Robert Silverberg's lost crime novel: Blood on the Mink


Tom says:

Blood on the Mink is Robert Silverberg's long lost crime novel, which tells the story of a government agent going undercover to infiltrate a counterfeiting ring.

Acclaimed science-fiction and fantasy author Silverberg, a five-time winner of both the Hugo and Nebula Awards, received the genre's highest honor in 2004 when he was named a Grandmaster by the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America.

Blood on the Mink was originally published in its entirety under a pseudonym in the final issue of Trapped Detective Story Magazine, one of the last surviving pulp magazines. The novel was never published in book form or under the author's real name. When the final issue of Trapped vanished from newsstands half a century ago, the book was never seen again — until now.

The book features a new afterword by the author discussing the novel's genesis and his days writing for the pulps, as well as two bonus short stories Silverberg wrote for the pulps, both of which will be appearing in print for the first time in more than 50 years.

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Excerpt from Blood on the Mink, by Robert Silverberg

It's just like they say in those advertisements for the newspaper. You can't draw a crowd in Philadelphia no matter what you do. Especially on a Sunday night in the downtown district. We had the street to ourselves — me and the cabbie and the three hoods. I guess everybody within earshot must have figured that the banging noises were just auto exhaust.

Keeping an eye on three guys at once isn't easy, especially when they want to murder you. They kept trying to creep around behind the cab that I was using as a shield. Minton and two others, and all three of them armed. Another shot smashed through the body of the taxicab. I heard the cabbie cursing and moaning.

So far I hadn't fired a shot. I knew I had to make them all count. But I got my money's worth out of the first one I fired. One of Minton's hoods was trying to come at me from the side, where I was vulnerable for a couple of feet between the parked cars.

I got my head down just in time to miss a slug that whizzed past and plonged against a lamppost behind me. Then I shot him. I was shooting to disable, not to kill, but he made a clumsy attempt at ducking, and it cost him. I leaned up over the tailfin of the taxi and squeezed off a shot that should have gone through his right shoulder, but he was starting to slide away as I fired, and the shot went through the middle of his chest instead. He looked surprised and started to fold up, blood spilling out of his mouth. I didn't stop to apologize for my lousy marksmanship. Before the corpse had hit the pavement, I was going for the other two.

They were playing it cagy. Minton was squatting behind a Volkswagen across the street, aiming over the snub nose of the little car and trying to take me apart with a lucky shot. The goon was about twenty feet further down the block, edging around the sedan and trying to slip onto my side of the street and pick me off from my left. As the two of them got further and further from each other, it got harder for me to watch them both. Which was what they wanted.

They were about thirty feet apart now, and at right angles to each other. Minton fired twice, missing both times but not by much. Then they wised up and began alternating their fire, Minton taking a shot and then the gorilla.

I held up on returning. I only had one gun, and the only place you can reload during this kind of gun battle is in the movies, where they're firing blanks anyway.

But the gorilla was getting bolder and bolder; I drove him back to cover with a quick shot past his left ear, then pivoted and creased the top of the Volkswagen, though unfortunately not the top of Minton. I wondered just how long I was going to hold out before a platoon of cops arrived and closed us all out.

Then the goon got too bold. He made a wide sweep to my left, figuring to slip between the taxi and the car it had ploughed into, and pick me off easily while I was busy with Minton. Only Minton neglected to keep me busy at just that precise moment. He stopped firing. I turned to my left, and there was the gorilla, plain as day and looking pretty damned surprised. I squeezed off a shot, taking him in the upper pectoral muscle, and he yelped and hit the street.

Now there was just Minton.

And Minton used brains for the first time since I had known him. He stopped aiming for me and went for the gas tank of the cab. He got it on the second try, and I heard a swoosh and knew we were in for some flames. Opening the cab door, I looked in at the driver huddling under his steering wheel and yelled, "They got the tank! We're on fire!"

"I'm staying here, mister."

"Don't be an idiot. They aren't shooting at you! You want to roast?"

He was too scared to budge. I couldn't stop to argue with him, so I grabbed him and hauled him out of the cab, thankful that Minton's bright idea hadn't occurred while the odds were still three to one. The rear of the cab was blazing now. I pushed the dazed cabbie out onto the sidewalk and looked up at Minton. He was waiting for me to get away from the flaming taxi. I had to risk it. I darted out into the open, streaking for cover, and fired one of my two remaining shots in his direction. It missed. I heard Minton laugh, and just as I slid down behind another car he edged out into the clear himself, and I wasted my last shot on him.

My gun was empty. And Minton knew it.

The taxi was an inferno now, and the other car was about to go up, and in a couple of minutes the block would be full of police and fire engines and whatnot. But it didn't look like I'd be concerned with that. Minton had me now. He came across the street, gun drawn and ready. I crouched down behind the car that now shielded me.

He said, "Here's where you get it, Lowney — or whatever your name is. You really put me down, didn't you? Only I'm going to get you, now. I'm going to make you walk right into that cab and roast to death. You hear me, man? Come on out from behind that car. Don't make me shoot you, man. Don't spoil my fun."

I started to figure the odds on a banzai charge that might catch Minton off balance. They weren't very good. But then I discovered that I had an ally I wasn't even counting on: the cabbie.

Seeing his cab go up in flames must have unhinged him. I was getting ready to make my leap toward Minton when the hackie let out a wild bloodcurdling scream and charged forward.

Minton turned in astonishment, firing as he did, and the shot practically took the cab driver's midsection apart. But by that time I was on my way toward Minton. I hit him hard, grabbing for the gun at the same moment, and wrenched it from his hand. At this final humiliation Minton practically shrieked in rage; he came at me, hands turning to claws, and I lifted one from the sidewalk, connecting solidly with his jaw.

I hadn't intended what happened next. He went staggering back, tried to grab hold of empty air, and fell into the blaze of the taxicab. There was one muffled wail, and he disappeared in flames.

No matter how tough you are, no matter how much of a worm the man was, you don't like to see anyone die that way. Even if he had just tried his damnedest to send you out the same way. I didn't stand around delivering a eulogy, though. Someone in one of the adjoining buildings had long ago given a fire alarm, and I heard sirens. Police sirens, maybe, as well as the fire engines. I had to get moving.

Copyright 2012, Hard Case Crime.