This is actually about two books.

I believe they were published in the 80s. They were in hardcover when I read them. The authors last name may have started with an "S".

The first was about a spaceship crew paid to deliver a cargo of vials of memory RNA supposedly extracted from the ground up brains of famous and wealthy people. Injecting them was supposed to transfer the memories. An Asian big pharma company (Monsanto?) also wants the vials to sell or copy (I forget) and eventually caught up with them. One of the vials is from an ace fighter pilot. The main character pretends that the vial is his medicine and gets one of the crew to convince one of the mercenaries to get it injected into him. The memory transfer works, sort of, and a series of dreams allows him to work out a way of saving them during the big battle in space, in which he overloads their engine core and then ejects it at the pharma's fleet, crippling them.

The second novel continues on from the first, dealing with the xenophobia that comes with the fighter pilot's memories, since he was a famous pilot during a war with a group of crustacean-like aliens everyone calls "BEMs". He becomes friends with one, nicknamed "Doctor BEM" and they foil a plot by radicals and war profiteers to kill the alien representatives and stall peace talks. The aliens are colour coded according to profession.

The cover of the first one shows a close up of two wild eyed men with long frazzled hair. One is pressing buttons and the other is looking at him with a puzzled face and a hand on his head. The title is orange.

The cover of the second one shows the main character in a cell. A BEM is standing outside the bars. The creature wears a white robe, but has a hard nobbled shell with a bluish hue.

They were part of a series, at least two more.

Previously posted:1

  • I've read this, or at least something with Dr. BEM in it (how many can there be?) Pondering. – Organic Marble Aug 13 '16 at 0:51
  • Nope - it was an animated Star Trek episode with Commander Bem. – Organic Marble Aug 13 '16 at 11:44
  • 1
    @OrganicMarble The TV series Andromeda also had an alien "Reverend Bem" – starpilotsix Aug 13 '16 at 15:34

The post you've linked (now) contains the self-answer; The Angel's Luck trilogy by Joe Clifford Faust.

Late on payments for his spaceship and abandoned by his crew, James May jumped at the chance to hire a copilot who came complete with cargo. Next thing May knew, the copilot was a washout, the cargo was worthless, and his ship had been repossessed by a chief in the Yueh-sheng crime syndicate. May needed the ship to survive, so he stole it back. But if he expected to live long, he'd have to repay his debts--so he could hardly turn down a job that promised wealth, heroism, and revenge against the Yueh-sheng. In no time at all, May was up to his neck in trouble as he and a group of deadly mercenaries planned a daring escapade with only the slimmest chance of success. Everything would have to go like clockwork--and even then only angel's luck would save them.

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