This story that I read maybe 15-20 years ago (and was definitely published during this period) was told in 1st person point of view and the protagonist was an insurance adjuster. The story took place in outer space (he was working on a ship) and he got involved in an intergalactic conspiracy. It was slightly comical at times (similar to Douglas Adams' work), but for the most part the story was serious in tone. At one point, they visited a planet whose populace was entirely under the influence of a psychotropic drug that caused random hallucinations. Can anyone help me find the name of this story?

  • Short story? Novel? Something in between? Written in English or another language?
    – Niall C.
    Oct 17, 2012 at 21:48
  • 1
    It was a long novel. I'm fairly certain it was written in English, but it could have been French also - when you know a lot of languages they all sometimes blend together :)
    – Alec
    Oct 17, 2012 at 21:51
  • "Bartleby's Planet"? Oct 17, 2012 at 22:05

1 Answer 1


Donald Westlake wrote the adventures of an underwriter from Lairds of Luna and his difficulties involved in insurance on other worlds, but I'm not sure that a novel was part of them, not even a fix-up.

The short story was found in The Curious Facts Preceding My Execution and Other Fictions

Murder in Outer Space: Originally called The Risk Profession–from 1961. The only science fiction story in this bunch, but also a murder mystery. It’s interesting that he liked it well enough to include it–this well after he’d publicly renounced the genre (though he never did stop writing SF entirely). Me myself, I never thought much of it. It’s all ideas, no characters. The protagonist is a clever enough fellow, a company man with an independent streak. He’s a futuristic insurance claims adjuster, investigating the suspicious death of an asteroid miner. He cracks the case, and ends up profiting mightily by it, and I’d rather just move on to the next story, if you don’t mind. Maybe I’ll revisit it when I get to Westlake’s SF anthology. And maybe not.

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    The Westlake story first appeared in 1961. It's been anthologized at least three times (all in collections of Westlake's short fiction). It's quite focused on the murder mystery angle, and there's no planet where everyone is under the influence of drugs. Possible somebody read it, and picked up where Westlake left off (wouldn't be the first or last instance of that happening). Westlake only wrote one SF novel, Anarchaos, which takes place entirely on one dystopian world, and the insurance business is not invoked there (no company would insure anyone or anything on that planet).
    – Fred Fitch
    Apr 2, 2020 at 21:45

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