Archie Goodwin is a fictional character in Rex Stout's mysteries. The witty narrator of all the stories, he recorded the cases of his boss, Nero Wolfe, from 1934 (Fer-de-Lance) to 1975 (A Family Affair).
|First appearance||Fer-de-Lance (1934)|
|Created by||Rex Stout|
I know pretty well what my field is. Aside from my primary function as the thorn in the seat of Wolfe's chair to keep him from going to sleep and waking up only for meals, I'm chiefly cut out for two things: to jump and grab something before the other guy can get his paws on it, and to collect pieces of the puzzle for Wolfe to work on.— Archie Goodwin in The Red Box (1937), chapter 12
Archie is Wolfe's live-in assistant in the private investigation business Wolfe runs out of his comfortable and luxurious New York City brownstone house on West 35th Street. Wolfe rarely leaves the brownstone, so Archie does most of the actual investigating, followed by reporting his findings to Wolfe, who solves the mystery. Archie is a skilled observer and has trained his memory so that he can make verbatim reports, oral or typewritten, of extended conversations. He claims to be able to type six to seven pages per hour on average, or up to 10 when he needs to hurry (Before Midnight, chapter 11). Because Wolfe is largely ignorant of and uninterested in the logistics of the world outside his house, he relies on Archie for various kinds of information and judgments of a practical nature. Wolfe also turns to Archie for opinions regarding the personalities of the women connected with a case.
Archie's bedroom is on the third floor of the brownstone, and he owns all of the furniture within it. Under his bed is a gong that is part of an alarm system designed to sound if anyone gets too close to Wolfe's bedroom door or windows at night. He typically eats his breakfast in the kitchen, and lunch and dinner in the dining room with Wolfe. However, if he must hurry to keep an appointment, he will eat in the kitchen or at a restaurant because Wolfe hates to see anyone rush through a meal.
In addition to detective work, Archie also handles Wolfe's bookkeeping and banking, types his correspondence, and keeps the germination and other records for the orchids Wolfe raises as a hobby. His salary is $200 per week in Too Many Women (chapter 5), but later it is $400 per week ($600 per week and a half, Death of a Dude, chapter 6). Archie's hobbies include dancing (usually at the Flamingo), poker, and baseball. He was a fan of the New York Giants until they relocated to San Francisco in 1957, then later became a fan of the New York Mets when that team was founded in 1962. When moving around Manhattan on business, he often prefers to walk rather than using Wolfe's car or taking taxis. Unlike his employer, Archie has only two conspicuous eccentricities: his favorite drink is milk, and he always knows the exact time.
Archie's conversations with other characters often feature his penchant for arch wit, which can serve purposes such as playing devil's advocate to "badger" Wolfe into working; stalling or goading police officers; issuing threats under the guise of ironically ingenuous observations; or charming female characters into cooperating with Wolfe's professional desiderata.
Regardless of what year the story takes place, Archie and the other principal characters in the corpus do not age. Archie is in his early 30s.:383, 565[a][b][c] He was born on October 23 in Chillicothe, Ohio. At age 12 he lived in Zanesville. In The Rubber Band (chapter 7), Archie mentions a sister in Ohio who once sent him silk pajamas for his birthday.
Rex Stout was never overly concerned with consistency in the Wolfe books, and Archie himself can relate unreliable information with ease, so some specifics of Archie's background vary in the corpus. In Fer-de-Lance, he comments that his parents died when he was a child, but in The Final Deduction (chapter 10) his mother is still living.
The most concentrated — but suspect — biography of Archie comes from Too Many Women (chapter 27), in which Mrs. Jasper Pine has his background investigated. She tells Archie that his father's name is James Arner Goodwin (Archie himself implies his father's name was Titus; he tells Lily Rowan to use the name Mrs. Titus Goodwin when he asks her to call Wolfe pretending to be his mother in Some Buried Caesar), that his mother's maiden name is Leslie, that he has two brothers and two sisters, and that he was born in Canton, Ohio. Archie never mentions the alleged brothers and second sister in the series. "Rex thought Mrs. Pine — who was the kind of person who supposes money can buy anything — got what she deserved", wrote Stout's authorized biographer John J. McAleer. He quotes Stout: "Of course Archie was born in Chillicothe. I don't know how he got Mrs. Pine's dick misinformed.":249
Although he is from the American Midwest, Archie has the "street smarts" to handle just about any situation he finds himself in, and he knows New York City like the back of his hand. Though he freely admits that there is no one better than Saul Panzer in many aspects of investigative work, such as remembering faces and tailing people, Goodwin is one of the most competent private detectives in the city. He has a long-time social relationship with Lily Rowan, a wealthy society woman, but they do not try to limit each other's social lives, and Archie has many passing love interests throughout the series. The only serious affair apart from Lily that he shares with the reader is Lucy Valdon, with whom he has a series of extended assignations during The Mother Hunt, prompting Wolfe and Fritz to fear that Archie may finally settle down. This does not happen, and Lucy Valdon did not appear in any other story although she receives a mention in A Right to Die.
When Wolfe disappears for an extended period in In the Best Families, Archie rents an office of his own and works as an independent detective. During this time, Archie writes, "My idea was to net more per week than I had been getting from Wolfe, not that I cared for the money, but as a matter of principle." Later, Archie needles Wolfe, pointing out that he made a little more than double the amount that Wolfe had been paying him; Wolfe claims not to believe it.
Archie, as Stout's first-person narrator, faithfully relates each case in the past tense in meticulous detail. His narrative includes his own thoughts over the course of the story, from ruminations on the case in progress to personal impressions of and opinions about the people involved. He is very thorough in describing the details of other characters' physical appearances, often adding his own positive or negative judgments. Because Wolfe routinely keeps Archie in the dark about certain key insights and key tasks assigned to other operatives, Archie's openness with the reader over the course of the story he is telling from his own point of view does not risk giving away the solution prior to Wolfe's climactic revelations. (However, despite his candor toward the reader, Archie occasionally makes it known that he's holding back some particularly private thought or event.) From time to time Archie acknowledges the reader directly, by speculating as to whether we will be interested in this or that detail, showing us supposed copies of vital documents when the originals are no longer accessible to him at the time he is writing, or discussing whether we might have figured something out yet at a certain point in the narrative. He occasionally expresses faint concern that another character, such as Wolfe or Inspector Cramer, may read his account of the case and take offense at something he has written.
Archie's narratorial wittiness includes a repeatedly employed callback maneuver whereby he quotes a character using a striking or unusual turn of phrase, and then later uses the phrase himself, in some other context, in the course of his narration.
Archie Goodwin may refer to:
Archie Goodwin (basketball) (born 1994), basketball player
Archie Goodwin (comics) (1937–1998), comic book writer and editor
Archie Goodwin (character), a fictional detective created by Rex StoutGoodwin (surname)
Goodwin is a surname. Notable people with the surname include:
Albert Goodwin (disambiguation), several people
Alexander T. Goodwin (1837–1899), New York politician
Alfred Goodwin (born 1923), American Federal judge
Andrew Goodwin (tenor), Australian tenor
Andrew Goodwin (cricketer) (born 1982), English cricketer
Archie Goodwin (disambiguation), several people
Barry Goodwin, American economist
Betty Goodwin, Canadian artist
Brian Goodwin (1931–2009), Canadian mathematician
Bronx Goodwin, Australian rugby league footballer (son of Ted Goodwin)
Bryson Goodwin, Australian rugby league footballer (son of Ted Goodwin)
Carte Goodwin, American politician from West Virginia
Charles Wycliffe Goodwin (1817–1878), British egyptologist, bible scholar, lawyer and judge
Craufurd Goodwin (1934–2017), Canadian-born American historian of economic thought
Daisy Goodwin (born 1961), British television producer, poetry anthologist and novelist
Dan Goodwin, American amateur stuntman
Denis Goodwin (1929–1975), British comedy writer
Derek Goodwin (1920–2008), British ornithologist
Doris Kearns Goodwin (born 1943), American historian
Dorothy Goodwin (1914–2007), American educator and politician
Elaine M. Goodwin, British mosaic artist
Francis Goodwin (disambiguation), several people
Fred Goodwin (born 1958), Royal Bank of Scotland executive
Freddie Goodwin (born 1933), English football player
Ginnifer Goodwin (born 1978), American actress from TV shows Big Love and Once Upon a Time, among other works
Gordon Goodwin (born 1955), American jazz pianist, saxophonist, composer, arranger and conductor
Gordon Goodwin (athlete) (1895–?), British athlete
Hannibal Goodwin (1822–1900), American Episcopal priest and film technology inventor
Harold Goodwin (disambiguation), several people
Harry Goodwin (1924–2013), British photographer
Harry Goodwin (cricketer), cricketer
Henry B. Goodwin (1878–1931), Swedish photographer and expert on Nordic languages
Ichabod Goodwin (1796–1882), American politician, former Governor of New Hampshire
Jason Goodwin (born 1964), British writer and historian
Jeff Goodwin, American sociology expert
Jennie Goodwin, New Zealand journalist, television newsreader and continuity announcer
Jim Goodwin (born 1981), Irish footballer
Jim Goodwin (baseball), American baseball player
Jimi Goodwin (born 1970), English rock musician (The Doves)
John Goodwin (disambiguation), several people
Jonathan Goodwin (disambiguation), several people
Ken Goodwin (disambiguation), several people
Laurel Goodwin (born 1942), American actress
Luke Goodwin (born 1973), Australian rugby league footballer
Matt Goodwin (born 1960), Australian rugby league footballer
Matthew Goodwin (born 1981), British political scientist
Murray Goodwin (born 1972), Zimbabwean Test cricketer
Nathaniel Carl Goodwin (1857–1919), American actor and vaudevillian
Philip R. Goodwin (1881–1935), American painter and illustrator
Sir Reg Goodwin (1908–1986), British politician
Ron Goodwin (1925–2003), British composer and conductor
Richard B Goodwin (born 1934), British film producer
Richard M. Goodwin (1913–1996), US American economist
Richard N. Goodwin (1931-2018), American writer, lawyer, and speechwriter
Sid Goodwin (1915–1980), Australian rugby league footballer
Simon Goodwin (born 1976), Australian rules footballer
Ted Goodwin (born 1953), Australian rugby league footballer
Thomas Goodwin (1600–1680), British Puritan preacher
Tom Goodwin (born 1968), American professional baseball player
Trudie Goodwin (born 1951), English actress
W. A. R. Goodwin (1869–1939), American preacher who led Colonial Williamsburg preservation effort
Wayne Goodwin, American politician, current in North Carolina State Assembly
William Goodwin (disambiguation), several people named Bill, Billy or William