How to Start a Raceme in Your Area

What is a raceme and why should you want to start one?

RacemeOrchid lovers know that a raceme is an elongated cluster of flowers along the main stem in which the flowers at the base open first.

The Wolfe Pack has adopted this term for a local offshoot of the Pack. By creating a raceme, members who live around the country can hold local book discussions and events.

We would like to help any Wolfe Pack member who wishes to start a raceme. We will help you make initial contact with other Pack members in your vicinity. We will send mailings to members in your area, post a notice on the web page, write and print notices for distribution to local libraries and bookstores, and use our experience to help get your raceme started.

General suggestions for forming a book discussion group

The Pack member who becomes coordinator of the raceme will be responsible for arranging a location and coordinating with Wolfe Pack members responsible for newsletter announcements (snail mail and e-mailings) and updates to the Nero Wolfe web site, Facebook page and other social media.

Get started by looking for places to hold the discussions.. Possibilities include a local restaurant, library or bookstore, or someone's house. Book discussion venues need:

  • A separate, relatively quiet space (no loud heating system, A/C, dishwashers, traffic to rest rooms, etc.)
  • Restaurants should offer a variety of food and drinks and be willing to do separate checks for each attendee
  • A two hour time slot (approximate)
  • 7pm to 9pm works fine for the NYC group, but others find a weekend afternoon works well

The discussions may be open to members, guests and prospective members. The coordinator must be a member as this event carries the “seal of approval” of the Wolfe Pack.

Five book discussions per year is a good target, but this is adjustable according to the local group's preference. In New York City we hold meetings every other month beginning in September, early-December (as part of the Black Orchid Weekend), January, March and May. We take a summer break(due to low attendance. Most restaurants are slow on Mondays, so it's the day we've chosen (third Monday of the month, except when holidays or other circumstances intervene). It is very desirable to have a set day, date and month so members can plan ahead and develop the habit of attending. This also helps in setting a regular slot at a restaurant.

Books may be discussed chronologically -- as published or as written — starting with Fer de Lance (1934) through A Family Affair (1975). A book containing two or three novellas is usually covered at one book discussion. Sometimes a special "media event" might be scheduled as part of a book discussion, for example, if the story is one that has been adapted by the A&E TV Series. Sometimes, as with the case of the Zeck trilogy, books may be discussed out of sequence.

Over the years, book discussions have ranged over trivia (in the early books, Archie always gets a parking spot right in front of the house; the cheap price of a taxi ride) and serious matters (Mr. Wolfe's view of women, lawyers, police, politics).

Each discussion should have a moderator, usually done on a rotational basis which can include the coordinator. Suggestions for the moderator:

  • Make notes as you read the book
  • Start the discussion with a 10-15 minute presentation; some suggestions:
    • What did the moderator like about the book?  
    • The characters?  
    • The plot?
    • Rex Stout's use of language?  
    • What wasn't so likeable about the book?  
  • Encourage comments, questions, and differing points of view, which makes for a fun evening
  • Avoid a retelling of the plot, since it can be assumed all those in attendance have read/reread the book

Attendees and moderators should review and try to follow the suggestions on the book discussion guidelines page.