Tag Archive: Tales of the Black Widowers



And I’m back, sort of.

minion-coffee

Okay, I’m still a bit unwell, but finally on the mend. In the meantime let’s continue with that discussion about some of the things I learned putting together our first anthology.

First off it was somewhat easier than creating an entire novel. With a novel you have to keep track of so many things like character development, interactions, subplots, pace of the story, etc.  Now with an anthology, you still have a lot of stories to contend with but each one is self-contained and has its own beginning and end. You don’t have to be worried about how they fit into the main tale. Plus you can have a greater variety of characters and give each tale a flavor all its own. Sounds pretty easy so far right? Well, here’s where things started to get a little more complicated for me.

oops

Like a novel, an anthology does need to have a certain feeling of cohesiveness to it. There must be some facet or factor that makes the reader feel like the stories all belong together in that one volume. This is of course fairly easy to do when you’re dealing with a bunch of stories by various authors dealing with the same subject matter. “The Penguin Book of Vampires” is a great example. It contains dozens of authors within its pages with each one using an actual vampire character or a variation on that theme.

Another simple method of dealing with this cohesive problem is to do an anthology that contains works by the same author. One of my favorite authors is the legendary Isaac Asimov, a prolific writer beyond compare.

Asimov

Throwing a collection of his works together should be easy right? Wrong! While known for his volume of work in the field of science-fiction, Mr. Asimov also wrote mysteries, as well a huge body of non-fiction. So here you have to ask yourself what kind of anthology would you want? Do you want to have a sampling from different areas of his works to showcase just how versatile he was? Or would you rather want to focus on just one genre of his work at a time? Considering the volume of work the man left behind, most anthology creators have chosen the latter. This was especially true when he was still with us.

Tales_of_the_Black_Widowers_cover

In the case of his mystery sleuths “The Black Widowers”, the publishers gathered all his published tales with these characters who solve puzzles and mysteries while sitting in a restaurant. The publishers also got Mr. Asimov to create an introduction to each collection (there were 5 all together), as well, but they didn’t stop there. Mr. Asimov provided some brand new tales that had never been published to make each collection more special. Furthermore, he add afterthoughts to every story giving the readers new insights to his characters as well as how he came up with the puzzles.

From there I started looking through the other anthologies by various authors (HP Lovecraft, sci-fi and horror collections) in our personal library to see what was done in those cases. And guess what I discovered, each collection had an Introduction/Preface depending on if the works were all the same author or by various authors. Furthermore, just about every tale in each anthology also had some thoughts at the beginning or end of it talking about the author, or thoughts they’d had on the work. Quite different than just having an “About the Author” at the end of your novel. Naturally we had hour work cut out for us, but there was still the issue of a feeling of connection between the stories.  Did we have one or not?

ponder-iii

To answer this question I found myself going back to the original source for many of the stories in our anthology, our online blog “The Vampyre Blogs – Private Edition”.

TO BE CONTINUED…

 


Isaac Asimov is well known for his extremely numerous writing contributions to science and science fiction.  But not everyone knows he was also a mystery author and regular contributor to Ellery Queen Magazine, as well as a few others.  His most famous crime sleuths never actually went to a crime scene, nor did they go into police headquarters and announce they had cracked an important case.

No, these amateur sleuths, who call themselves the Black Widowers because once a month they come together for a dinner of just themselves and one invited guest, a man.  Women are not allowed to attend this function, hence their nickname.  For one night a month they can enjoy just the company of each other without female company, not that they object to women.  It’s simply their own little club.  The members of this little club are based on friends from the author’s own life and are listed here:

  • Geoffrey Avalon, a patent attorney (based on L. Sprague de Camp)
  • Emmanuel Rubin, a mystery novelist and acquaintance of Isaac Asimov (based on Lester del Rey)
  • James Drake, a chemist (based on Dr. John D. Clark)
  • Thomas Trumbull, an expert in cryptography for the United States government (based on Gilbert Cant)
  • Mario Gonzalo, an artist, who usually draws a portrait of the evening’s guest (based on Lin Carter)
  • Roger Halsted, a high school mathematics teacher, fond of jokes and limericks (based on Don Bensen)
  • Henry Jackson, the club’s waiter, was not based on an actual person, but according to Asimov was inspired by PG Wodehouses character Jeeves.
 
At each meeting a guest is brought by one of the members and after being served an excellent meal, are then ‘grilled’ by the group, usually by being asked “How do you justify your existence…?”  What happens in the first story sets the stage for the rest of the tales within the pages of this excellent work.
 
A puzzle is presented to the Black Widowers who systematically try to help find the answer to their guest’s dilemma. In the end, it is the esteemable Henry who provides the final solution to each of the twelve tales you will find here.  Each story is presented fairly and the reader is supplied all the hints that the Black Widowers are given.  Although Henry supplies the answer, he always credits the club members for having helped eliminate all the other options, allowing him to discover the final solution.  
 
My personal favorite in this collection is “The Acquisitive Chuckle” which is also the 1st story.  In it we learn a great deal about our hosts and even more importantly we gain keen insight into their wondrous butler Henry, a scrupulously honest man, but who is not above delivering a little payback to an old partner.
 
There is one puzzle that involves a death of one of the club member’s sister, which is touching and bittersweet, but handled very well.
As for the rest of the tales, each has its own flavor and unique outcome.  I can safely say that they are wonderful puzzles that will keep you guessing and wondering.  But at the same time it is the interplay between the characters will also keep you smiling and laughing.
 
There are 5 books in this series and I will tell you right now, each one is a 5-Star read.  I intend to review each of them as in the near future.
%d bloggers like this: