I read this book about 4-May-2004. I've read this book before. The book is copyright 1976. This note was last modified Monday, 19-May-2014 16:33:50 PDT.
This is book 1 of the "Family D'Alembert" series.
This note contains spoilers for the book.
First in the Family D'Alembert series. Published as by Smith with Stephen Goldin.
The Amazon listing gives George Barr as an author as well. I suspect his connection is really as the cover artist, though it's not indicated on the book that I can find. One bookseller on ABE lists this ISBN as the second paperback edition. ISFDB has no edition information on this title, unfortunately. Anyway, it shows no signs of being valuable.
<python>It's not got much Smith in it</python>.
This edition (the only one I've ever seen) has a truly remarkable cover. Apart from how it looks, what's remarkable about it is how precisely the costume matches the description in the text (see page 70). They're hiding by being tremendously conspicuous. Being from a 3-gravity planet, they don't look all that normal (and that's what's wrong with the picture; the build is all wrong). Click for a closeup of the figure from the cover. The text doesn't specify the cutouts to expose his nipples, but that's entirely consistent with the costume as described. I think all the other details are straight from the text.
While the history of this Empire can't be reconciled with the one DuQuesne goes off to start at the end of Skylark DuQuesne (#4), they do have in common being an absolute monarchy, and the issues of inventing a stratification system from scratch. DuQuesne goes further in claiming that you can somehow "test" people for suitability to being nobles.
By the end of the book, it really sounds like the story should be over—Banion the Bastard is dead, and the Patent is recovered and destroyed. But there are 9 more books.
Time to put this one away in a plastic bag, I think.