But talk is cheap, so I put my typewriter where my mouth was, and in 1953 wrote a science fiction mystery novel called The Caves of Steel (published, 1954). It was accepted by the critics as a good science fiction novel and a good mystery and after it appeared I never heard anyone say that science fiction mysteries were impossible to write. I even wrote a sequel called The Naked Sun (published, 1957) just to show that the first book wasn't an accident. Between and after these novels, moreover, I also wrote several short stories intended to prove that science fiction mysteries could be written in all lengths.
So imagine my surprise when I stumbled across "Robots Can't Lie" by Robert Leslie Bellem in a copy of Fantastic Adventures, July 1941. This murder mystery has a man, Tim Kermit, framed for murder by a robot that identifies him as the killer. Because of the way robots record what they see, they are considered infallible witnesses. Tim's only chance of avoiding the Lethal Chamber is to escape and repair another robot that was found broken at the murder scene. In the end the escape and repair are a trick that brings out the real killer.
Now to go back to Asimov. He never said that no one ever tried to do it, only that it had never succeeded. What strikes me first off, is how similar the mystery ideas are between "Robots Can't Lie" and his Lije Bailey novels. I doubt Bellem was familiar with Adam Link (though he may have been), but Ray Palmer certainly was aware of his competition. Isaac Asimov was also fully aware of the Binders. He had permission to use the title I, Robot from the brother duo who had used it earlier. Was Asimov familiar with "Robots Can't Lie"? He was a bit of an Astounding/John W Campbell snob, so would he have read anything as pulpy as Fantastic Adventures? Unlikely, but his interest in robot stories may have superseded his snobbery.
The other thing that makes me giggle is the 1980s adoration of how William Gibson brought a Raymond Chandler style to Cyberpunk. You want full-bore noir SF, here it is, the real thing from one of noir's cheesier hacks, back when Gibson's father was still reading Thrilling Wonder Stories.
GW Thomas has appeared in over 400 different books, magazines and ezines including The Writer, Writer's Digest, Black October Magazine and Contact. His website is gwthomas.org. He is editor of Dark Worlds magazine.