Wednesday, December 30, 2020

"If You Use Your Intelligence, Gentlemen, I Think You Can Figure Out How a Man Can Be Made To Vanish Into Thin Air"

HERE IS John Dickson Carr at his devious-plotting best, as a newlywed is baffled and horrified by what happens to . . .

"Cabin B-13."
(a.k.a. "Honeymoon Terror").
By John Dickson Carr (1906-77).

Reprinted many times, including the EQMM Overseas Edition for the Armed Forces, May 1944.
First appearance: Suspense, CBS radio, March 16, 1943.
Radio play script (13 pages).
Online at (HERE).

     "A honeymoon in Europe! Three whole months with nothing to worry about!"

You just know when somebody says something like that there will be plenty to worry about ....

Typos: "Ann" appears a couple of times in the text.

References and resources:
- "happier peacetime days": An almost nostalgic reference to the time before World War II, which was well underway in 1943 and would last two more years.

- "the old Paris Exposition story?": The mystery underlying it is SPOILED by Carr in his play and EQ in his introduction; see the fine 2017 bare-bones e-zine article (WARNING! SPOILERS! HERE) for more background on the Exposition story.
- "Ambrose Light": A maritime navigation station in Lower New York Bay: "Various lightships held this station from 1823 until its replacement in 1967." (Wikipedia HERE).
- "the crash and hiss of water" and "clinging to the bulkhead rail in the dark": Carr makes use of imagery (Wikipedia HERE) and sensory detail (Wikipedia HERE) to reflect Anne's feelings and fears.
- "equinoctial gale": An ill wind under any circumstances, but especially so to sailors:
   "A gale is a strong wind, typically used as a descriptor in nautical contexts. The U.S. National Weather Service defines a gale as 34–47 knots (63–87 km/h, 17.5–24.2 m/s or 39–54 miles/hour) of sustained surface winds. Forecasters typically issue gale warnings when winds of this strength are expected. In the United States, a gale warning is specifically a maritime warning; the land-based equivalent in National Weather Service warning products is a wind advisory." (Wikipedia HERE).
- "the glass": You can tell a lot from a barometer; see Wikipedia (HERE).
- According to the Internet Movie Database (which ascribes 26 writing credits to JDC HERE), "Cabin B-13" was filmed in 1953 (HERE), for the Climax! TV series in 1958 (HERE), for The Unforseen TV series in 1959 (HERE), and a full-length TV movie in 1992 (HERE); beware of SPOILERS! in all venues.
- Our latest, but certainly not last, encounter with John Dickson Carr involved his brilliant story "The Third Bullet" (HERE).

Saturday, December 26, 2020

"This Time the Nebula Had Committed Murder!"

FROM WHAT WE'VE READ so far during our random perambulations through the Interweb, not very many SFF stories combine the newspaper biz with the Raffles/Robin Hood trope and set the whole thing on another planet, but one that does is . . .

"Enter the Nebula."
By Carl Jacobi (1908-97).
Illustration by H. Leydenfrost (1923-2003; HERE).

First appearance: Planet Stories, Fall 1946.
Novelette (20 pages as a PDF).
Online at Project Gutenberg (HERE).

     "The greatest cracksman in the Galaxy—The Nebula ... mocked by a gay voice that called herself Andromeda, who led him into danger—and into the hands of his enemy!"

Can a superthief turn into a superhero? He can if he's the right man in the right place at the right time to foil a genocidal plot on the Red Planet . . . .

Main characters:
~ The Nebula:
  ". . . he's the Robin Hood of the day, if you can possibly remember your ancient history. Two years ago he swiped the electrolic jewels from the atomic motors of the Fortuna, the gambling space ship, broke them into two hundred parts and gave them to the Society for Orphaned Children. A year ago he entered the inner rooms of the Venus Gallery and made off with the Cosmic Lady, the greatest painting of the age. The man's a wizard. No vault door, no lock mechanism keeps him out. He walks in, takes what he wants, and leaves before the I.P. men know what's happened. All they find is that little pastel-blue card with the cluster of white dots in the shape of the Constellation Orion. That's what gave him the name of the Nebula, you see."
~ Phil Hanley, reporter for the Martian Globe:
  "Do you know what that lopsided jackass wants me to do? Get a personal interview with the Nebula. For all I know, the Nebula might be a four dimensional robot."

~ McFee:
  "Did the old man really hand you that for an assignment?"
~ Jimmy Starr:
  "So this much Jimmy knew—his father had been murdered and the Chronicles cypher taken by a man who walked in the highest brackets of the System's social worlds."
~ Andromeda:
  "I know your secret. . . . I'm not going to let the cat out of the bag. But I will, unless you agree to follow my orders."
~ Hamilton Garth:
  "That's odd. The W series of files are all unused. There's nothing in any of them."
~ Linda Hall:
  "Do you realize, Mr. Starr, you haven't even asked me my name?"

References and resources:
- ". . . what do you know about the canals?": In our story they're being re-engineered by humans. In the real past, though, Mars's "canals" actually were the result of intelligent minds—on this side of the telescope, exciting feverish speculation for years and affording speculative fiction writers like Wells unlimited imaginative license:
   "During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, it was erroneously believed that there were 'canals' on the planet Mars. These were a network of long straight lines in the equatorial regions from 60° north to 60° south latitude on Mars, observed by astronomers using early low-resolution telescopes without photography. They were first described by the Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli during the opposition of 1877, and confirmed by later observers. Schiaparelli called these canali, which was translated into English as 'canals'. The Irish astronomer Charles E. Burton made some of the earliest drawings of straight-line features on Mars, although his drawings did not match Schiaparelli's. Around the turn of the century there was even speculation that they were engineering works, irrigation canals constructed by a civilization of intelligent aliens indigenous to Mars. By the early 20th century, improved astronomical observations revealed the 'canals' to be an optical illusion, and modern high-resolution mapping of the Martian surface by spacecraft shows no such features." (Wikipedia HERE).

- "the juke box age of the twentieth century": Kids loved them; parents not so much:
   "The word 'jukebox' came into use in the United States beginning in 1940, apparently derived from the familiar usage 'juke joint', derived from the Gullah word 'juke' or 'joog', meaning disorderly, rowdy, or wicked. As it applies to the 'use of a jukebox', the terms juking (verb) and juker (noun) are the correct expressions." (Wikipedia HERE).

- "double talk": At one time a great way to get laughs (Wikipedia HERE).
- Here's the idea of racial extinction ten years before Hollywood glommed onto the notion; see (WARNING! SPOILERS! Wikipedia HERE and HERE).

- If memory serves, this is our first encounter with Carl Richard Jacobi; find more about him on Wikipedia (HERE), the SFE (HERE), and the ISFDb (HERE).

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

"A Dangerous Maniac"

PRIMARILY BECAUSE OF a lack of information, mysteries can manifest themselves almost anywhere, such a one being . . .

"The Barber-Shop Riddle."
By R. K. Thompson (?-?).
First appearance: The Cavalier, July 1910.
Short short story (6 pages).
Online at (HERE).
     "Put me out of my suspense!"

Believe it or not, there was a time when a man walking into a barber shop could expect to get a shave and not just a haircut, but our protagonist, living over a century ago, will discover to his amazement that it ain't necessarily so . . . .

Principal characters:
~ John Arthur Barnes:
  "They say I'm cured."
~ Clancy:
  "The divil, ye say!"
~ The desk sergeant:
  "His face, as he listened, turned from angry red to smiling, natural pink again."
~ and various tonsorialists.

References and resources:
- "a Black Hand bomb": "Black Hand extortion was a criminal tactic used by gangsters based in major cities in the United States. The Black Hand was a precursor to organized crime (Mafia) although it is still a tactic practiced by the Mafia and used in organized crime to this day." (Wikipedia HERE).
- "with my collar off": In those days men wore detachable collars, "invented by Hannah Montague in Troy, New York, in 1827, after she snipped off the collar from one of her husband's shirts to wash it, and then sewed it back on. The Rev. Ebenezer Brown, a businessman in town, proceeded to commercialize it. The manufacture of detachable collars and the associated shirts became a significant industry in Troy." (Wikipedia HERE and HERE).
A detachable collar circa 1910.
- Dire doings in a barber shop have been the subject of a play and a film made from it (WARNING! SPOILERS! Wikipedia HERE).
- We can't find anything other than today's story either by or about R. K. Thompson (FictionMags HERE), the only possibility being a Find A Grave entry (HERE) about an octogenarian who passed away in 1911.

Saturday, December 19, 2020

"Jubb! Jubb! Jubb!"

A COMMON FICTIONAL TROPE is the reluctant spy, the individual who unintentionally blunders into intrigue and danger; Alfred Hitchcock made the most of it, and so did today's author, who has her protagonist answer the . . .

"Last Call from Sector 9G."
By Leigh Brackett (1915-78).

Illustrations by [Herman] Vestal (1916-2007; HERE).
First appearance: Planet Stories, Summer 1955.
Reprints page (HERE).
Novelette (43 pages).
Online at Project Gutenberg (HERE).

     "Out there in the green star system; far beyond the confining grip of the Federation, moved the feared Bitter Star, for a thousand frigid years the dark and sinister manipulator of war-weary planets."

Not everybody gets a second chance to prove himself worthy, so when it happens to Durham he jumps at the opportunity; the problem, as he quickly discovers, is that it very likely could get him killed . . . .

Main characters:
~ Artie:
  ". . . was a cheap off-brand make, and bought used, and he lacked some cogs. Any first class servall would have seen that the master had passed out in his chair and was in no condition to receive guests. But Artie did not . . ."

~ Burke and Paulsen:
  "Burke stepped quickly behind the servall and pushed the main toggle to OFF. Artie stopped, with a sound ridiculously like a tired sigh. Paulsen went past him and locked the door. Then both of them turned again to face Durham."

~ Durham:
  "Hawtree wouldn't send for me if I was the last man in the galaxy. Hawtree, indeed."

~ Hawtree:
  "He looked tired, but then he always had. Tired and keyed up, full of the drive and the brittle excitement of one who has juggled peoples and nations, expressed as black marks on sheets of varicolored paper, for so long that it has become a habit as necessary and destructive as hashish."
~ Morrison:
  "Blessed are the fools, for they shall inherit nothing."

~ Baya:
  "Was it because of Baya's eyes, that wept tears but had no sorrow in them? He could see them quite clearly, and they were not sorrowful at all, but avid."
~ Varnik:
  "Will you behave now?"

~ The young couple:
  ". . . had come into the square space. They were small lithe people, muscled like ocelots, and their skin color was a pale green, very pretty, and characteristic of several different races, but no good for identification here."

~ Susan:
  "He caught the quick glint of tears in her eyes and was appalled. Tears for him? From Susan Hawtree?"
~ The Senyan captain of the Margaretta K:
  "Remain calm. Remain quiet. In that way you should be able to survive. It is not that we are grudging. It is simply that we cannot share any of our supplies with you, because you are alien life forms and totally incompatible."

~ Karlovic:
  "Listen, Mr. Durham, the emperors of Rome only ruled part of one little world, but they didn't give it up easily."

~ Jubb:
  ". . . looked at him with his large inscrutable eyes, totally alien, unmistakably intelligent."

References and resources:
- "The city was beautiful. Its official name was Galactic Center, but it was called The Hub because that is what it was, the hub and focus of a galaxy. It was the biggest city in the Milky Way. It covered almost the entire land area of the third planet of a Type G star that someone with a sense of humor had christened Pax." Planet-covering cities like Pax are not unusual in science fiction; for example, Asimov's Trantor (Asimov Fandom HERE and Wikipedia HERE) and Coruscant (Wikipedia HERE).
- "Nanta Dik circles a green star":
   "In astronomy, a green star is a white or blue star that appears green due to an optical illusion. There are no truly green stars, because the color of a star is more or less given by a black-body spectrum, which never looks green. However, there are a few stars that appear green to some observers. This is usually because of the optical illusion that a red object can make nearby objects look greenish. There are some multiple star systems, such as Antares, with a bright red star where this illusion makes other stars in the system look green." (Wikipedia HERE).

- "the esperanto it spoke was perfectly understandable":
   "Esperanto is the most widely spoken constructed international auxiliary language. The word esperanto translates into English as 'one who hopes'." (Wikipedia HERE). Our author probably meant the term to designate a universal language used throughout the Galaxy among humans and non-humans alike.
- "higher than Haman": From the Bible:
   "On the king's orders, Haman was hanged from the 50-cubit-high gallows that had originally been built by Haman himself, on the advice of his wife Zeresh, in order to hang Mordechai." (Wikipedia HERE).

- "clear out to Andromeda": The reference here is to the galaxy seen in the constellation of the same name:
   "The Andromeda Galaxy, also known as Messier 31, M31, or NGC 224 and originally the Andromeda Nebula, is a barred spiral galaxy approximately 2.5 million light-years (770 kiloparsecs) from Earth and the nearest major galaxy to the Milky Way. The galaxy's name stems from the area of Earth's sky in which it appears, the constellation of Andromeda, which itself is named after the Ethiopian (or Phoenician) princess who was the wife of Perseus in Greek mythology." (Wikipedia HERE).

- Vintage Pop Fictions has a good summary review of today's story (HERE).
- Leigh Douglass Brackett Hamilton wrote high quality science fantasy, which could explain why you'll see her name on a few of the better Star Wars productions; go to the IMDb (HERE; 23 screen credits). Lots of other info about her is at Wikipedia (HERE), the SFE (HERE), Bewildering Stories (HERE), Black Gate (HERE), and, of course, the ISFDb (HERE).

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

"They Tell Us the Motive for This Murder"

"The Man Who Read Too Many Detective Stories."
By Henry Hasse (1913-77).
First appearance: Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, May 1944.

Reprinted in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine ('Overseas Edition for the Armed Forces'), May 1944 and EQMM (Australia), June 1948.
Short short story (5 pages).
Online at (HERE).

     "Murder without motive doesn't make sense."

Remember MOM? Motive, Opportunity, Means? The Opportunity and the Means are obvious to everyone; it's the Motive that's causing a snag in the investigation. In this case, the apparently accidental death of old man Dollens's nephew, a cagey detective admits, "You fellows never knew it, but I'm quite a detective story addict. Yes, I know, a cop oughta know better. But I read 'em, and sometimes they give me funny ideas." And it's one of those "funny ideas" that's going to nail the murderer . . . .

Principal characters:
~ Dollens:

  "He dozed off in the library. He slept there all night. He was awakened this morning by the sound of running water. He went upstairs to find his nephew drowned in the tub."
~ Doc Prother:
  "Death by drowning, all right. Face down in the tub. Bad bruise on the forehead, caused when he fell. Might look like an accident, the kind that happens in bathrooms every day. Except . . ."
~ The police reporter:
  "In my capacity as police reporter I've come across some queer characters, and I saw that this old man could be more stubborn than Hancken could be tough."
~ Hancken:
  "I can't get another peep out of him, Murph."
~ Murphy:
  "But here is the prize lot of all. These are something special — extra-special."

References and resources:
- "I saw a big Morris chair": "A Morris chair is an early type of reclining chair. The design was adapted by William Morris's firm, Morris & Company, from a prototype owned by Ephraim Colman in rural Sussex, England. It was first marketed around 1866." (Wikipedia HERE).
- Henry Louis Hasse (FictionMags data) placed today's story between two SFF-nal thrillers for Planet Stories, showing his versatility with pulp genre fiction; see Wikipedia (HERE), the SFE (HERE), and the ISFDb (HERE).
- Our first encounter with Henry Hasse was "We're Friends Now," his tale about computerized detection (HERE). You might also be interested in Robert W. Lowndes's related nonfiction article, "The Futuristic Detective" (HERE) (Note: The Luminist Archives link seems to be dead at the moment).


Saturday, December 5, 2020

The Jake Murchison Series (Updated)

Back in the mid-20th century Cleve Cartmill wrote a series of six stories featuring recurring characters:

   (1) "Salvage" (1949) (below)
   (2) "High Jack and Dame" (1949) (below)
   (3) "Thicker Than Water" (1949) (below)
   (4) "Dead Run" (1950) (below)
   (5) "Little Joe" (1950) (below)
   (6) "No Hiding Place" (1950) (below).

And what were these stories about?

   Romance, Humor and Science Mix in This Space Adventure Classic! Jake Murchison and his crew love to tackle "impossible" problems in space and make incredible rescues. Sometimes the challenges they take on require them to improvise tools and bend the law a little to succeed. But even they can't bend the laws of science — which constantly work against them!
   Cleve Cartmill was beloved by sf fans of the 1940s for his Jake Murchison-Captain Helen Wall series, which ran in the pages of the colorful action-adventure pulp, Thrilling Wonder Stories. Popularly known as the "Space Salvagers" stories, these tales are a science fictional riff on the classic, and highly-popular, "battle of the sexes" comedies of the era, like Bringing Up Baby, The Bachelor and the Bobby Soxer, and The Thin Man. Cartmill's tales of the sparks set off between Jake Murchison and Helen Wall, and their scientifically-premised exploits attempting to salvage abandoned ships and cargo in space, are a delightful change of pace for science fiction fans.
   In this one-volume, complete collection of their adventures Space Salvage, Inc. must retrieve an immensely valuable cargo on a derelict hulk that couldn't be entered; rescue a spaceship trapped by a magnetic asteroid thirty miles in diameter; save ninety-seven people imprisoned under a lake of ooze on which nothing could float; salvage a ship full of fissionable explosives speeding relentlessly toward planetfall; turn a crippled patrol boat as the only available weapon against a pirate fleet; and race unarmed against a deadly enemy to locate one of the greatest scientific secrets of all time!
   — Amazon product description for the Kindle edition of Murchison & Co. - Space Salvagers (HERE).

NOTE: THIS IS A REVISED VERSION of a previous posting. At the time three of the stories (2,3,4) were unavailable online. We recommend that you read them in chronological order (1-6) because they constitute one continuing plotline.

(1) "Salvage."
By Cleve Cartmill (1908-64).
First appearance: Thrilling Wonder Stories, August 1949.
Illustrator unknown.
Collected in The Space Scavengers (1975).
Reprints page (HERE).
Short story (10 pages).
Online at The Luminist Archives (HERE). (Go down to page 111.)

     "Jake Murchison throws his life into the scales of fate when confronted by a derelict with a cargo of riches!"

   A hundred and eighty-five tons of herculium, just the thing to make a warship invulnerable (and anyone possessing it rich beyond imagining), is floating out there in the derelict Astralot's hold, ripe for the taking, and the prospect of salvaging it has Jake Murchison and his friends in Space Salvage, Inc. seeing stars:

   ". . . this Astralot job will put us on Venusberg's main drag for life. Captain Lane and I can retire and live the life of lecherous ease we want. We can pay you back with a tremendous bonus, junk the Dolphin and have fun."

But life follows its own course . . . .

Principal characters:
~ Jake Murchison (the narrator): First mate of the Dolphin.
~ Cap: Captain Lane of the Dolphin.
~ Pat: Pilot/navigator on the Dolphin.
~ Carroll: Ship's engineer and, as it turns out, serendipitous scion.
~ Amos T. Grubb: Litigious moneybags.
~ Jenkins: Field technician.


   "What happened was certainly unexpected. I didn't even see it happen. First thing I knew, I was flat on the deck and if my jaw wasn't broken it was a miracle. Quite a number of constellations were flickering behind my eyeballs. I recognized Orion as it flashed past."

   "Inside that vast ship I was going to have myself a job where a sure, quick touch might be necessary to keep me out of the obits."

   "I got the hang of the buttons and played the keyboard like a piano—but plenty pianissimo."

   "I'm not ashamed of the way I feel."

   "I was looking at the greatest fortune perhaps ever assembled in one place. I yelped once."

   "If I tore the hull I would cease to have any interest in—anything."

   "Well, this seemed to be it. I was wedged firmly, couldn't blast loose without wrecking my only protection. And the worst of it was I was going to have plenty of time to think about it. There wasn't going to be anything quick about it. It would be a toss-up which ran out first, my air or my heat. I would either suffocate or freeze or both. And even if I'd had a knife there wasn't room enough for me to get my arm free and cut my throat."

Diverting prose:

   "The hole was there, a great tear that punctured the ship to her vitals for almost all of her mile-long hull. Jagged points of metal along her port beam looked like a mouthful of filed teeth."

   "We had to choose between that and the Valadian drill. There isn't room on this ship for even a runt mouse to stow away."

   "He's going to be more trouble than a tank full of Venusian rock sharks."

   "Did you ever see a hundred bodies suddenly exposed to deep space?"

   "We had broken the contract and in this business, where fulfilling contracts often means saving lives and valuable property, penalties are fantastic. And rightly so."

~ ~ ~

The ad for the next story served to introduce an important character to the series:

   "Jake Murchison didn't want to help Helen Wall, beautiful captain of the stranded Andromeda—but according to interstellar law, he had to, even though she called The Dolphin a 'pirate' ship in the fascinating novelet—HIGH JACK AND DAME—Second in the Space Salvage Series by CLEVE CARTMILL."

(2) "High Jack and Dame."
By Cleve Cartmill (1908-64).
First appearance: Thrilling Wonder Stories, October 1949.
Illustration by [Rafael Jerard Norman] Astarita (1912-94; HERE).
Collected in The Space Scavengers (1975).
Reprints page (HERE).
Short story (12 pages).
Online at (HERE).

It isn't every day your ship gets stuck to an asteroid . . . .

Main characters:
~ Jake Murchison, First mate of the Dolphin:
  "All we want is to call the whole thing off."
~ Helen Wall, Captain of the Andromeda:
  "Derelict? That's no derelict."
~ Cap, Captain Lane of the Dolphin:
  "If we had about fifty tugs and if we could get lines aboard we might be able to haul her off. The way we're fixed it's impossible."
~ Pat, pilot/navigator on the Dolphin:
  ". . . altered course and presently we were describing a traveling sort of circle of forty-mile diameter which formed the base of an imaginary inverted cone, of which the Andromeda was the apex."
~ Carroll, ship's engineer:
  "The seven-foot giant came out of it fighting, snapping his lashings like twine, but I stayed out of reach until he could focus."
~ Amos T. Grubb, litigious moneybags:
  "He's a nasty-dispositioned little man but he's honest."
~ Oliver Clayborne of Solar System Salvage, Limited:
  "I am afraid Solar can't make any such contract. The matter is out of our hands."


   "The way I understood it angels didn't need sex appeal. What she had was more than an appeal, it was a downright command."

   "Funny, how many things she could get into her eyes. They had stars, now."

Typo: "a mighty bad case of smallbox at one time".

- "bosun's chair": "A bosun's chair (or boatswain's chair) is a device used to suspend a person from a rope to perform work aloft. Originally just a short plank or swath of heavy canvas, many modern bosun's chairs incorporate safety devices similar to those found in rock climbing harnesses such as safety clips and additional lines." (Wikipedia HERE).
- "lodestone": "Lodestone is one of only a very few minerals that is found naturally magnetized." (Wikipedia HERE).

~ ~ ~

(3) "Thicker Than Water."
By Cleve Cartmill (1908-64).
First appearance: Thrilling Wonder Stories, December 1949.
Illustration by [Rafael Jerard Norman] Astarita (1912-94; HERE).
Collected in The Space Scavengers (1975).
Reprints page (HERE).
Short story (10 pages).
Online at The Luminist Archives (HERE; requires a download; scroll down to text page 123).

     "Jake Murchison of Space Salvage, Inc., forgets legalities in a desperate battle against disaster on an Arcton lake!"

Another fine mess, this one involving a shuttle ship jammed with ninety-seven souls on board at the bottom of a slimy lake and a court injunction getting in the way; but not to worry, Jake Murchison is up to the task . . . .

Principal characters:
~ Captain Ezra Cole:
  "Our condition desperate. Six hours maximum before deaths begin. Hurry!"
~ The deputy:
  "Mr. Caar tried but he couldn't force the escape tube down to the shuttle ship."
~ Mr. Caar:
  ". . . looked like a diffident rodent facing an attacker . . ."
~ Prentice McNamy:
  "I don't know what it's all about."
~ Carroll:
  ". . . joined me, smelling like last years's fish."
~ Cap Lane:
  "I think you can do this job without help."
~ Harry:
  "Good eatin', stuffed with babababa berries."
~ Captain Helen Wall:
  "You've got to stop this idiocy at once."
~ Jake Murchison:
  "It's characteristic of any Solar employee to give my outfit a black eye, even at the expense of ninety-seven lives."


   "They came back one by one from the border world between death
and paying rent ..."

   "Conditioning stops me from knocking the tar out of you."

Typo: "kicking it furred legs".

~ ~ ~

(4) "Dead Run."
By Cleve Cartmill (1908-64).
First appearance: Thrilling Wonder Stories, February 1950.
Illustration by [Rafael Jerard Norman] Astarita (1912-94; HERE).
Collected in The Space Scavengers (1975).
Reprints page (HERE).
Short story (11 pages).
Online at The Luminist Archives (HERE; requires a download; scroll down to text page 51).

     "Jake Murchison and his gang fight to save a planet from atomic doom!"

Thanks to the continual legal interference by Solar Salvage, Jake and his one-ship salvage company are on the brink of bankruptcy when Helen calls him about an emergency (underlined three times) involving a runaway spaceship. "If the ship hits," he's told, "no planet." A challenge, to be sure, but for nimble-minded Jake it's also an opportunity . . . .

Major characters:
~ Comptroller General Everett:
  "You'll be paid in due course. Perhaps in a couple of days."
~ Jake Murchison:
  "Here I was, potentially one of the richest men in history, and had no cash."
~ The taxi driver:
  "Heard the news? Ship full of dead men and women and fissionable explosives headed right smack for us."
~ Carroll:
  "A tank of cynophthalin, bound for a pest-infested area of Arcton Four, exploded. You know what that means."
~ Cap Lane:
  "He just called me and said that what you said was a dirty insinuation."
~ Oliver Clayborne:
  ". . . occupied a position in Solar that wasn't quite clear but there was no doubt about his authority."
~ Tibbett:
  "I want my gun back."
~ Philemon Wall:
  "You see, Helen, I'm not questioning your loyalty. I'm questioning your judgment."


   "They watched me as if I were a hat and the rabbit long overdue."

   ". . . a voice full of crushed ice . . ."

   "A smile that had 'Mmm, good!' stenciled all over it."

   "I've an idea I don't like some people less than two light years away."

   "He seemed very sincere and harmless but I'm a rotten judge of character."

   ". . . looking like a mother hen with seven lost chicks."

   "She was—well, when a girl stands close to me, looks up at me with almost-tears in her eyes, with moist lips parted, and then takes hold of my hands, my reflexes take over. It's automatic. Fun, too."

   "I watched her walk to the chart table and if she stumbled once and I was pleased nobody can sue me for it."

~ ~ ~

(5) "Little Joe."
By Cleve Cartmill (1908-64).
First appearance: Thrilling Wonder Stories, April 1950.
Illustrator unknown.
Collected in The Space Scavengers (1975).
Reprints page (HERE).
Short story (11 pages).
Online at SFFAudio HERE (PDF).

     "The Space Salvagers Pit Themselves Against Pirates!"

Jake Murchison sets the scene rather well:

   As we used to say when we were kids in school, more people killed and blood all over the stars.
  That's the way it was, and only my choice of being eaten alive rather than burned to death got me — or what's left of me — off the Piratoid alive. The doc says most of my skin will grow back. . . .

For Jake and Carroll an emergency repair job nearly proves fatal.

Principal characters:
~ Jake Murchison:
  "I'm just a fair salvage bum, and I feel properly humble, even if I don't show it."
~ Cap:
  "You can run circles around me."
~ Pat:
  "Pat's a kind of lightning calculator. He astrogates in his head."
~ Carroll:
  "Give me one paralysis bomb, and I'm happy."
~ Gray Hardy, Port Patrol Officer:
  "I want you to get that ship into operation. If you can do it quickly, it can seek out the pirates' hiding-place and wipe out the worst band of— Well, you know what they are."
~ Little Joe:
  "There was a name to conjure with. Pirate, murderer, dirty dog. Escapee from Kragor, head of the worst gang of cutthroats in history."
~ Captain Tommy Garfield, Space Patrol:
  "I intend to go into action once we find Little Joe and his crowd. You might be killed. So it's a volunteer job."


   "That was perhaps the deadliest, most vicious voice I've ever heard. Believe me, I did exactly as it ordered. I even wished I could hold back my blood corpuscles until that voice said it was all right."

   "I didn't see the blow start or finish. All of a sudden I collided with a tremendous something I learned later was his fist, and I promptly lost interest in proceedings."

   "I shot a nervous glance at the cage. The pacer seemed to have taken quite a fancy to me. Those smoking yellow eyes never left me . . ."

   [When the bad guy offers Jake a choice of how he will die]: "I choose to have my great-grandchildren stuff me to death with goodies."

   ". . . if your upper lip is as limp as a wet butterfly, you've got to stiffen it somehow."

   "They didn't whine, but their giant bodies shook and cringed, and it seemed there should be whines."

   "I looked around for a club, anything, but you can't fight with panel switches."

   "The guard who had been quick when I last saw him was now dead, his head at an impossible angle to his body."

Typo: "Let's get stared, then."

~ ~ ~

(6) "No Hiding Place."
By Cleve Cartmill (1908-64).
First appearance: Thrilling Wonder Stories, June 1950. (Cover story).
"I wanted her along so badly I ached."
Illustration by [Paul] Orban (1896-1974; HERE).
Collected in The Space Scavengers (1975).
Reprints page (HERE).
Novelette (36 pages).
Online at The Luminist Archives (HERE). (Go down to text page 52.)

     "Jake Murchison, Helen Wall and their rollicking crew of space engineers have it out with Solar Salvage in their climactic quest for a herculium hoard lost in the void!"

The long chase across the Universe to find a fabulous invention takes Jake to a savage planet with some very surprising inhabitants:

   "Suddenly they moved in unison in my direction. I say moved but it was more like teleportation. One instant they were a hundred feet away—the next ten feet, arranged in a kind of semicircle before the mouth of the cave, regarding me with unblinking, expressionless great eyes. There was no use to run, not when I was to them like a snail to a rabbit. It wasn't even any use to raise my blaster."

Chapter I - "Hold Everything!"
Chapter II - "Anything Might Happen"
Chapter III - Helpless Sitting Duck
Chapter IV - Cross Fingers!
Chapter V - "More! More"
Chapter VI - "That's what's out there"
Chapter VII - Look out behind you!
Chapter VIII - Remember? Atmosphere?
Chapter IX - I Don't Like Murder
Chapter X - Just Toss 'Em This Way
Chapter XI - Hang On!

Principal characters:
~ Jake Murchison:
  "If you want to keep right on living you'll have to let me run the show."
~ Cap:
  "I don't like murder, regardless of what the other guy wants to do with me."
~ Pat:
  "Pat, whose face was like baked mud, his nose a lump of red sandstone, and his eyes two dull emeralds deep-set in the muck, was the best pilot and astrogator I'd ever known."
~ Carroll:
  "You're the luckiest guy in the System, Jake."
~ Helen Wall:
  "They're planning to kidnap me to force Jake to tell what he knows. I learned it too late—I couldn't call for help. I was cornered."
~ Oliver Clayborne ("Junior"):
  "Do you think I'm fool enough to commit murder?"
~ Pete:
  "Now look, Mr. Clayborne. Don't get sore. You see, it was like this . . ."
~ Harry:
  "I'm gonna strap myself in my bunk and we're really going places."


   "The law of averages predicted trouble afoot—we always had trouble. It wasn't intuition, it wasn't premonition. I took a strictly scientific attitude. The facts that my heart began to beat faster, my hands turned clammy and a sense of doom oppressed me, I told myself, was a result of cold appraisal, not fear."

   "Captain Helen Wall, with twin comets on her snazzy uniform. I wondered how I'd look with twin comets."

   "He looked up and grinned, which did awful things to his face."

   "Looks like the fat's in the fission chamber now."

   "She was a Space captain. She knew what it took to run a ship. So she let me strictly alone and I did the same to her, and we were like a couple of animated sticks. Every time I looked at her I wanted moonlight and music on the piccolo and that made me mad."

   "I looked at her. Her eyes were wide and soft, her lush mouth parted, and I knew that whatever she asked me I would say yes."

  "I was a man of mixed emotions to put it mildly. My gal, my chosen woman—whither thou goest and all that stuff, I wanted her along so badly I ached."

   "Part of the make-up of a human male is the desire to protect and comfort his woman and I'm a human male. I wanted to give her a pep talk, to hold her, to murmur nonsense in her ear, tender nonsense. But did you every try it in a space suit, rubbing helmets, clasping mittens? It's no good. I didn't even try."

   "We drifted, in the silent dark, the dim glow of the instrument panels accentuating rather than diminishing the feeling of being lost in a limitless void. I skirted asteroids small and large and bored in toward the center."

   "If looks were lethal it would have been all over with me but the burying."

   ". . . Helen's body, necessarily pressing against mine, was like an angry exclamation point."

   "We looked at each other and laughed. Not because there was anything funny—it just seemed like a good idea."

   "If I hurried we might all go up in a blast—if I didn't we might be caught with our atoms down."

   "A downdraft grabbed us with windy fingers and the planet rushed up at us at sickening speed. My stomach felt as if it had checked out for parts unknown. We were like an eggshell in the hands of a giant."

   "I had only a momentary glimpse of it and though even it failed to penetrate my lethargy I was suddenly overwhelmed with a feeling of vague terror, of things obscene, unfit for the mind to dwell on, of Powers of Darkness beyond the ken of man, repulsive discards of far-off ages of superstition."

   "The blaster lay six feet away. It might as well have been six light years."

   "We struggled with the weakness of dying ants over a burden neither of us could lift alone."

   "I tried to think furiously, brilliantly, but my brain machinery achieved only a labored clanking."

   "I had left the helmet on in the interests of time, but it was good that I did, for I have a glass jaw. Any number of persons have knocked me out with a short jab to my chin, and I didn't know whether or not I was as vulnerable elsewhere."

   ". . .  planets, and especially caves—I now discovered—give me claustrophobia. I like Space, limitless space without a fence around it. You feel free there."

Typos: "I looked as the buildings again and shivered"; "the clumsy inaccurate tools of lanaguage."
More resources:
- Cleve E. Cartmill will be forever associated with one of his stories, "Deadline" (1944), which described the then-top secret atomic bomb in such detail that Cartmill, Astounding, and editor John W. Campbell attracted the unwelcome attention of the FBI; see Wikipedia (WARNING! SPOILERS! HERE) and (HERE) (WARNING! SPOILERS! PDF; 26 pages) for more. You can find the ISFDb's reprint page for "Deadline" (HERE).
- Wikipedia (HERE), the SFE (HERE), and the ISFDb (HERE) all have useful info about Cartmill.
- Sooner or later it could come to this:

   Another interesting idea is the proposal to introduce a law of "Space Salvage." At sea the long-standing law of salvage allows the person who takes control of an abandoned vessel to claim ownership. One of the growing problems in Earth orbit is the amount of "space debris" — abandoned satellites, rocket stages and other pieces abandoned by the governments which launched them. By introducing a law of salvage there would be a strong incentive for businesses to collect together useful objects. Because of the high cost of launch, any mass in orbit is valuable. Even at a launch cost as low as $100/kg, scrap metal would be worth at least $100,000/ton in low orbit! And so we can foresee that recycling is sure to become a major orbital business.
   — "Space Law," Space Future (HERE).

- In 1979 a short-lived TV series called Salvage 1 (20 episodes) centered on a vaguely similar idea:

   Harry Broderick (Andy Griffith) owns the Jettison Scrap and Salvage Co. and is a specialist in reclaiming trash and junk to sell as scrap. His dream is to recover equipment left on the moon during Apollo Program missions.
   — Wikipedia (HERE) and the IMDb (HERE).

- Portions of this article first appeared on ONTOS (HERE).

The bottom line: "In California, they don't throw their garbage away—they make it into TV shows." — Woody Allen