Friday, October 22, 2010

"Tales of the Black Widowers" by Isaac Asimov

When this book first came out in 1974 I was blown away. I have always been impressed by authors who are able to break out of their respective modes. In this vein, H.G. Wells comes to mind. From his "History of the World" to his fantastic fiction, some of which would someday come to pass, he managed to span the worlds of science fiction and real life. And we are the richer for it. Isaac Asimov is an author in the same vein.

From his well known works of Science Fiction, and on through to his Autobiographies, his writing knew no bounds. And when he delved into mystery, well, we were all in for a treat.

This book, the first of 6, deals with a group of elderly gentlemen, who gather once a month, at a restaurant, to solve any current mystery that may plague one of it's members. The only rule is that the crime must be solved that evening, at the table, using only logic and a knowledge of trivia.

With the success of this first book, Mr. Asimov launched a series that eventually came to comprise the 6 volumes of these most unusual stories. In the later books, members bring "guests" with them to the dinners. These guests are a combination of people, who like the Black Widowers, have mysteries of their own, which they need help to solve. And, of course, there are a few skeptics along the way.

A fascinating departure from one of America's greatest Science Fiction writers, this book, along with the 5 subsequent volumes, kept me company many a night when I first read them. I'm not sure what happened to the other 5 volumes, but this one is still with me. Two of the others were lent out, while two others succumbed to the ravages of more than 3 decades. As for the sixth and final volume, I'm thinking of hosting a dinner to try and solve the mystery of it's disappearance.

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