Author Rex Stout was born on December 1, 1886. A child prodigy with a gift for mathematics, Stout drifted as he became an adult, holding odd jobs in many places---cook, cabinetmaker, bellhop, hotel manager, salesman, bookkeeper, and even a guide in a pueblo. But his true talent lay in storytelling; he sold his first story, about William Howard Taft, in 1912. His most famous creation is Nero Wolfe, a 286-pound detective genius who, with sidekick Archie Goodwin, can often solve a case without leaving his room. It is the way in which the puzzle is solved that intrigues Nero Wolfe, who is much like Sherlock Holmes in his ability to use deductive reasoning. More than 60 million copies (in 24 languages) of Stout's books have been sold. Stout writes quickly, drawing upon a lifetime of impressions. He neither uses an outline nor revises; he lets his characters take over as the story develops. The classy, erudite Nero Wolfe presents for readers an alternative to the hard-boiled branch of the genre. He died on October 27, 1975
John Jakes was born in Chicago in 1932. He studied acting at Northwestern University, where he began writing professionally during his freshman year. Later he enrolled in a creative writing program at DePauw University and received a master's degree in American literature from Ohio State University. Early in his career Jakes wrote copy for a pharmaceutical company and various ad agencies, and authored dozens of short stories encompassing western, mystery and science fiction themes. In March 1973, Jakes commenced work on The Kent Family Chronicles, a multi-volume set portraying American history through the lives of a fictional family. Later works include North and South (1982), California Gold (1989), Homeland (1993), and American Dreams. Six of his major novels have been filmed as television miniseries, and North and South remains one of the highest rated miniseries in the history of television. Jakes is actively involved in the adaptation of North and South for the Broadway stage. John Jakes has been hailed as the godfather of the historical novel, and America's history teacher.