Friday, January 30, 2009

Police Your Planet, a novel by Lester del Rey

Police Your Planet (1956), a novel by Erik van Lhin, a pseudonym of Lester del Rey

At left: Paperback (New York: Ballantine Books, 1975), 217 p., #24465, $1.50. Cover art by James Steranko. A gripping novel of the space frontier, here’s the blurb from the back cover:

“Bruce Gordon was an ex-fighter, ex-gambler, ex-cop, ex-reporter and now he was an ex-patriot of Earth. Security shipped him to Mars with a knife, 100 credits, and a yellow card that meant no return. He was also, he told himself, an ex-do-gooder. From then on he would take care of Number One! But in Marsport, nothing was that simple. Here the vices of Earth seemed tame and insipid. When he bought a commission in the Marsport police force, he found that graft was not only a fine art, but the official Martian way of life. So he joined the system. And then he met Sheila, who was out for blood -- his!”

The 1975 paperback has two interesting publishing notes:

• “An abridged version of this novel was published by Avalon Books, copyright, 1956, by Erik van Lhin.”

• “A somewhat shorter version of this novel was serialized in Science Fiction Adventures, copyright, 1953, by Future Publications, Inc.”

According to Robert Markley’s Dying Planet: Mars in Science and the Imagination (2005), “Other Martian novels in the 1950s appropriated the conventions of hard-boiled detective fiction and sent to Mars rugged loners seeking some semblance of justice on a corrupt and violent world. In Lester del Rey’s Police Your Planet ... Marsport becomes a science-fiction redaction of [Raymond] Chandler’s Los Angeles, and del Rey’s hero, Bruce Gordon, a disillusioned, futuristic version of Dashiell Hammett’s Sam Spade ...”

Michael Ashley’s Transformations: Volume 2 in the History of the Science Fiction Magazine, 1950-1970 (2005) has a different view, stating that del Rey's Police Your Planet was a “reaction to the McCarthy era and reads rather like 1984 on Mars, although this tale of exiled colonists versus Security ends successfully for the colonists.”

You can download Police Your Planet as a free eBook from Project Gutenberg or

A gallery of Police Your Planet cover art is posted at LibraryThing.

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