Puzzles of the Black Widowers Banquets of the Black Widowers is a collection of mystery short stories by American writer Isaac Asimov featuring his fictional club of mystery solvers, the Black Widowers. It was first published in hardcover by Doubleday in September , and in paperback by the Fawcett Crest imprint of Ballantine Books in June The first British edition was issued by Grafton in August Nearly every story here is about decoding a riddle , each of which provides a clue based on dying or last words , misunderstood words, forgotten words, or withheld words.
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He pointed out several of the more nauseating examples of this and, with reverence for his exalted position, I corrected the matter in accordance with his suggestions. There undoubtedly remain some dozens of repetitions that could bear revision, but I hate to introduce too many changes from the pristine originals. Would you forgive me, then, for permitting them to stay? Introduction Because I have a friendly and personal writing style, readers have a tendency to write to me in a friendly and personal way, asking all kinds of friendly and personal questions.
And because I really am what my writing style, such as it is, portrays me to be, I answer those letters. It is only natural, then, that I have taken to writing introductions to my books in an attempt to answer some of the anticipated questions in advance, thus forestalling some of the letters. For instance, because I write in many fields, I frequently get questions such as these: "Why do you, a lowly science fiction writer, think you can write a two-volume work on Shakespeare?
It seems certain, then, that I will be asked, either with amusement or with exasperation, why I am writing mystery stories. Here goes, then. I started my writing career in science fiction, and I still write science fiction when I can, for it remains my first and chief literary love. However, I am interested in many things and among them has been the mystery.
I have been reading mysteries almost as long as I have been reading science fiction. I asked him why he read it if I was forbidden, and he said he needed it in order to learn English, whereas I had the advantage of school. What a rotten reason I thought that was. In writing science fiction, then, I frequently introduced the mystery motif. Two of my novels, The Caves of Steel Doubleday, and The Naked Sun Doubleday, , are full-fledged murder mysteries for all that they are science fiction as well.
I also wrote a "straight" mystery novel, The Death Dealers Avon, , [Well, it was rejected by Doubleday, if you must know] which was eventually reissued in by Walker amp; Company under my own title of A Whiff of Death. This, however, dealt entirely with science and scientists and its atmosphere was still that of the science fiction novel, as was true of two mystery short stories I sold to mystery magazines. Increasingly, I felt the itch to write mysteries that had nothing to do with science.
One thing that held me back, though, was the fact that the mystery had evolved in the last quarter-century and my tastes had not. Mysteries these days are heavily drenched in liquor, injected with drugs, marinated in sex, and roasted in sadism, whereas my detective ideal is Hercule Poirot and his little gray cells. I began revolving plot possibilities in my head rather anxiously, for I wanted something with a reasonable twist to it and Agatha Christie, all by herself, had already used virtually all possible twists.
While the wheels were slowly turning in the recesses of my mind, I happened to be visiting the actor David Ford who was in both the Broadway and Hollywood versions of I laughed and all the wheels in my head, heaving a collective sigh of relief, stopped turning. I had my twist.
I then needed a background against which to display the twist and here we have something else. In order to avoid breaking off a valued relationship, those friends organized a club without officers or bylaws for the sole purpose of having a dinner once a month. It would be a stag organization so that the husband in question could be invited to join and his wife legitimately requested not to attend.
The organization was named the Trap-Door Spiders or TDS, for short probably because the members felt themselves to be hiding. Thirty years have passed since the TDS was organized but it still exists. It is still stag, though the member whose marriage inspired the organization is long since divorced.
As a concession to male non-chauvinism, a cocktail party was given on February 3 , at which the TDS wives could meet one another-and this may become an annual custom. Each meeting is co-hosted by two volunteers who bear all the expenses for the occasion and who may each bring a guest. The average attendance is twelve.
There are drinks and conversation from to p. After the meal each guest is grilled on his interests, his profession, his hobbies, his views, and the results are almost always interesting, often fascinating. The chief among the general eccentricities of the TDS are these: 1 Every member is addressed as "Doctor" by the others, the title going along with the membership, and 2 each member is supposed to try to arrange for a mention of the TDS in his obituary.
I had been a guest myself on two different occasions, and when I moved to New York in , I was elected to membership. Well, then, thought I, why not tell my mystery story against the background of the meeting of an organization something like the TDS?
My club would be called the Black Widowers and I would cut it in half to make it manageable-six people and one host. Naturally, there are differences. The members of the TDS have never, in real life, attempted to solve mysteries and none of them is as idiosyncratic as the members of the Black Widowers. In fact, the members of the TDS are, one and all, lovable people and there is a mutual affection that is touching to see.
Therefore, please be assured that the characters and events in the stories in this book are my own invention and are not to be equated with anyone or anything in the TDS, except insofar as they may seem intelligent or lovable. In particular, Henry, the waiter, is my own invention and has no analogue, however remote, in the TDS. So, having my plot and my background, I wrote a story I named "The Chuckle.
I began to write one Black Widower tale after another and in little more than a year I had written eight and sold each of them to EQMM. The trouble was that, even though I was holding myself back, and not writing as many as I wanted to write, I was still producing them faster than EQMM could publish them. I finally broke under the strain of not-writing, so I wrote three more, at my natural rate of production, and decided not to plague the magazine with them. Then I wrote a fourth and sold it to them.
That brought the total to twelve, with enough wordage for a book. My loyal publishers, Doubleday amp; Company, had been waiting patiently in the wings ever since the first story, so I am now putting them together as Tales of the Black Widowers- and here you are. Any questions?
The Black Widowers Series
In one mystery, a discrepancy between which would exonerate the accused and "half past five" which incriminates him is resolved in favor of the former — the witness reporting the latter was an accountant used to decimal numbers who unconsciously interpreted the digital clock display as "five and a half". The fashion-conscious Mario Gonzalo asks how he did on his interview, and the guest replies that he never reveals his secrets, but he will mention one thing: "There was a mirror in the room. Driving Question : Each of these mysteries is framed around a puzzle that drives the questioner to seeking answers. This, along with a newspaper opened at the sports page the scores, gettit? He was actually pointing at the bookcase. The bonds were taped to the back of it. In "The Curious Omission", a dying man leaves a friend a legacy and says that the location of the safe deposit box where it is held can be found in "the curious omission in Alice".
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He pointed out several of the more nauseating examples of this and, with reverence for his exalted position, I corrected the matter in accordance with his suggestions. There undoubtedly remain some dozens of repetitions that could bear revision, but I hate to introduce too many changes from the pristine originals. Would you forgive me, then, for permitting them to stay? Introduction Because I have a friendly and personal writing style, readers have a tendency to write to me in a friendly and personal way, asking all kinds of friendly and personal questions. And because I really am what my writing style, such as it is, portrays me to be, I answer those letters.