I read this book about 13-Apr-2003. This is the first time I've read this book. The book is copyright 1939. This note was last modified Wednesday, 03-Mar-2004 11:07:01 PST.
This note contains spoilers for the book.
This is a Tecumseh Fox book, but a pretty good one. It starts out at "the Zoo", where he lives, and introduces several of the strange people around him before he shows up. He'd almost do as the model for Doc Savage, or a typical evil overlord for that matter. Or Buckaroo Banzai, more recently.
Dan, his "vice president", is a fascinating character. Not explained in any detail. Clearly has a tendency to be an alcholic, and it's mentioned that Fox saved him a while ago, and he's sort of hung around since. But no real origin story. Likes to say "right again" when Fox contradicts him.
The intro says Stout thought very highly of this book, and I can see why. In addition to the fascinating characters, there's a very complex and clever plot, involving some amazing planning and some weird coincidences.
Fox's New York isn't Wolfe's. But they have overlaps, notably Rusterman's restaurant. A lot of the other overlaps are obviously real. The other weird thing is lack of brand names. No gun or automobile has a "real" brand name used in the books. I think that was par for the course, at least in non-respectable areas like mysteries. It doesn't come up in SF since after all they're not mostly set in contemporaneously. Back then there weren't so many brand-name things you encountered every day.