Saturday, April 3, 2021

"It's Murder, Mr. Keller"

BEING ABLE TO read minds would be a huge asset to your average detective, especially a private eye like Keller when, as in today's story, he is confronted with an impossible crime involving . . .

"The Man Who Flew."
By Charles D. Cunningham, Jr. (?-?).
First appearance: Worlds of IF Science Fiction, November 1962.
Short short story (9 pages).
Online at Project Gutenberg (HERE) and (HERE).

     "The Man Who Flew could not exist—but he had committed a foul crime!"

How could there even be a murder in this society? "For thirteen peaceful years there had been no hint of manslaughter other than accidental. It had been conditioned out of humans at the prenatal stage, and unless there was a violent, all-encompassing urge to kill, murder was completely out of the question." But now Keller's first client in three months insists there has been one, and it sounds like a classic locked room problem: "Even if the killer had gotten in some way or other, there was no way he could get out and still leave the doors and windows locked up tight." Oh, but he did, all right . . . .

Main characters:
~ Harold Radcliffe:
  "'Well sir, for this job I need one of the best detectives—' he paused at Keller's grimace—'and since you're one of the few detectives in the city who can read minds, and the only A-2 'tec in the state—' He shrugged, and finished, 'I figured you'd be the man for me'."
~ Sally:
  "He's hiding something. Not intentionally, but it needs to be uncovered."
~ Keller:
  "Radcliffe, I know who killed your wife."

References and resources:
- "advanced extra-sensory perception": There seem to be subtle differences among the claims for mind reading, and different names for them as well: "Extrasensory perception or ESP, also called sixth sense, includes claimed reception of information not gained through the recognized physical senses, but sensed with the mind." (Wikipedia HERE).
"Telepathy (from the Greek τῆλε, tele meaning 'distant' and πάθος/-πάθεια, pathos or -patheia meaning 'feeling, perception, passion, affliction, experience') is the purported vicarious transmission of information from one person to another without using any known human sensory channels or physical interaction." (Wikipedia HERE).
However, it pays to be skeptical: "Psionics are mystical powers of the human mind that always seem to be absent when tested for in a research lab. Sort of like Mr. Snuffleupagus. These are powers such as telepathy and psychokinesis. In other words, psionics is Magic with a fancy science-fictional name." (Atomic Rockets HERE).
- Stories that we've highlighted with characters utilizing more than the normal five senses include:
  . . . Lewis Padgett's "Private Eye" (HERE)
  . . . Don Wilcox's "Secret League of Six" (HERE)
  . . . Daniel F. Galouye's "Kangaroo Court" (HERE)
  . . . George Chailey's "Death of a Telepath" (HERE)
  . . . Anne McCaffrey's "Apple" (HERE)
  . . . and Murray Leinster's "The Psionic Mousetrap" (HERE).
- This story is the only one credited to Charles D. Cunningham on the ISFDb (HERE).


  1. There have been a number of stories about murder in future societies in which murder is supposed to be impossible. I know I've read several although I can't recall the names of the stories now. But it's an interesting idea.

    There's also a Robert Bloch story (COMFORT ME, MY ROBOT) about a future society in which murder is commonplace and socially acceptable and is recognised as a valuable therapeutic tool. Although of course there's a twist. Quite a neat little story.

    1. Bester's THE DEMOLISHED MAN and Padgett's "Private Eye" are genuine classics of "stories about murder in future societies in which murder is supposed to be impossible."
      Somehow I've completely missed that Robert Bloch story; must get to it very soon. Thanks for the tip, Allan.

    2. COMFORT ME, MY ROBOT is in Bloch's short story collection ATOMS AND EVIL. Which is a collection of wonderfully weird sci-fi stories.

    3. I just located it and should be posting about it probably late next week. Again, thanks for the headsup.