadays, some searching online will reveal the lost pictures, and I thought it would be of interest to reproduce them.

The story is entertaining, with a lot of standard Stout features, but not terribly memorable. Archie has been sent to try to photograph a rare orchid in a woman’s corsage, while a dubious lowlife of his acquaintance is going to try to snatch it. Something will, of course, go wrong. But the big feature is the Easter Parade: the nobs of New York are pouring out of St Thomas’s church on Easter Sunday, and will go promenading down Fifth Avenue. The description of this – part of it above – is quite splendid.

There’s been a raft of Rex Stout entries on the blog recently, as he was featured in our Tuesday Night Club. Another one of the And Four To Go stories is on the blog here - Xmas-themed.

The image is on Wikimedia Commons, with this attribution: "Stout-EP-1" by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia.
















16 comments:

  1. It may not be remarkable, Moira, but it's still (in my opinion) an entertaining story. And there is something about an old-fashioned Easter parade, with everyone dressed in those suits, dresses, hats, and so on. It's one of those interesting traditions.

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    1. I enjoyed it hugely - it gave a really good picture of the event it describes, something that I knew nothing about...

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  2. I love this story (and the Christmas one), and the Jane Haddam intro to the book is wonderful.

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    1. Yes - I think it was you that tipped me off onto this book. Thank you!

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  3. I've got the same version with the Jane Haddam introduction. When Borders was still trading I used to drop in every now and then to pick up those uniform Rex Stout paperback editions. I can recall this scene, but not whodunnit, which seems to be the usual way with the Nero Wolfe stories! It's lovely to see those photos, not least because they so perfectly conjure up a time and a place. The first person narration by Archie is perfectly done; you don't expect to show that much interest in what everyone is wearing, but he actually gives you enough information for you to build up the picture on your own. Archie's voice is one of Stout's great creations.

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    1. Absolutely right about Archie - in my own field of interest, he's terrific because he is a very convincing man who 'knows nothing about clothes but knows what he likes'. But he describes clothes really well in fact...

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  4. Broken record time - I'll try Stout one day!

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  5. Ah, I have that edition too - so i really should have picked it up at the weekend - darn! Hope you had a very Buona Pasqua.

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    1. I did thanks, hope you did too! There's a 4th July story in the book too, so maybe you could look at it then...

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  6. Moira, not having read many authors, both old and new, I can only wonder if clothes descriptions were key elements in vintage and early books. I don't read about them as much in modern fiction.

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    1. I find clothes descriptions everywhere Prashant, but the kind of description, and the purpose, tends to vary with different kinds of books...

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  7. I haven't read this one, but I'm sure it's hilarious.

    The Easter Parade theme reminds me that years ago, my sister and her friend would make gigantic hats and walk in the parade. I think they did it for two years.

    My father, from an Irish family, worried that they were not being sensitive to people's religion -- but they never received a negative response.

    And my neighbor dresses her kids up in costumes and takes them uptown to join in. It's all in good fun.

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    1. Lovely stories Kathy. What a positive, friendly thing. I don't think we have an Easter Parade tradition in the UK.

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  8. We do have one here and the parades are gigantic.

    And on St. Patrick's Day this year, for the first time, the LGBT community was allowed to march with their own banner. I wanted to go but just couldn't at that time of day. It was exciting.

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