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  • Writer's pictureRobert P. Fitton

Cobb, Harry Cobb

Despite his lack of character Jason Rapp did not deserve a death sentence. I had enjoyed a pleasant shuttle flight from Orbitus to Mars until Rapp’s call rattled my zip connection. The wind howled and sand grains pattered against his rover’s bubble top, suggesting a severe dust storm. He said someone in a silver terrain suit, brandishing a pinpoint pulser, had hiked through the Martian ridge shadows. Rapp sensed murderous intent.

Beginning of the Dust of Mars

Curiosity Rover snaps a pic of a real dust storm on Mars.

When I was in grade school my first knowledge of Mars contained a catchy phrase: “The Red Planet.” Then somewhere somebody said Mars was the God of War. Were there Martian soldiers on the planet Mars? That required a trip to the library. That’s when I really got confused. (and rightly so) I opened an older hard cover book on Mars. What the hell was this? A Martian work force of Martian canal diggers? Who found out about the canals? I didn’t know about Percival Lowell the purveyor of that disinformation but the idea of canals on Mars remained in my head for a long time. With canals there MUST be Martians!

Schiaparelli’s depiction of the Martian surface.

Percival Lowell

Orson Welles

I heard about the War of the Worlds as adapted by Orson Welles. Add that to the Fitton consciousness. I think I was more impressed that Welles faked everybody out back in 1938 with his Mercury Theater of the air broadcast. And that dramatic voice…

Then I bought the pocket book of stars (and planets) Things changed. I didn’t see any interviews with Martians bragging about their canals. Perhaps there were dust storms and ice caps, maybe some type of atmosphere. A further distance from the sun. All scientific knowledge that was understandable. I saw the original Invaders from Mars around this time and happily suspended my disbelief to be scared by the movie.

Bill Bixby and Ray Walston

Sure, my Favorite Martian was not real but it was funny.

In college I took an elective course on Astronomy which included updated speculation about the actual planet Mars. By then the US had flown by and orbited Mars. The Soviets were the first to land but communication failed. It was Cosmos by Carl Sagan that gave us his personal journey to Mars as well as debunking Lowell. But he also traced the rocketry of Robert Goddard to the Viking I and II landings on Mars. By then I hadn’t lost my imagination with the exit of Lowell and the canals. Buttressed by the Edgar Rice Burroughs books about John Carter that Sagan read as a kid I thought about something different.

Blues for the Red Planet

Why not have a book with the solar system world two hundred years from now? I asked a mystery writer if I could mix a mystery with the sci fi. She was firmly on planet earth and I was reaching for the stars. But I did it anyway. Enter Harry Cobb.

The Dust of Mars

Here’s Podcast #1 of the Dust of Mars with the audio book. Complete audio is available at Audible.

Yes, Harry Cobb is in the future but I want humans to act like humans. Guess that’s why I started out with a murder. (Jason Rapp) And a murderer. (Not telling) Humans acting like humans. Cobb discovering an old love and the hardnosed former agent becoming flustered upon seeing her and enamored upon being with her. (Ariana) Loyalty-Cobb’s trusted associate Renee Coburn. Comradery–Inspector Jahn Patenaude Harry Cobb’s friend of many years. Chicanery-It becomes evident.

Humans being human was a theme in the book but more than that- being able to bring  a narrative to the Martian surface and dome environments was rewarding. (one dome, Barsoom is named after Edgar Rice Burroughs designation by the natives for the planet Mars.)

As tropical storm Elsa swirls up the Atlantic Seaboard and over Cape Cod, I swirl into the weekend and return on Monday! Adios!

Post Script: Great artists’ renditions of Mars and the domes like the Harry Cobb Series.

Barsoom Dome?

Livingston Dome?

The Surface of Mars

The Turcotte Plant?

Time to go back to Livingston

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