Skip to Content
ublogo print

University at Buffalo Libraries

George Kelley Paperback & Pulp Fiction Collection

The Black Dark Murders

cover image By: Saber, Robert O. (pseudonym of Milton K. Ozaki) (male)
Publisher: Quinn Publishing Co., Inc.
Place of Publication: Kingston, NY
Catalog #: Kelley Box 697: PS3565 .Z34 B53 1949
Contributor: K. Quinlivan


Era: 1940s Author as on Cover: Robert O. Saber Geographic Locale: Chicago, Illinois Date of Publication: 1949  |  Original Date: 1949 Setting: urban; college campus, small town atmosphere Motives: revenge (for past rejection), murder Alternate Title: Out of the Dark

Plot Summary

While strolling across campus with her boyfriend one dark night, an attractive young college student is stabbed to death. A wealthy businessman, who wants to ensure that his own daughter does not meet the same fate, contacts the Keene and Cooper Detective Agency to arrange protection for his daughter. Unfortunately, the businessman's daughter is murdered in similar fashion just as Phil Keene arrives on campus to take up his post. Posing as a prospective student, Keene gathers information from various faculty members and students while searching for the killer. The police consider the possibility that the murderer is a frustrated sex maniac, but they have no solid evidence and become increasingly baffled after a third murder occurs, again in total darkness, just inches away from Phil Keene. A crash course in the properties of ultraviolet light and flourescent materials, along with some revealing photographs spotted in old college yearbooks, ultimately enable Phil's low-key partner, Hal Cooper to unravel the mystery and expose the murderer's identity.

Major Characters

Phillip Keene "Phil", adult male, co-owner of the Keene & Cooper Detective Agency, tall, dark hair and eyes, always on the lookout for attractive women, young enough to pose as a college student, private investigator

Hal Cooper adult male, lean build, brown eyes, co-owner of the Keene & Cooper Detective Agency, (considered the brains of the outfit), older than Phil, private investigator

Captain Noonan adult male, middle-aged, ambitious, hard-working, likes to issue orders, willing to share information about the case with Keene and Cooper

Sergeant Griff adult male, affable, police officer anxious to make money

Officer Murphy adult male, bored with his job as a police officer, envies the money that a P.I. can earn

Lois Nisley adult female, attractive college student and part-time waitress who accompanies Phil Keene around the campus

Rita Rand adult female, early 20s, beautiful, black hair, brown eyes, music student with expensive tastes, enjoys the company of men who can afford to give her what she wants

Allen Beck adult male, early 20s, weak, effeminate student, slight, delicate build, glasses, boyfriend of the first murder victim

Guy Danton adult male, early 20s, strong, well-built student, boyfriend of the second murder victim

John Barber adult male, middle-aged, small, stern physics professor and an authority on the phenomenon of light, upset that he was not appointed Dean

Roger Morse adult male, handsome, gray hair, deep brown eyes, pseudo-British mannerisms, head of the English Department, well known on campus for his sexual escapades

Natalie Apyan adult female, middle-aged, small, slender art professor, claims that she hates men

Charles Seymour adult male, blind, history professor, totally devoted to his subject

Ann Seymour adult female, 35 years old, reddish brown hair, married to Charles Seymour, bored with life as a professor's wife



Level of Violence

the murders are described in clinical fashion with a minimum of detail


plenty of flirting between the narrator and several attractive female students; he carries on simultaneous relationships with several different women. Dating couples spend a lot of time wandering the campus at night in search of secluded spots where they can exchange passionate kisses. Most of the characters have very liberal attitudes concerning sex -- it's common knowledge that most of the professors have engaged in adulterous relationships with other professors' wives, and some have been sexually involved with their students.

Gender Roles

traditional. Female students seem more interested in dating and gossiping than studying. They worry about whether or not someone is a "good catch", with marriage as their ultimate career goal. The professors, both male and female, are serious about their work, but past and present sexual liaisons complicate their personal lives with some tragic results.


no obvious racism, other than a brief reference to the fact that Natalie Apyan was prevented from marrying the man she loved because his parents objected to her Persian heritage.

Alcohol/Drug Abuse

moderate amount of social drinking (especially bourbon) by the private investigators. Several characters smoke cigarettes and cigars. Both smoking and drinking are depicted as relaxing habits.

Law Enforcement

the police officers are methodical, industrious, and willing to share their information and potential leads with the private detectives. The police are under constant pressure from the state attorney to produce results, but Keene and Cooper don't have much respect for the crime-solving abilities of the police.

Added Features

detailed use of technical jargon to explain the various physical properties of light and phosphorescent materials.

Subject Headings

Illinois - Chicago/ Detectives, Private/ College Students/ College Life/ Murder/ Teachers

Psychological Elements

repression and denial. Cooper believes that the murder victims were killed because they represent the love that the murderer has been denied. He believes that the murderer's overpowering desire to exact revenge on her former lovers compels her to murder their children as compensation for the children she was denied.