Since the fifth anniversary of the death of Jack Vance is this coming Saturday, I have decided to continue Jack Vance week, having been a huge fan of Jack Vance since my youth. One of the tropes common to Jack Vance's oeuvre is the protagonist's encounters with unscrupulous business professionals proffering dubious services. Perhaps the funniest of these scenes is stranded Earthman Adam Reith's encounter with a professional assassin in the hilariously titled Servants of the Wankh, the second book in his 'Planet of Adventure' series. Earlier in the book, the same protagonist encounters another sort of tradesman, who runs afoul of the supercilious renegade Dirdirman (a member of a human population kidnapped from Earth millennia ago by the sinister, spacefaring Dirdir and bred to serve, and ultimately resemble their captors) Ankhe at Afram Anacho:
An hour later, clean and refreshed, the four met in the downstairs lobby. Here they were accosted by a black-haired blackeyed man with a pinched melancholy face. He spoke in a gentle voice. "You are newly arrived at Coad?"
Anacho, instantly suspicious, drew himself back. "Not altogether. We are well-known and have no needs."
"I represent the Slave-taker's Guild, and this is my fair appraisal of your group. The girl is valuable, the boy less so. Dirdirmen are generally considered worthless except in clerical or administrative servitude, for which we have no demand. You would be rated a winkle-gatherer or a nut-huller, of no great value.
This man, whatever he is, appears capable of toil, and would sell for the standard rate. Considering all, your insurance will be ten sequins a week."
"Insurance against what?" demanded Reith.
"Against being taken and sold," murmured the agent. "There is a heavy demand for competent workers. But for ten sequins a week," he declared triumphantly, "you may walk the streets of Coad night and day, secure as though the demon Harasthy rode your shoulders! Should you be sequestered by an unauthorized dealer the Guild will instantly order your free release."
Reith stood back, half-amused, half-disgusted. Anacho spoke in his most nasal voice: "Show me your credentials."
" 'Credentials'?" asked the man, his chin sagging."Show us a document, a blazon, a patent. What? You have none? Do you take us for fools? Be off with you!"
The man walked somberly away. Reith asked, "Was he in truth a fraud?"
"One never knows, but the line must be drawn somewhere."
Planet of Adventure is a pretty good introduction to Vance. It's got a pretty simple 'planetary romance' plot- an Earthman, a hypercompetent military scout stranded on a strange planet by a sneak attack on his 'mothership' is forced to fight his way through strange aliens and stranger humans (taken from Earth and bred to be clients of various contending aliens) in order to obtain a spacecraft so he can return to Earth to warn the authorities of various hostile alien species. In some ways, it's Vance's 'love letter' to Edgar Rice Burroughs' 'Barsoom' novels (complete with savage giant green-skinned nomads), though Vance was a lot funnier than Burroughs.