Red Threads: A Novel (Inspector Cramer)

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9780553762990: Red Threads: A Novel (Inspector Cramer)
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Val Carew had come a long way—from Oklahoma to Wall Street—only to be clubbed to death at his wife’s tomb. The wealthy financier had built the magnificent crypt in memory of his beautiful Cherokee bride, whose premature death left behind a lot of unanswered questions. Now Carew himself is dead, struck down by a reminder from his past: an Indian war club.

The case lands in the capable hands of Inspector Cramer of the New York Homicide squad. The cigar-chomping detective has to follow the only clue left behind—a piece of red thread found in the dead man’s hand that no doubt leads to his killer.

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About the Author:

Rex Stout (1886–1975) wrote dozens of short stories, novellas, and full-length mystery novels, most featuring his two indelible characters, the peerless detective Nero Wolfe and his handy sidekick, Archie Goodwin.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Introduction
 
Red Threads is early Rex Stout, and it’s not Nero Wolfe. Still, it has many of the characteristics readers expect of Rex Stout. The events of the tale take place among upper-crust, high-society New York City characters, many of whom are shallow, self-centered, small-minded, and petty. There’s a bizarre and seemingly inexplicable murder, and the victim is an eccentric millionaire.
 
The wrong suspect is arrested and would undoubtedly be tried and found guilty were it not for the dogged determination of one individual who believes in his innocence. All of the action takes place in the hectic, fast-paced world of the high fashion industry. But there are a couple of surprising deviations from Rex Stout’s norm.
 
Early in the story we expect Inspector Cramer to fill the role of Nero Wolfe. Cramer is a rumpled, cigar-smoking veteran cop, a man Wolfe would barely be able to tolerate, but he is like a bloodhound when he gets on a trail. At least up to a point.
 
That point in Red Threads is when he finally makes an arrest—but he may have the wrong man. Then comes the biggest surprise of the novel: Jean Farris, clothing designer, who may or may not be in love with Guy Carew, the major suspect, begins investigating on her own, and it is her stubbornness, not Cramer’s, that finally cracks the case.
 
The other unusual aspect of Red Threads is Stout’s inclusion of three Cherokee characters and what they reveal about his perception of Cherokee culture. Woodrow Wilson is a full-blood Cherokee. Guy Carew is half Cherokee. His father, Val, the murder victim, was a white man whose wife, Guy’s mother, had been the lovely Cherokee Tsianina. She’s dead before the novel begins, but her presence is always with us.
 
The characters of Tsianina and Guy and their involvement in the world of American Indian art must have been suggested to Stout by the enormous popularity in the nineteen-twenties of a real-life Tsianina. Florence Evans, half Cherokee and half Creek, took the country by storm performing the songs of Charles Wakefield Cadman in her white buckskin dress. Evans also made the news when she helped Dr. Edgar L. Hewett dedicate his new Fine Arts Museum in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
 
Stout must have found the spectacle of Indians moving in high society a fascinating one. But be warned. Don’t read Red Threads for any insight into Cherokee culture or the Cherokee character. Stout may have read something about the Cherokee people before writing this book, but it could not have provided him with much more than a brief overview. As a Cherokee, and one who has been much involved in studying and writing about Cherokee issues for a number of years, I find Stout’s misinformation painfully obvious.
 
There is an element of truth in the claim, frequently made and vital to the plot, that the Cherokees are “sun worshipers.” That element, however, is played out in a misleading way, indicating that Stout had no real understanding of Cherokee religion.
 
The one Cherokee tradition he is absolutely right about is expressed in Woodrow Wilson’s statement “Always the house is the woman’s house.” But beyond that observation, Stout’s knowledge falls short again. Wilson mistrusts women, and Guy Carew does not understand them. Women have always had a very important place in Cherokee society. The clans are matrilineal. Early European observers, with their cultural bias, declared that the Cherokees had a “petticoat government,” and that “among the Cherokees the woman rules the roost.” A Cherokee man who either did not trust or did not understand women would have been in a very tenuous position indeed among his own people.
 
And the Oklahoma background of Guy Carew indicates a sketchy understanding at best of both Oklahoma and Cherokee history. The Cherokees living “on the tribal land ... when the oil thing got big and the Indians cleaned up,” would be closer to truth if the characters involved were Creek or Osage. But then, there has long been a generally held belief that Oklahoma Indians are all oil rich. What Stout did was buy into generally held misconceptions about Cherokees, Oklahoma Indians, and Indians in general.
 
Woodrow Wilson is the best illustration of this. He is purely a version of the stereotypical Indian portrayed by Hollywood and the popular fiction of the time. He speaks English like Tonto: “... me not go see Mrs. Barth.” Of course, I have never heard a Cherokee speak like that. (For that matter, I’ve never heard an Indian speak like that, unless he was in a movie or television show or was making fun of movie and television Indians.)
 
In spite of Stout’s inadequate understanding of Cherokee culture, some aspects of the novel regarding Cherokee culture do ring surprisingly true. One is the attitude of the social climbers toward the Cherokee characters.
 
“The Cherokees couldn’t weave a gunny sack—and anyhow, they never tried”: Cherokees did weave. Many Cherokees still do weave. It’s just that the Navajos are the best-known weavers.
 
“You haven’t even fallen in love with a man. You have gone dotty over a damned aborigine”: As recently as 1879, an American Indian had to go to court to prove that he was a human being. (The case was Standing Bear v. Crook.)
 
At the other extreme, Jean Farris, thinking that she may be falling in love with Guy Carew, reads a book called Customs and Culture of the Cherokee Indians, presumably to better understand him. But if she thinks that she has to understand his culture in order to get along with him, she is sadly mistaken, for Guy’s own understanding of Cherokee culture is pretty far off target.
 
The most interesting thing about Guy Carew is that in him, Stout may have created a rather realistic character quite by accident. Guy is a half-breed Cherokee who has not been raised as a Cherokee at all. A Cherokee mother in the home of a millionaire does not make the millionaire’s home traditional Cherokee.
 
Guy, like many real-life Cherokees raised away from their traditions, has turned to other Indian cultures in a misguided attempt to find his own “Indianness.” He is involved with an Indian museum. He has been working with various Indian tribes in some never-quite-explained philanthropic way. He quotes “Indian poetry” from several different tribes, “poetry” he learned by reading anthologies put together by white scholars.
 
So read Red Threads for a good mystery, or because you’re a Rex Stout fan and you want to check out his early work, but if you’re interested in Cherokee culture, read something like The Southeastern Indians by Charles Hudson, or better yet, read my novels. As my editor says, “Take it from someone who is a fan of both.”
 
— Robert J. Conley”
 

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9780553225303: Red Threads (Rex Stout Library)

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ISBN 10:  0553225308 ISBN 13:  9780553225303
Publisher: Crimeline, 1995
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Book Description Bantam. Paperback. Condition: New. 272 pages. Dimensions: 8.7in. x 6.0in. x 0.7in.Jean Farris, renowned cloth designer, had no idea that the Indian jacket made of centuries old bayeta yarn would one day shape her destiny, through the most unusual way possible murder! But Guy Carew, half-Indian heir of murdered multi-millionaire Val Carew, saw fit to give it to her, and she innocently accepted the offer. Now she has her doubts: Was it truly out of the generosity of his heart, or something more sinister Jean intends to find out; however, it seems that the murderer isnt the only one who doesnt want her to learn the truth! Somehow, for her and Guy, she must get through this in one piece or end up like Val Carew. This item ships from multiple locations. Your book may arrive from Roseburg,OR, La Vergne,TN. Paperback. Seller Inventory # 9780553762990

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