More Tales of the Black Widowers

BOOK: More Tales of the Black Widowers
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Table of Contents
Front Cover

The Black Widowers are at it again.

  • A greeting card collector finds himself the target for a mysterious message....
  • A Russian visitor to New York thinks he has uncovered a sinister murder plot....
  • A mad scientist's locked-up secrets create a desperate race to unlock his safe—but first the combination must be deciphered....
  • A man smokes a cigarette and loses a job—and his company loses a million dollars....
  • But things aren't always what they seem. Here is your chance to test your detective skills against the very best—”The Black Widowers.”

Fawcett Crest and Premier Books by Isaac Asimov:

Fiction:

THE EARLY ASIMOV, Book One

THE EARLY ASIMOV, Book Two

PEBBLE IN THE SKY

THE STARS, LIKE DUST

THE CURRENTS OF SPACE

THE CAVES OF STEEL

THE END OF ETERNITY

THE MARTIAN WAY

THE NAKED SUN

EARTH IS ROOM ENOUGH

NINE TOMORROWS

NIGHTFALL

THE GODS THEMSELVES

THE BEST OF ISAAC ASIMOV

TALES OF THE BLACK WIDOWERS

MORE TALES OF THE BLACK WIDOWERS

MURDER AT THE ABA

Non-fiction:

EARTH: OUR CROWDED SPACESHIP REALM OF ALGEBRA REALM OF NUMBERS

Edited by Isaac Asimov:

BEFORE THE GOLDEN AGE, Book 1

BEFORE THE GOLDEN AGE, Book 2

BEFORE THE GOLDEN AGE, Book 3

THE HUGO WINNERS, Volume 1

STORIES FROM THE HUGO WINNERS, Volume 2

MORE STORIES FROM THE HUGO WINNERS,

Volume 3 WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?

More Tales

Of The

Black Widowers

ISAAC ASIMOV

A FAWCETT CREST BOOK

Fawcett Books, Greenwich, Connecticut

MORE TALES OF THE BLACK WIDOWERS

THIS BOOK CONTAINS THE COMPLETE TEXT OF THE ORIGINAL HARDCOVER EDITION.

A Fawcett Crest Book reprinted by arrangement with Doubleday and Company, Inc.

Copyright © 1976 by Isaac Asimov

All rights reserved

ISBN: 0-449-23375-8

All the characters in this book are fictitious, and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead is purely coincidental.

Selection of the Detective Book Club

Acknowledgments

“when no man pursueth”
originally published in EQMM. Copyright © 1974 by Isaac Asimov

“quicker than the eye”
originally published in EQMM. Copyright © 1974 by Isaac Asimov

“the iron gem”
originally published in EQMM. Copyright © 1974 by Isaac Asimov

“the three numbers”
originally published in EQMM under the title of
“all in the way you read it.”
Copyright© 1974 by Isaac Asimov

“nothing like murder”
originally published in Fantasy and Science Fiction! Copyright © 1974 by Mercury Press, Inc.

“no smoking”
originally published in EQMM under the title of
“confessions of an American cigarette
S
moker.”
Copyright © 1974 by Isaac Asimov

“the one and only east”
originally published in EQMM. Copyright © 1975 by Isaac Asimov

“earthset and evening star”
originally published in Fantasy and Science Fiction. Copyright © 1975 by Mercury Press, Inc.

“friday the thirteenth”
originally published in Fantasy and Science Fiction. Copyright © 1975 by Mercury Press, Inc.

Printed in the United States of America

Scanned and Proofed by eBookMan Version 1.0

To:

Donald Bensen

Gilbert Cant

Lin Carter

John D. Clark

L. Sprague de Camp

Lester del Rey

Contents

Front Cover

Contents

Introduction

1
  
When No Man Pursueth

2
  
Quicker Than the Eye

3
  
The Iron Gem

4
  
The Three Numbers

5
  
Nothing Like Murder

6
  
No Smoking

7
  
Season's Greetings

8
  
The One and Only East

9
  
Earthset and Evening Star

10
  
Friday the Thirteenth

11
  
The Unabridged

12
  
The Ultimate Crime

Back Cover

Introduction

I don't think there's much more to say about the Black Widowers than I've already said in Tales of the Black Widowers. That was the first book in this series and the one you're now holding is the second.

In that first introduction, I explained that the Black Widowers was inspired by a real club, to which I belong, which is called the Trap Door Spiders. I won't tell you any more about that here because if you've read Tales of the Black Widowers you'd just be bored by the repetition, and if you haven't read it I'd rather leave you in the agony of curiosity so that you will then be driven to buy the first book and repair the omission.

Once the Tales was published, by the way, I handed a copy to each member of the Trap Door Spiders. One and all carefully masked their real feelings under the pretense of pleasure, and naturally, I accepted that pretense at face value.

That's all I have to say now, but lest you rejoice too quickly at being rid of me, I must warn you that I will appear again in a short afterword following each of the stories.

1
 
 
When No Man Pursueth

Thomas Trumbull scowled with only his usual ferocity and said, “How do you justify your existence, Mr. Stellar?”

Mortimer Stellar lifted his eyebrows in surprise and looked about the table at the six Black Widowers whose guest he was for that evening.

“Would you repeat that?” he said.

But before Trumbull could, Henry, the club's redoubtable waiter, had moved in silently to offer Stellar his brandy and Stellar took it with an absently murmured “Thank you.”

“It's a simple question,” said Trumbull. “How do you justify your existence?”

“I didn't know I had to,” said Stellar.

“Suppose you did have to,” said Trumbull. “Suppose you were standing before God's great judgment seat.”

“You sound like an editor,” said Stellar, unimpressed.

And Emmanuel Rubin, host for the evening, and a fellow writer, laughed and said, “No, he doesn't, Mort. He's ugly but he's not ugly enough.”

“You stay out of it, Manny,” said Trumbull, pointing a forefinger.

“All right,” said Stellar. “I'll give you an answer. I hope that, as a result of my stay on Earth, I will have left some people a little more informed about science than they would have been if I had never lived.”

“How have you done that?”

“By the books and articles I write on science for the layman.” Stellar's blue eyes glinted from behind his heavily black-rimmed glasses and he added with no perceptible trace of modesty, “Which are probably the best that have ever been written.”

“They're pretty good,” said James Drake, the chemist, stubbing out his fifth cigarette of the evening and coughing as though to celebrate the momentary pulmonary release. “I wouldn't put you ahead of Gamow, though.”

“Tastes differ,” said Stellar coldly. “I would.”

Mario Gonzalo said, “You don't write only about science, do you? It seems to me I read an article by you in a television weekly magazine and that was just humor.” He had propped up the caricature he had drawn of Stellar in the course of the meal. The black-rimmed glasses were prominent and so was the shoulder-length, fading brown hair, the broad grin, and the horizontal lines across the forehead.

“Good Lord,” said Stellar. “Is that me?”

“It's the best Mario can do,” said Rubin. “Don't shoot
him.”

“Let's have some order,” said Trumbull testily. “Mr. Stellar, please answer the question Mario put to you. Do you write only about science?”

Geoffrey Avalon, who had been sipping gently at his brandy, said in his deep voice which could, whenever he chose, utterly dominate the table, “Aren't we wasting time? We've all read Mr. Stellar's articles. It's impossible to avoid him. He's everywhere.”

“If you don't mind, Jeff,” said Trumbull, “it's what I'm trying to get at in a systematic way. I've seen his articles and Manny says he has written a hundred-and-something books on all sorts of subjects and the point is why and how?”.

The monthly banquet of the Black Widowers was in its concluding phase—that of the grilling of the guest. It was a process that was supposed to be conducted along the simple, ordinary lines of a judicial cross-examination but never was. The fact that it so often dissolved into chaos was a matter of deep irritation to Trumbull, the club's code expert, whose dream it was to conduct the grilling after the fashion of a drumhead court-martial.

“Let's get into that, then, Mr. Stellar,” he said. “Why the hell do you write so many books on so many subjects?”

Stellar said, “Because it's good business. It pays to be unspecialized. Most writers are specialists; they've got to be. Manny Rubin is a specialist; he writes mysteries—when he bothers to write at all.”

Rubin's sparse beard lifted and his eyes widened with indignation behind his thick-lensed glasses. “I happen to have published over forty books, and they're not all mysteries. I've published”—he began ticking off his fingers—”sport stories, confessions, fantasies—”

“Mostly mysteries,” amended Stellar smoothly. “Me, I try not to specialize. I'll write on any subject that strikes my fancy. It makes life more interesting for me so that I never go through a writer's block. Besides, it makes me independent of the ups and downs of fashion. If one kind of article loses popularity, what's the difference? I write others.”

Roger Halsted passed his hand over the smooth balding forepart of his head and said, “But how do you do it? Do you have set hours to write in?”

BOOK: More Tales of the Black Widowers
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