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The character in this book is a simple-minded savant who has a knack for making things as he needs them. In the course of the book, he invents a device that draws gold from sea water (or any substance the device samples). By the end of the book, a nuclear war begins, and he invents a device that creates a force field that repels the enemy's missiles and sends them back to their starting point.

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  • Hi, welcome to SF&F. When did you read this? Do you recall the cover art or any description of the characters or setting?
    – DavidW
    May 24 at 16:56
  • That sounds vaguely familiar. Quayle's Invention and The Chariot of the Sun both involve the side effects of a process to pull gold from sea water, but no nuclear missiles that I can find.
    – FuzzyBoots
    May 24 at 17:11
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    I have found mentions of this being a book republished by Avalon Press around 1960-1970 (or maybe the 1950s) involving an FBI agent assigned to a hillbilly who keeps inventing these things to solve mundane problems like his boat leaking.
    – FuzzyBoots
    May 24 at 18:08
  • forums.spacebattles.com/threads/… and bbs.stardestroyer.net/viewtopic.php?p=3101327#p3101327 for some mentions (looks like by the same guy).
    – FuzzyBoots
    May 24 at 18:11
  • If someone posts the correct answer, you can accept by clicking on the checkmark by the voting buttons, as per the tour.
    – FuzzyBoots
    May 24 at 18:44

1 Answer 1

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I suspect that this will be the Bud Gregory stories by William Fitzgerald (actual name William Fitzgerald Jenkins), with his usual pen name of Murray Leinster used when it was published as fix-up novel Out of This World.

The more widely known Bud Gregory series comprises three 1947 Thrilling Wonder Stories stories, as assembled in Out of this World (fixup 1958), plus "The Seven Temporary Moons" (February 1948 Thrilling Wonder); all originally appeared as by William Fitzgerald. Bud is a hillbilly whose intuitive knack with high technology allows him to solve various superscience problems.

From "The Seven Temporary Moons":

.... Once he'd made a gadget which stopped bullets — and guided missiles — and then threw them unerringly back from where they started from. And he'd made a device which was a sort of tractor-beam which drew to itself selected substances only.

A bit of iron at one end of a curiously-shaped coil made the device draw to itself all iron in the direction in which it pointed. But a bit of gold in the same place made it draw gold .... Murfree was using that device, now in Ocean Products, Inc.'s Maryland-coast establishment, and Dr. Murfree was getting much more than ten dollars a day from it.

My initial search of "idiot savant" gold "seawater" led me to the mention at the SpaceBattles forum, and when I realized they were referring to "Avalon Books", not "Avalon Press", a further search of "avalon books" hillbilly led me to the Wikipedia entry for Out of This World and then it was subsequent searches for Leinster and the book names that led me to the Leinster entry that described the series, and a possibly illicit (and thus not linked) PDF copy of "The Seven Temporary Moons" from which I got the quote.

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  • ISFDb notes that the Spanish version of Out of This World includes "The Seven Temporary Moons."
    – DavidW
    May 24 at 18:52
  • @user14111: No idea. I already fixed that a few minutes ago when I saw that I'd written that. :)
    – FuzzyBoots
    May 24 at 19:15
  • ^_^ Fixed, I think.
    – FuzzyBoots
    May 24 at 19:29
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    No, you should say something like "a pen name of William Jenkins, better known to sf readers under another pen name as Murray Leinster". The way it's written does make it sound like his real name was Leinster. May 24 at 20:46

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