Archie Goodwin is a private detective operating in New York City; he is the assistant and 'leg-man' to Nero Wolfe. Archie chronicles Wolfe's adventures as well as doing all the difficult and unpleasant tasks, such as leaving the Brownstone where they live; the stories were published under the name of Archie's literary agent, Rex Stout.

In the books, Archie put out various contradictory accounts of his parentage and background. Wold Newton scholars tend to follow the theory proposed by William S. Baring-Gould that Archie was actually Wolfe's nephew, and Sherlock Holmes's grandson, although it should be noted that the germ of the idea was proposed originally by Bernard DeVoto as a deliberately absurd idea. Philip José Farmer thought that Archie might have been Travis McGee's cousin, and this has been confirmed by Wold Newton scholar Brad Mengel in an article, "Watching the Detectives, or The Sherlock Holmes Family Tree" (see Myths for the Modern Age, ed. Win Scott Eckert, who found that Archie's mother was a Leslie McGee, daughter of Ultima Clayton, making Archie a Wold Newton Family member through both the Holmeses and Greystokes.

According to his memoir The Brownstone House of Nero Wolfe as told by Archie Goodwin (ed. Ken Darby, after the death of Rex Stout), Archie married his long-term on-off girlfriend Lily Rowan. This flatly contradicts two other licenced continuations to the series (The Great Detectives by Julian Symons, and the novels of Robert Goldsborough).

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