Via Twitter, Joachim Boaz of SFruminations reminds us that it is Leigh Brackett's birthday. I have enjoyed a number of Brackett's books and stories, most recently (in January of this year, I believe) The Starmen of Llyrdis and The Big Jump. I wrote reviews of these novels, then in a computer mishap erased them, but have drafts of these reviews that I will paste below; the Big Jump draft looks almost finished.
There is a blog dedicated to Brackett that does not appear to be updated regularly, but includes quite a few interesting posts: http://leighbrackett.blogspot.com/.
The Starmen of Llyrdis
This was a competent SF adventure story, not very innovative, but not bad. A mid 20th century guy who has never felt like he has ever belonged, despite being the US Air Force's best test pilot, traces his roots in Europe and learns he is the offspring of the union of an alien and an Earth person. It turns out that the universe is full of intelligent life, but only one race of space aliens (one that can breed with Earth people) has the mutation necessary to survive interstellar travel. This race, thus, has a monopoly on interstellar trade. They have been secretly buying Earth goods, like Scotch whiskey, French perfume, and American movies. The main character joins this race of space merchants and travels the galaxy with them, becoming involved in rivalries between various factions of the merchant race and getting involved with a dangerous femme fatale. There is a very effective scene on a planet covered in a fungus forest.
The Big Jump
Originally appearing in 1953, then published in 1955 by Ace, The Big Jump is a noirish/hard-boiled tale of man's first extrasolar exploration.
The moon, mars, and other parts of the solar system have been colonized for genberations, buyt only noew has a ship tavelled to another star and returned. However, only one member of the crew, Ballantyne, has come back with the ship, and he is an emaciated near-comatose wreck who dies soon after his return. What happened to the others? The only clue are Ballantyne's last words, whispered to his friend, musclebound construction worker Arch Comyn. Comyn is determined to find out what happened to the expedition because he owes a favor to one of the men left out in space, and tpo do so he has to contend with various members of the wealthy Cochrane family, a ruthless bunch of robber barons wjho financed Ballantyne's expedition.
A pleasant pulpy sort of thing about tough guys, a sexy dame and hit men, as well as space travel and alien planets; people who like a little Mickey Spillane mixed with their rocket ships should check it out.