Robert Silverberg,
Blood on the Mink
(Hard Case Crime, 2012)

Science-fiction master Robert Silverberg pulled off a stunt that will have novelists admiring and envying him for a long time: he sold the same novel three times to three different publishers. When he was in his early 20s and trying to eke out a living selling stories to science-fiction and mystery pulp magazines, one of his editors asked for a novel-length story. He cranked out Blood on the Mink, which was accepted and for which he was paid. The magazine folded before it could be published, however, so in 1962, when another publisher decided to try to rescue his dying line of pulp magazines by transforming their contents from collections of stories to a single full-length novel in each monthly issue, he asked Silverberg to provide him with one. Silverberg responded by digging Blood on the Mink out of his files and selling it again. This time the magazine lasted long enough for it to see print; the book was published in the very last issue of Trapped in November 1962 under the title "Too Much Blood on the Mink." Last year, Hard Case Crime editor Charles Ardai came across a copy of Trapped and decided to bring out a new edition of the novel. To flesh out the volume, two of Silverberg's stories from the same late 1950s-early '60s time period are included in the volume.

The plot involves an unnamed government agent whose specialty is disguising himself as various criminals and using their identities to infiltrate mobs, which he then brings down from within. When the book opens, he and the FBI are waiting for West Coast gangster Vic Lowney to disembark from a plane for a stopover in Denver. When he does they arrest him and our agent, dressed and disguised as Lowney, boards the plane in his place and proceeds to Philadelphia, where he makes contact with the counterfeiters that he intends to bring down.

The tension is complex: can our hero fool the gang long enough to destroy them or will he be discovered and killed? Can he successfully fool a second gang and use them to lead an all-out assault on the first gang's headquarters? And can he successfully locate and liberate the innocent old immigrant man that the gangsters have kidnapped and are forcing to make the bogus bills?

Blood on the Mink is exactly what it is meant to be: a fast-moving couple of hours of light reading pleasure.

book review by
Michael Scott Cain

18 February 2012

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