The Electronic Mind Reader
, a Rick Brant Electronic Adventure, by "John Blaine" (Harold L. Goodwin). The later ones in the series, like this one--written after I was reading them as a kid--are available via Project Gutenberg
(and thus no-cost Kindle downloads from Amazon). Unfortunately the earlier one are not.
Quite fascinating in a strange way, especially when read in sequence with an "adult" thriller like the Lee Child "Jack Reacher" novels I'm binge-reading. I am now absolutely certain that a standard part of "developing" a thriller must be to have a reader or editor go through it carefully and make notes of loose ends and plot difficulties, so that the writer can then do a second pass and paste bandaids (or, if the writer is really good, duct tape) over them.
"How about the plane?" he asked suddenly. "What did you do with it?"
Scotty motioned to the other side of the houseboat. "It's anchored. I landed next to the JANIG team and got into the rowboat with them." The Sky Wagon carried a small anchor and a few yards of anchor line in one of the pontoons.
I feel sure this was added after some reader said "so what happened to the plane?" There's a lot of that in thriller-adventures. People need to get from point A to point B quickly, and it's easy to leave cars and planes behind if you don't keep track of them.
Naturally, you're wondering how the "electronic mind reader" works. It doesn't read minds in the sense of telepathy. The bad guys, we gradually learn, obtain an EEG from their would-be victim, and then, once they have "read" the EEG, they can use that to... erase the victim's mind. How does it work?
The cyberneticist came to the front of the room... If we have to speculate—and I guess we do—we might guess that sometime, in an enemy EEG laboratory, some experiment resulted in a subject having his mind erased. It was probably an accident that the enemy exploited without knowing how it worked."
"Can't we even guess how it works?" Weiss asked.
"Approximately, without knowing the physiology of it. The EEG recording is simply fed into a gadget that modulates a carrier wave. The carrier is an average frequency for brain patterns. In effect, the thing simply transmits the man's own pattern back to him. Why that should produce trauma of the kind we have seen is a mystery." The scientist gestured to the TV receiver. "The transmitter is incorporated into the TV chassis, and the 'rabbit ears' act as an antenna when adjusted properly. The recorder is a simple EEG mechanism."
How do they secretly obtain an EEG from a victim? Easy. The mysterious barber with the mysterious machine for treating dry hair... the machine whose head-enclosing hood appeared to contain nothing but innocent massage devices.
"Nothing more, Rick. Oh, are you wondering about the barber's machine? Actually, the massage gadgets acted as electrodes, and the massage oil did very well in making good contact. It was a simple setup."
Of course. That conductive massage oil.
his massage machine was wired through to a room in the basement. The wiring went through the power cord into the electric outlet, and the impulses were actually transmitted over the power system and taken out of a plug in the basement. We found the machine where he had stored it."
Rick knew that could be done quite simply. The frequencies of the electric current and the brain patterns were so different that they would not interfere with each other.
And that's fascinating because it's, you know, half-right. But the idea of simply transmitting EEG frequencies, which spread over the range from 1 to 50Hz, directly over power lines and expecting something at the other end to filter out the 60Hz--rather than... well... you know... putting the EEG signals onto an RF carrier which is how analog "carrier current" transmission actually worked... is weird.
An interesting detail is that the bad guys have something to do with a mysterious foreign government, but the government is never named or identified. It is just "the enemy." I'd love to know if Goodwin just didn't want to contribute to the fifties paranoid about "the Russians," or whether he was cleverly keeping it vague so that the book would not become dated if the U.S. switched alliances in the future.
Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen nineteen and six, result happiness; Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery.