A very unusual Nero Wolfe mystery; features the death of two important characters, and a long journey via air, sea and mountain, to Montenegro, for both Wolfe and Archie. One of the few Wolfe stories to emphasise action and drama over character and dialogue.
From the dust jacket:
The newest full-length Rex Stout novel provides not only a new experience for Nero Wolfe fans, but also a new experience for Nero himself.
It's one thing for Nero to move his hand across a glove and put his finger on a distant seat of murder; it's quite another thing for him to move his ponderous body father than across a room. Yet, believe it or not, in The Black Mountain Nero not only leaves his house but he actually leaves the United States, crosses and ocean, a continent, and a sea, and - with Archie - penetrates, disguised, into one of the most dangerous and controversial places on earth.
From there on it's Nero Wolfe as Nero never was before: a Nero compelled to cope with sinister international plotters, to deal with an enemy to whom murder is but a trivial incident, to return to New York on one of the strangest missions in all detective fiction.
"I pay him the tribute of speaking of him and feeling about him precisely as I did when he lived; the insult would be to smear his corpse with the honey excreted by my fear of death." (p. 21)
The mystery is secondary. Archie is secondary. In this adventure, Nero Wolfe is moved (literally) to action by the deaths of his childhood friend (most recently the owner of the only restaurant Wolfe left his brownstone for) and his estranged adopted daughter. This is not an overly emotional Wolfe. He doesn't rage. He doesn't cry. Stout knew his character well. Just throwing some lines in showing Wolfe spending 18 hours at One Police Plaza going over notes and research, moves the secondary characters and the knowing reader much more than any tear could. If that wasn't enough, Wolfe -- who almost never leaves his home -- quickly makes Archie arrange car, plane and ship travel to take them to where Wolfe grew up, Montenegro. Stout does a good job describing then current political factions fighting for control of it. Paperless Wolfe and Archie have to find their way through agents of Fascist Tito, Communist Stalin and a highly questionable revolutionary underground/guerilla freedom movement that his daughter was sending money to. While it doesn't work well as a mystery, iIt does, however work quite well as a fish out of water journey and character study. [GoodReads.com]
The New York Times Researches Galichnik, July 18, 2008!
"...for 11 months only women, children and old men live there. The able-bodied males, famous stonecutters, ply their trade all over the world and have done so for centuries - at the Escorial in Spain, the Chateau Frontenac in Quebec, the palaces in Versailles and the Mormon Tabernacle in Utah."
NEWGATE CALLENDAR'S EUROPE, December 27, 1981
"It is a village hanging to a mountain near the top, just over the border from Albania in Serbia, which is part of Yugoslavia. It is 40 miles southeast of Cetijne and the Black Mountain, and it is famous. "The Black Mountain," by Rex Stout. [Web master comment: Galichnik is now in Macedonia and is about 270 km from Podgorica, Montenegro.]
Nero Wolfe is referring to the little village of Galicnik. Famous? It's not on any standard map you can consult. And what is Nero Wolfe, who never leaves his house on West 35th Street, doing in Yugoslavia? He's there because his adopted daughter and also his best friend, Marko Vukcic, have been killed by an assassin involved in the Montenegrin nationalistic movement. Wolfe goes into Montenegro as Tone Stara from Galicnik. He tells Archie Goodwin that it is an unusual town. For 11 months only women, children and old men live there. The able-bodied males, famous stonecutters, ply their trade all over the world and have done so for centuries - at the Escorial in Spain, the Chateau Frontenac in Quebec, the palaces in Versailles and the Mormon Tabernacle in Utah. Much of the action takes place on Tsernagora, the Black Mountain. That's not on most maps either.
But yes, says the Yugoslav National Tourist Office. There is indeed a Galicnik, in Macedonia near Skopje, exactly where Nero Wolfe says it is. Only a few thousand people, says the Tourist man, doubt in his voice. Why do you want to go there? We have other places .... Is it true, Tourist is asked, that for 11 months of the year there is no man in Galicnik. Pause. "That I cannot say." What about Tsernagora? "Ah, that is beautiful. That you must see."
Those accompanist of migrant workers from this area of Macedonia, always announce the Galichnik wedding with its witnesses of wedding. And even today one message is still actual from the folklore song in wing the singer, on this day, sings and tells the Galichnik migrant worker like this: "Where You are - for St. Peter's Day to be at home." And it is true: The Galichnik migrant workers spread all over the world without lamenting neither money nor time to be at home this day - among theirs. And now as before, Galichnik on St. Peter's Day come to their Galichnik and among their families and relatives.
the Gostivar, Macedonia site:
Nearly within four decades, with short interruptions, on Petrovden (12th July), an attractive tourist manifestation called "Galichnik Wedding" is held - unique of its kind.
The Galichnik Wedding in its existence as an annual manifestation, contributed in keeping alive the wedding customs and rituals of the inhabitants of this region, in order to preserve the original folk songs, dances (in Macedonia Ora), and the famous Galichnik traditional costume - made with filigree tailors accuracy, i.e. to preserve Galichnik which during the 1970-ies was brought to the brink of its existence. So, this manifestation was actually the reason why, in 1974, the path through Bistra leading from Mavrovo to Galicnik was paved with asphalt. This pavement, enabled the renovation of the Galichnik houses (which are with very specific and authentic architecture), and even new ones were built. All this allowed the return of life in Galichnik, and life was present in Galichnik from “Gjurgjovden” to “Mitrovden” i.e. from Spring till Fall. Efforts are made to keep the village alive throughout the whole year.
The Galichnik Wedding is rich in original, unique and unrepeatable wedding customs and rituals. During the wedding days, the "zurla" clucks and the "tapan" echoes from Galichnik to Reka. Those companions (the "zurla" and the "tapan") of the migrant workers (in Macedonia, pechalbarite), always announce the Galichnik Wedding.
Еven nowadays a verse from an old song remains true. The singer, on this day (Petrovden), through this verse tells the Galichnik migrant worker (in Macedonia, Pechalbar): "Wherever you are - for Petrovden be at home!" And it was, and is true: The Galichnik migrant workers spread all over the world, regret neither money nor time to be at home on this day - among their own.
Every year, many old customs are revived during the Galichnik Wedding: the expectation of the "tapani", "Svekrvino oro" (the dance of the mother in law),the taking of the bride to the village fountain (Upija) for water, the hanging of the wedding flag, the invitation of the dead, the shaving of the groom, the baking of the bread, the wedding itself in the church "Ss. Petar and Pavle" [St.s Peter & Paul Church] and many other customs, which are dying slowly, containing and hiding many details of the life of Galichnik people in the past....
For more information, try the Google search (with quotes): "migrant worker Galicnik" or the WIKIPEDIA PAGE.