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The Final Deduction (Nero Wolfe, #35)The Final Deduction by Rex Stout
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe novels are one of the more unique entrants into the mystery genre. Combining the intellectual acumen of a Sherlock Holmes (Wolfe) with the hard-boiled street smarts of a Sam Spade (Archie Goodwin), the novels are a treat to the ears, especially for lovers of good dialogue.

In The Final Deduction, Archie, the narrator, is in peak form. From badgering Wolfe into working (twice!) to convincing a wishy-washy client to show some spine (by lying about his--Archie's--mother!), the patter never slows down. Stout also likes to set up Wolfe's routine and then break it, and does so here by having Wolfe and Archie decamp for 24 hours to earn a fee. Archie's one-paragraph description of Wolfe's travails during the absence from home (he has to use soap that smells of tuberoses instead of geraniums!) is mournful and sarcastic in a manner that is pure Stout.

If there's any knock on this novel, and there is, it is the plot is pedestrian, easily deduced by the reader, and seems--more than most Wolfe novels--to be a perfunctory vehicle for the characters. Of course, it is those characters we love, and The Final Deduction is full of them. There are precious few Stout books I would actually recommend against reading, and this one is certainly not one of them. Enjoy deducing your way through The Final Deduction!

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I Am a Church Member: Discovering the Attitude that Makes the DifferenceI Am a Church Member: Discovering the Attitude that Makes the Difference by Thom S. Rainer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Shakespeare wrote "brevity is the soul of wit," and no book I've read exemplifies this more than I Am a Church Member. Thom S. Rainer's slim tome does not waste time using 30 different Bible quotations to make the same argument over and over. Each chapter is only a few pages and gets straight to the point. Christians are all members of the body of Christ, but also members of a local church and there are responsibilities to that local church. A quick read and one that drives home how loving our siblings in Christ necessarily means we must also love, serve, and support the church.

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The Last CoincidenceThe Last Coincidence by Robert Goldsborough
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Roughly a decade after Rex Stout's death ended the Nero Wolfe series of books, Robert Goldsborough was hired to continue the series. There are two distinct eras of Goldsborough's books. Early Goldsborough runs from 1986 (Murder in E Minor) to 1994 (The Missing Chapter). Late Goldsborough begins in 2012 (Archie Meets Nero Wolfe) and continues to (as of this review) 2018 (The Battered Badge).

I generally find the early Goldsborough books to be superior, as he does a much better job of capturing Stout's tone. The Last Coincidence, unfortunately, does not quite live up to the standard of the other early Goldsborough books. Three things are just a little off.

First, while Wolfe certainly sounds like Wolfe, Archie's voice is not quite "on" in this book. The tone is not as off in the late Goldsborough books, but there's a certain flippancy that Archie carries with him that seems forced here. Perhaps it's the subject matter (date rape), or trying to shoehorn Lily Rowan into the story. (Goldsborough is far more fascinated with LR than Stout ever was.)

Second, the plot is pure contrivance. Wolfe pulls the solution out of thinner air than when he pinned his solution on a diphthong (A Right to Die, 1964). Stout plotted some whoppers, but this one truly stretches credulity.

Third, there is the subject matter issue. Goldsborough dances around the date rape subject, never quite plumbing the horror of it and never quite raising the victim to true sympathy. He doesn't downplay it so much as he doesn't play it up quite enough. Since it is the motivating force for murder, it should get more word space.

Overall, a serviceable, but not particularly good, entry into the Nero Wolfe canon.

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The Missing ChapterThe Missing Chapter by Robert Goldsborough
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Roughly a decade after Rex Stout's death ended the Nero Wolfe series of books, Robert Goldsborough was hired to continue the series. There are two distinct eras of Goldsborough's books. Early Goldsborough runs from 1986 (Murder in E Minor) to 1994 (The Missing Chapter). Late Goldsborough begins in 2012 (Archie Meets Nero Wolfe) and continues to (as of this review) 2018 (The Battered Badge).

Early Goldsborough is far superior. The seven books of that corpus, of which The Missing Chapter is the last, hew very closely to Stout in tone and setting. The books are contemporaneous with their publication. For example, Archie prints out a check register from his PC; and, New York's distressing crime rate, very high in the early 90s, is frequently mentioned. Archie, the narrator of the books, sounds much like Archie. Wolfe sounds like Wolfe. Late Goldsborough is a different story, but that will have to be another review.

Thus, I thoroughly enjoyed The Missing Chapter. I slipped easily into the cadences and rhythms of Archie's patter and Wolfe's erudition. All the necessary filigrees are there, with necessary updating to 1994. (Archie notices a big screen TV! Wolfe has to get a new elevator!) The characters are intriguing (though there's far too little of Cramer and Stebbins), and the acerbity you associate with a murder investigation flows throughout. There's even a little bit of scandalous behavior, but the language is always clean. Archie never repeats the more vulgar language he hears.

The plot is reasonably tight, though the hints at the murderer seem a tad too obvious, but there's enough misdirection to hide what's in plain sight if you're not paying attention. My only knock on the book is the subject matter. The victim is the continuator of a popular detective series. It's hard to read the book and not feel like you're reading a sensationalized autobiography of Goldsborough as the continuator of Nero Wolfe. One even wonders if the pressure of continuing this beloved series is what led to the 18-year break between this book and Archie Meets Nero Wolfe.

If you are a long-time reader, as I am, of the Stout books, The Missing Chapter is a worthy addition to the Nero Wolfe canon. If you've come more recently to the Goldsborough books, you may find this book surprising in its deftness, and a welcome entryway to the older Wolfe books.

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This is a transcript of the above video...

Hello. My name is Barry Scott Will and this is episode seven of my video blog, “Go Game, Young Man.” Today I’m doing something a little different, I am going retro. Today I discuss Traveller, a space-faring RPG from my youth.

Traveller was first published in 1977 by Game Designer’s Workshop. It was written by Mark Miller, who has continued producing new versions ever since. The second version of Traveller is called MegaTraveller and was published in 1987. Traveller: The New Era followed in 1993 and then T4: Mark Miller’s Traveller was released in 1996. The current version of Traveller is Traveller5, published in 2013 by Far Future Enterprises. Along the way, other versions of Traveller have been released.

Steve Jackson Games released a version of Traveller under their GURPS rules. It’s called Traveller: Interstellar Wars.

In 2002, a d20 version of Traveller, called T20, of course, was published by QuikLink Interactive. And, in 2008, Mongoose Publishing published a version of Traveller simply referred to as Mongoose Traveller. It is now in a second edition published in 2016.

I give you all that just as a brief history. You can read more about the game’s versions at the Wikipedia entry linked below. I have never played any version except the first, now commonly called “Classic Traveller.” And today I’m just going to talk about the game and what I like about it.

The original ruleset for Traveller was published as three “little black books” sold in a box set as pictured here (along with some additional books). Those three books cover characters, spaceships, and worlds for adventuring. In 1982, those three core books were consolidated into a single book with additional material, and sold as The Traveller Book. I still have mine here. This is the hardcover edition. There was also a softcover that had artwork on the cover rather than the plain black. Obviously, I like this one much better. Especially since it has held up for 35-plus years.