Coffee, Literature & Life: Mysteries of Isaac Asimov
Hello. Two days till Christmas. Merry Christmas.
Gifts, given and received.
Bright wrappings, not just on the gifts, but on the world we live in as well.
And books. What is a lot of holiday time to read, and no books? Bah, humbug!
I don’t write many mysteries, but I enjoy the heck out of them.
I’ve only written one full length mystery romance novel, Family Trust, maybe three mystery short stories. I have two more novels in the slush pile if I start selling anything. Used a nom de plume for the novel, R. Scott Ross.
I’ve spent countless hours upon hours reading mysteries, from Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine and Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine to Mickey Spillane and Grisham. I love a good puzzle, and a good mystery is like a good puzzle…only one viable solution that can be gleaned from the facts presented, but only definitely confirmed at the end.
Well, two of my recent projects for submissions were, you guessed it, mysteries. Timely then that I found an old copy of “The Best Mysteries of Isaac Asimov” in a thrift store for, what, fifty cents?
Like most other writers I refrain from reading anyone’s unpublished work, but I can be a veracious reader of science fiction. But Asimov was a prolific mystery writer as well.
Most of the 30 odd stories in the anthology are from two series of shorts, and were published from 1966 to 1984 before their release in this collection in 1986. “The Black Widowers” series and “The Union Club” series represent all but seven of the thirty-two offerings.
Asimov had a unique way of presenting a mystery.
He didn’t pursue the case from sensationalism and horror, he brought out the intriguing aspects. Sure, wealth was hidden, a character suspect, a murderer lurking in the dark.
But each case focused on the relevant event, dug into the obvious facts of the case and eliminated anyone or anything not relevant until the obvious truth left shining like a guiding star.
Now, admittedly, the story scenes are dated. The logic of “The Redhead,” for example, seems a stretch unless you are old enough to have been in a restaurant with a nook of a waiting room, and what he said happened could happen.
But the unexpected resolve is part of the pleasure.
Asimov was a fact magnet, a member of Mensa, details of science, math, history, etc. But while many didn’t bother to keep these details he continuously cites as lifelong references locked in their brain, everyone was expected to be familiar with them enough to pass tests in high school and college, depending on the level one achieved.
So, while the solutions might seem dubious to one whose constant access to the internet foregoes the need to file facts in one’s spine-top organic processing center, it’s really how things got done. Honest. Been there and seen this done enough.
The bottom line is this is a fun box of puzzles. If you like puzzles, maybe you can find a copy and check it out.
Happy Holidays and see ya next time!