back to article RIP Harry Harrison: Stainless Steel Rat scurries no more

It's been a bad summer for SF. In June, Ray Bradbury slipped the surly bonds of Earth, and now legendary icon Harry Harrison has passed away at age 87. "Rest in peace, my friend. You touched the lives of millions with your exciting adventures, packed with unlikely but always hilarious and thrilling escapades and frequently …


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  1. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge

    Someone MUST...

    ... make a film of the 'Bill, the Galactic Hero' series....


    1. LarsG

      Solent Green

      Great film but Hestons, that's Charlton not Blumental, looked like one of the village people.

    2. The Jase

      Re: Someone MUST...

      The man with 2 right arms

  2. Anonymous Coward


    I'm not usually bothered when someone pops off at such an advanced age, but I'm genuinely sad about HH going. No more Slippery Jim.

    1. Mr Temporary Handle

      Re: Damn


      I first encountered sleepery jeem sometime in the 70s and read every single one of them up until either the first or second of the younger Jim DiGriz part of the series. I don't remember precisely which but I do remember thinking that he'd rather lost his way.

      James DiGriz was an out-and-out crook when Inskipp and the special corps caught him. For HH to go back and 're-write' the younger DiGriz in a similar vein rather spoiled things for me I'm afraid.

      I've re-read the earlier ones many times since then but still haven't got past A Stainless Steel Rat is Born.

      1. chr0m4t1c

        Re: Damn

        >I've re-read the earlier ones many times since then but still haven't got past A Stainless Steel Rat is Born.

        Some of the later books (such as The Stainless Steel Rat for President) are set in Jim's later years, so you could pick and choose.

        That said, some of the later books feel a bit formulaic and forced as if they were being written because they had to be rather than because he wanted to write them.

        1. Mr Temporary Handle

          Re: Damn

          I was referring to writing/publication order. Everything which was published up until A Stainless Steel Rat is Born *is* his later years :)

          Everything published since A Stainless Steel Rat is Born is 'supposed' to be his earlier years but seems totally unrelated to the James DiGriz of the earlier books.

  3. Jason Bassford

    No spoilers, but the ending to the film is fairly well-known.

    I think that the subtitle of the article pretty much gave it away...

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    RIP indeed

    I absolutely loved the Stainless Steel Rat series as a teenager. The original Bill was pretty entertaining too. RIP :-(

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Very sad

    Those books were amazing.

  6. The Axe

    Slippery Jim

    Some of my favourite books. Sad to hear of his passing.

  7. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    Farewell Slippery Jim!

    Al pentras en via honoro!

  8. Magister


    One of my favourite authors; he had something to say and did so in a intelligent and very readable way.

    He'll be missed

  9. shyted

    Sad news, I also loved the Deathworld Trilogy and the SSR as a teen having been introduced to them by 2000AD.

    HH created some wonderful characters and worlds, quite why this material has been ignored by Hollywood is perplexing, still I suppose its better to remake (sorry reboot) sucessful movies which haven't dated like Spiderman, Carrie and god knows whatever else they can. The only one of these remakes of slight interest is the Dredd movie which lets face it cannot possibly be as bad as the Stallone one.

    So Hollywood take a chance and make some blockbuster HH movies to inspire a whole new generation, just please make it one movie per novel though.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re Movies...

      Iain M Banks borrows elements from Larry Niven (amongst others), Bungie Studios borrow from both of them ... and yet at one point it was Halo that looked likely to be made into a movie. Thankfully District 9 was made instead, and we should at least consider ourselves lucky that Neill Blomkamp and Duncan Jones are making films these days.

      Harry Harrison, RIP. His books were always fun.

  10. Chris Miller

    And the first steampunk

    "A Transatlantic Tunnel, Hurrah!"

    Personally, I'll take 'Deathworld' over the 'Stainless Steel Rat' - but they're both excellent. One of the greats.

    1. Rob 5

      Re: And the first steampunk

      "A Transatlantic Tunnel, Hurrah!" - Indeed, Sir!

      I met him once, very briefly, when he handed me a camera and asked me to that a photo of him with a friend.

      He shall be missed.

  11. Ian Tunnacliffe

    Celebrate the life and mourn the death

    HH was one of the greats. Read the first few chapters of The Stainless Steel Rat and tell me that we are not heading rapidly towards the society described - though without the space travel of course.

    I have also long appreciated his description of how robbing banks is actually a deeply philanthropic activity.

  12. ZZLEE

    Deathword Trilology needs to be read again . :(

  13. Graham Marsden

    A great talent...

    I first discovered Harrison whilst I was waiting around and someone had left a copy of The Stainless Steel Rat lying on a table. I almost missed what I was waiting for because I got so engrossed in the book!

    Ok, his later works involving Slippery Jim showed distinct signs of being churned out, but he left a great body of work (such as Invasion Earth which I only just recently picked up from a second hand stall) which was interesting and thought provoking.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: A great talent...

      Argh! The SSR ones were great, but he turned out a lot of pulp crud. Invasion Earth was one of them. The only thought it provoked was "I hope he paid a few bills with prostituting his talent".

  14. Will Godfrey Silver badge

    He was also a writer's writer. Some fantastic descriptive text, such that you could almost hear the characters saying their lines.


  15. Anonymous Coward

    This is terrible news. It was bad enough that Ray Bradbury left us, just a few months ago, but now Harry Harrison? As a kid, the adventures of Slippery Jim DiGriz and Jason dinAlt thrilled and entertained me.

    Thanks, Harry, for keeping me up all night reading those fantastic boy's own adventures.

  16. Faceless Man

    He also claimed to have ghosted "Vendetta for the Saint" for Leslie Charteris, which does explain some of his favourite topics, particularly Bugatti, creeping into the text.

    For mine, he was always at his strongest in his satire of other people's work. "Bill the Galactic Hero" has already been mentioned, but also "Star Smashers of the Galaxy Rangers" is a clever, if somewhat over the top, pastiche of E. E. Smith's work, particularly the Skylark series.

    1. JimC

      Star Smashers is a personal favourite here

      especially when the all american heroes turn out [oops, nearly a spoiler]

      I also have a liking for the juveniles "the men from PIG and ROBOT" with glorious backronyms and sly humour... As a last line :hand in hand, pig robot and man marrched solidly into the wonderful future" is pretty good. Coincidentally, and somewhat reluctantly I picked up the last Stainless Steel rat yesterday, and I would say it was much the best of his recent work.

      1. NogginTheNog

        Re: Star Smashers is a personal favourite here

        Funnily enough I've never read his more famous stuff, but loved "The Men From P.I.G. and R.O.B.O.T." when I was a kid. Very influential on the young sci-fi geek in me!

        1. graeme leggett Silver badge

          Re: Star Smashers is a personal favourite here

          i got Pig and Robot when young and only the other day bought a second hand copy such were my fond memories. I was not dissapointed.

  17. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

    Cheers to a great writer

    I have enjoyed all his books immensely, partly because they were written with such humour.

    May he rest in peace!

  18. Dana W


    Slippery Jim, the only hero I could really get behind. It seems we lose someone every day. I must be getting old.........

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Amazon is my friend

    I decided to break my normal rules and actually pay for a download to my Kindle.

    I can now re-read Deathworld :)

    1. dave 76
      Thumb Up

      Re: Amazon is my friend

      The first Deathworld, along with several other Harry Harrison books, is available for free on the excellent Project Gutenberg.

      Coincidencely I had downloaded and started reading it a week ago.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Re: Amazon is my friend

        Cor, thanks for that. I downloaded a couple more for the future.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Amazon is my friend

        I've noticed some bits of his novels turn up on Gutenberg et al. Not because the whole book is out of print but because the first chapter was published in a magazine. They are titled differently also. Disappointment follows when you discover it was not some work of which you were previously unaware and incomplete to boot.

  20. Simon_Sharwood_Reg_APAC_Editor (Written by Reg staff)

    Fine writer, will be missed

    My brother used to put me down as a geek by mentioning the Stainless Steel Rat. Little did he know Slippery Jim would lead me to this forum, today, among this fine company, we band of brothers ...

    I'll be tucking into a porcuswine burger today in memory of Harry.

    John Scalzi may be his spiritual descendant as a writer, IMHO, for those in need of a similar read.

  21. MuddyDogs

    50 years of great stories ...

    A friend lent me The Stainless Steel Rat at school 35 years ago, and I was hooked, but he also produced other little gems like Starsmashers of the Galaxy Rangers (a very tongue in cheek space opera), and kids sci-fi books like Spaceship Medic and The Men From P.I.G. and R.O.B.O.T.

    Sadly missed :-(

  22. Toastan Buttar
    Thumb Up

    West of Eden

    A very good excuse to take this paperback from my bookcase and stuff it in my work bag for the commute tomorrow.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Rest in Peace, Harry Harrison. Your writing was both cheesy and fucking awesome, simultaneously.

  24. Term

    The Stainless Steel Rat...

    ...will never tarnish! RIP.

  25. Simon Lyon

    Oh ballrocks!

    The Rat books, alongside Zelazny and McCaffrey, I've re-read literally my entire life from the moment I was old enough to get a library card.

    If you haven't read them then I'm fairly sure that as a Reg reader you'll probably appreciate them;

    If you're a fan of the BOFH, you'll flip out over them;

    And if you like Burn Notice - you'll feel at home.

    Another great gone. I'm getting too bloody old!

  26. Simon Lyon

    On screwing bankers and their ilk as a benefit to mankind ...

    “We must be as stealthy as rats in the wainscoting of their society. It was easier in the old days, of course, and society had more rats when the rules were looser, just as old wooden buildings have more rats than concrete buildings. But there are rats in the building now as well. Now that society is all ferrocrete and stainless steel there are fewer gaps in the joints. It takes a very smart rat indeed to find these openings. Only a stainless steel rat can be at home in this environment...”

    ― Harry Harrison, The Stainless Steel Rat

    "I whistled under my breath as I went to work. This was by no means my first bank robbery, and I had no intention of making it my last. Of all the varied forms of crime, bank robbery is the most satisfactory to both the individual and to society. The individual of course gets a lot of money, that goes without saying, and he benefits society by putting large amounts of cash back into circulation. The economy is stimulated, small businessmen prosper, people read about the crime with great interest, and the police have a chance to exercise their various skills. Good for all. Though I have heard foolish people complain that it hurts the bank. This is arrant nonsense. All banks are insured, so they lose nothing, while the sums involved are minuscule in the overall operation of the insuring firm, where the most that might happen is that a microscopically smaller dividend will be paid at the end of the year. Little enough price to pay for all the good caused. It was as a benefactor of mankind, not a thief, that I passed the echo sounder over the wall. A large opening on the other side; the bank without a doubt."

  27. John Savard

    In Memory of Me

    In the book (Make Room, Make Room!), Soylent Green was made from... soybeans and lentils, exactly as advertised.

    But maybe his fans will eat a soybean and lentil wafer (along with some wine?) in his memory every year, given the subtitle to this article.

    1. Anonymous Cowerd

      Re: In Memory of Me

      Just what I was thinking, it's only the film where it's made from people...

      1. Tom 7

        Re: In Memory of Me

        either way nom nom.

    2. Spoonsinger

      Re: "Soybeans and Lentils"

      The HORROR!!!!!

  28. Diogenes

    And hsi alternate histories

    were well thought out as well - loved the "Stars and Stripes" series enjoyed HH's more than Turtledove's

    1. David Evans

      Re: And hsi alternate histories

      Loved most of HH's work but thought Stars & Stripes was literally the worst thing I've ever read.

  29. jake Silver badge

    My older nieces & nephews (early teens) are currently working through his backlog.

    I think it was HH's escapism (along with Zelazny & Robinson) that got me through my A levels and first degree.

    Rest in peace, Henry. Your story telling will be enjoyed by many for centuries to come.

  30. The Stainless Steel Cat

    Deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as the Big Three.

    You can guess which of his works are my favourite, but he produced so much work that was good in so many different ways. The stand alone SF books were especially good, e.g. In Our Hands The Stars, and for me the best of his alt-histories were The Hammer And The Cross books which are an excellent mix of adventure, history and religious philosophy.

    Sad now.

  31. ScottK

    Nothing to say really about this news but "Bugger"

    The Stainless Steel Rat Wants You was the first "real" SF book I ever read at about age 7, which really got me into the genre. Harry was my favorite author for years and I devoured everything else I could find by him. Desperately depressing news.

  32. david 12 Silver badge

    ...wife Joan, who passed from...

    'passed' ????

    passed to where ????

    You're writting in Science, and she 'passed' ???

    There is a technical / scientific / medical term that you could have used insted of 'passed'

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Not the place for complaining

      This is an obituary for a man who made the world a nicer place with his works. While commentards pouncing on the writers' and each other over the slightest mistake is a fine El Reg tradition, please refrain on this thread.

      Now to track down the HH books out there I haven't read yet.

    2. Triggerfish

      Re: ...wife Joan, who passed from...

      There isnt any such langauge as science. They are writing in English were its a perfectly adequate and well chosen term.

      1. John Savard

        Re: ...wife Joan, who passed from...

        He wasn't saying the article was written in the language Science, but that it was written in the Science department of the site, as opposed to "PCs & Chips", or "Mobile", or "reghardware".

        The objection is that the term "passed" carries with it the implication of an incorporeal self and an afterlife and so on. While I would agree that it's a somewhat finicky reaction to a polite common usage, and thus excessive, I don't agree that it's founded on a false premise or that it's totally wrongheaded.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: ...wife Joan, who passed from...

      perfectly acceptable use. She has either passed from a super-terrestrial state to a sub-terrestrial state or from a corporeal state to a airborn particulate state.

      really though, quit whining.

    4. Graham Bartlett

      Re: ...wife Joan, who passed from...

      'E's not pinin'! 'E's passed on! This parrot is no more! He has ceased to be! 'E's expired and gone to meet 'is maker! 'E's a stiff! Bereft of life, 'e rests in peace! If you hadn't nailed 'im to the perch 'e'd be pushing up the daisies! 'Is metabolic processes are now 'istory! 'E's off the twig! 'E's kicked the bucket, 'e's shuffled off 'is mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin' choir invisibile!! THIS IS AN EX-PARROT!!

  33. Steven Roper

    RIP Harry

    He was one of my favourite authors - I've read the Deathworld and To The Stars trilogies more times than I can count, and since a child I have maintained that both would make some blockbuster movie series, if only Hollywood would get off their endless Batman- and Spiderman-remaking arseholes and make some proper fucking sci-fi. I'd even be happy if Syfy and the crowd behind the Children of Dune mini-series got together and did the movies instead.

    I just wish someone would do it, because Deathworld particularly is just screaming for the silver screen treatment. I'd like to see, say, Christian Bale as Jason dinAlt, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson as Kerk Pyrrus, and Jessica Alba as Meta.

  34. Tom Servo

    Genuinely sad - a big part of my youth.

    Harry managed to find a perfect balance of vision, intelligence and humour in his books. You will be sadly missed.

    Thanks Harry.

  35. Dave Bell

    I met Harry Harrison a few times. He was, in a very real sense, "one of us", part of a community of writers and enthusastic readers who carried on a long conversation, through books and other writing and late-night conversations in bars (and now on the internet, though I never came across HH there). And the article notices some of that, with the cross-reference between "Starship Troopers" and "Bill, The Galactic Hero". There was a time when everyone was sure of the Three Laws of Robotics. and HH wrote stories about the sorts of robot that were not built according to those principles. I don't know if that sense of sustained conversation is unique to SF and fantasy writing, but it is part of what makes it seem more alive, more relevant, than other sorts of fiction.

    If you see a copy of "Vendetta for the Saint", grab it. It's not his name on the cover, but he's the guy who wrote it. Slippery Jim is, in some ways, a descendant of Simon Templar, and it is a pretty good Saint adventure.

  36. Dave Walker 1

    Long liv the Stainless Steel Rat

    He was, as the blurb on the back of the paperbacks said, 'The Monty Python of the spaceways' - his writing always had humour , dark though it may have been, and his prose was some of the most absorbing I have ever had the pleasure to read.

    I hope someone options a few more of his works - Slippery Jim, Jason dinAlt and Bill (with two Ls) deserve some screen time...

    Rest in peace, Harry - if I could write it in Esperanto, I would

    1. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge

      Re: Long liv the Stainless Steel Rat

      "My name is Bill. Two 'L's."

      "Can't be two 'L's. Two L's are for officers..."

  37. Colin Critch

    Will miss the great SF

    Harry thank you for getting me hooked on to SF, somthing that endures.

    RIP Slippery Jim


    Great Writer

    Yes I too remember my first experience of his writing, "The men from P.I.G. and R.O.B.O.T", excellent stories from my youth!

    RIP HH.

  39. Trevor 3

    Nothing to say but...

    ...Rest in Peace.

  40. Crisp

    What does Soylent Green taste like?

    It varies from person to person.

  41. jon 72

    Mine's the one with lockpicks in the pocket

    Lunch has been declared early due to an outbreak of SSR quotations and novices initiated into just how cavernous the muzzle a .75 caliber hand cannon is.

  42. Cihatari

    It's a bleak day for Jimmy DiGriz. Rust in Peace Stainless Steel Rat.

    (Just to save the pedant alert going off unnecessarily, yes I'm aware of the properties of the aforementioned material.)

  43. Severen

    Am I the only person to have read Spaceship Medic? Love that book.

    Just one of many fond memories of HH's work. And I'd forgotten about The men From P.I.G. And R.O.B.O.T.! I'm off to the loft to dig out the old paperbacks.

    R.I.P. Harry. :-(

  44. MahFL22


    I liked the hand granades stashed in his hair, awesome.

  45. Brian2
    Thumb Up

    Use of Esperanto is now widespread.

    With reference to the comment about the international language Esperanto, its use is more widespread than people imagine. It is now in the top 100 languages, out of 6,800 worldwide. It is the 29th most used language in Wikipedia, ahead of Danish and Arabic. It is a language choice of, Skype, Firefox, Ubuntu and Facebook and Google translate recently added this international language to its prestigious list of 64 languages.

    Native Esperanto speakers, (people who have used the language from birth), include World Chess Champion Susan Polger, Ulrich Brandenberg the new German Ambassador to and Nobel Laureate Daniel Bovet. Financier George Soros learnt Esperanto as a child.

    Esperanto is a living language - see

    Their online course has 125 000 hits per day and Esperanto Wikipedia enjoys 400 000 hits per day. That can't be bad :)

  46. Gerry Doyle 1

    Make Room! Make Room! is not Soylent Green

    'Soylent Green' had about as much or as little to do with 'Make Room' as, say, 'Blade Runner' had to do with 'Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep'. It makes me wonder why film makers choose novels to film if they dislike them so much that they have to change them entirely.

    Harrison hated Soylent Green so much that he had his name removed from all credits and who would blame him.

    A nice bloke, sorry to hear he's gone, an important part of my teens was reading just about any novel, short story or anthology with his name on it. He would turn up at the Dublin SF meetings when there would only be a few of us sitting around a table in a pub basement and just talk and talk...

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Make Room! Make Room! is not Soylent Green

      The book is so amazing that the soylent green is people (spoiler!) is the LEAST shocking thing about the world he describes.

      An amazing writer that produced the most shocking future SF dystopian novel, a historical series where cavemen live under intelligent dinosaurs, the first steampunk novel and a couple of the funniest parody series as well as the stainless steel rat

  47. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Harry Harrison, dead?

    Maybe he just slipped away under cover of a smoke grenade. That would be the most fitting way for him to make an exit.


  48. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    I hadn't realised he was still alive.

    But I'm sad he's not.

    I've read most of the titles people have mentioned (except Vendetta for the Saint and Make Room, Make Room). Some of his worlds could be depressing (and plausible) but he often had more of a sense of hope that things *could* get better (To The Stars trilogy does) than other writers and a sense of humor (the military mind and military thinking was a fairly regular target, but then he had served in the armed forces).

    Fairwell Slippery Jim and enjoy your rest.

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