Mrs. T and I just returned from a much-needed holiday at Ecce Bed and Breakfast, our favorite retreat. One of the books that I brought along with me to read was Some Buried Caesar, the sixth of Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe novels, published in 1939. In it Archie Goodwin makes the following remark about Lily Rowan, his on-again-off-again girlfriend: “I was wondering which would be more satisfactory, to slap her and then kiss her, or to kiss her and then slap her.”
I must have read the book a dozen times over the years, but never until now had that line caught my eye. Suddenly a coin dropped in my head and I remembered another line: “She reached a quick arm around my neck and started to pull. So I kissed her. It was either that or slug her.” It comes, of course, from Raymond Chandler’s The Little Sister, published in 1949.
Chandler once told a correspondent that he considered himself “far above” Stout, and very likely he did. But could it possibly be that he was thinking of Some Buried Caesar, consciously or not, when he penned that famous line?