MATHEMATICAL FICTION:

a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)

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And Be a Villain (1948)
Rex Stout
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Contributed by "William E. Emba"

Rex Stout and his seventy some Nero Wolfe novels are generally regarded as amongst the greatest mystery novels ever written. They read as fresh today as when the series started in 1934, and they can pretty much be read in any order. The plot of AND BE A VILLAIN centers around a cyanide poisoning that had happened during a live radio talkshow broadcast, a few days before the novel opens. The victim was a race track bookie. Also present at the crime scene was a mathematician, to provide expert commentary on probability, and some respectability for the show to even dare have a bookie on air. (But to the reader, the mathematician is mostly to provide comic relief.) When Nero Wolfe interviews the mathematician, the latter launches into an uninterruptible spiel about how he always wanted to apply probability theory to detective work, and talks math for a bit, going so far as to write out the "second approximation to the normal distribution", which Archie Goodwin, the novel's narrator, reproduces. Apparently Archie doesn't know what a square root symbol is, since what should be a sqrt(2.pi.D) comes out as V.2.pi.D. (It appears Stout did his homework, so either his printer got it wrong, or Stout engaged in an inside joke for mathematicians only.)

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(Note: This is just one work of mathematical fiction from the list. To see the entire list or to see more works of mathematical fiction, return to the Homepage.)

Works Similar to And Be a Villain
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. After Math by Miriam Webster
  2. Death of a Doxy by Rex Stout
  3. The Barking Clock by Harry Stephen Keeler / Hazel Goodwin Keeler
  4. The Murdered Mathematician by Harry Stephen Keeler
  5. The Visiting Professor by Robert Littell
  6. Mangum, P.I. by Colin Adams
  7. The Jester and the Mathematician by Alan R. Gordon
  8. The Zero Clue by Rex Stout
  9. A Frayed Knot by Felix Culp
  10. The Mathematicians of Grizzly Drive by Josef Skvorecky
Ratings for And Be a Villain:
RatingsHave you seen/read this work of mathematical fiction? Then click here to enter your own votes on its mathematical content and literary quality or send me comments to post on this Webpage.
Mathematical Content:
2/5 (2 votes)
..
Literary Quality:
4/5 (2 votes)
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Categories:
GenreMystery, Humorous,
Motif
TopicProbability/Statistics,
MediumNovels,

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(Maintained by Alex Kasman, College of Charleston)