Guest blog from Ian Thirkettle.
Tales of the Black Widowers and More Tales of the Black Widowers
Recently we decided to clear the loft and I came across a couple of old mystery books. These were Tales of the Black Widowers and More Tales of the Black Widowers both by Isaac Asimov. These are collections of short stories set in a gentleman’s dinner club known as the Black Widowers.
Each story has a small mystery which is invariably solved by Henry, the clubs unobtrusive waiter.
I need to address the elephant in the room. Throughout both books there isn’t a single female character. So let’s not even bother with the Bechdel test. The author states in his introduction that the setting was based on a club of which he was a member. So in many ways it was write about what you know. Both these books are from the 70s. I say this not to excuse them, more a statement of fact. The lack of female characters comes from the setting of the stories and I detected no misogyny in any of the stories. I doubt if such a setting would be used today.
The stories have a core set of characters who pop up in various stories.
The basic premise is that there is a guest at each meeting who has a mystery to solve. Generally I don’t like short stories as they don’t necessary allow character development. But having a set of characters across stories lets you get to know them. Over the stories I became quite fond of them. There is no sense of peril in any of the stories, just a bunch of guys chatting. The subject of the mysteries are wide ranging, from a possible murder to a lost stamp. The mysteries are more like lateral thinking puzzles and are a bit contrived at times.
Overall they are an easy, enjoyable read but possibly lack a bit of substance for today’s audiences.