Sunday, January 22, 2012

By His Own Hand - Rex Stout

Story: By His Own Hand

Author: Rex Stout
Source: Ellery Queen’s Twentieth Century Detective Stories (revised edition)
Story Number: 22
Rex Stout is most famous for his novels and novellas featuring Nero Wolfe & Archie Goodwin but he created a few more series characters and has a few short stories to his credit as well which he contributed mainly to the pulps.
40 million fans idolized “Kevin Kay” as the series hero of books, comics, movies and TV. Adam Nicoll has portrayed Kay in all the movies and the fans can’t separate one from the other. Another character “Cricket” in this series has been played by Amy Quong. Barry Maddox, a producer decides to put a Kay play on Broadway and gets the approval from Paul Griffin, the creator and the owner of the rights to the character. They have picked a new actor by the name of Levitan to play the character of Kay. This doesn’t go well with Adam; he flies down to New York with his wife to confront Griffin and Maddox with a lawsuit.
Alphabet Hicks is called in to Griffin’s house to iron out the situation and negotiate a deal which is suitable for everyone, which he fails to achieve. Two nights later when Hicks returns back to his house, he finds Sergeant Purley Stebbins waiting for him. He informs that Adam Nicoll died of cyanide poisoning when he took one of his vitamin tablets and hence asks Hicks to give a detailed account of the 2 hour negotiation which he had with the victim and the five suspects. Hicks receives a call later in the night asking him to come over and handle the situation suitably as each of the five knows that there is a murderer among them.
As soon as Hicks reaches Griffin’s house, he declares that he knows who the murderer is because of what was said by one of them when he was there on the previous occasion. He also informs them that this message was passed on to the police but they might not have seen the significance of it and hence he was gone try and make the murderer crack – which he does most efficiently!  


  1. I was wondering why this interesting character appeared in only one novel. And now I learn he had a story appearance. Do you know of any other stories with Hicks? Did this come before or after the novel? I liked the novel named after the character which was later reprinted as THE SOUND OF MURDER in various paperback editions. It had a lot to do with two characters who had similar voices (an interesting plot device I rarely come across) and some recording devices used to create the illusion of someone being present when he really wasn't (which seems to be overused in crime fiction from the Golden Age and into modern times).

    1. No, looks like there's only 1 Alphabet Hicks short story. This came a long time after the novel. The novel was published in 1941 and the story was published in the Manhunt Magazine in 1955.