As a storyteller, Robert Silverberg is primarily recognized for science fiction (Nightwings, The World Inside, the Majipoor novels, many more), but like most hard-working freelancers, the writer went through a period when the publishing options in his favored genre were slim. At the end of the fifties, when a distribution crisis put a lot of s-f mags on the verge of extinction, young Silverberg aimed his pen at other writers’ markets under a variety of pseudonyms — soft-core erotica, historicals and crime fiction, primarily — that kept him busy until the s-f market re-emerged. Among these was a hard-boiled pulpish novel about a government agent pursuing counterfeiters in Philadelphia. Initially appearing in the November 1962 issue of a crime mag entitled, Trapped, Blood on the Mink is receiving its first book publication fifty years later as a part of the Hard Case Crime series.
Those who know Silverberg from such elaborate science-fantasy constructions as Lord Valentine’s Castle may be taken aback by the young journeyman’s work here: Mink is leanly written pulp closer to the series character fiction of writers like Lester Dent — with more than a trace of Mickey Spillane tossed into the mix. Silverberg’s hero, who we only know as “Nick” (in homage to Nick Carter, perhaps?) is a hard-bitten undercover man who specializes in convincingly impersonating thugs and infiltrating gangs. In Philly, he pretends to be a West Coast gangster named Vic Lowney to strike up with a deal with the “Mr. Right of the queer-pushers,” counterfeiter Henry Klaus.
Klaus is holding a Hungarian refugee named Szekely for his counterfeiting skills, while Szekely’s strong-willed daughter looks to our hero to rescue her papa from the gangster’s clutches. Complicating matters are Klaus’ shapely moll Carol, who cozies up to “Vic/Nick” so he will help take down her crime boss lover — along with some competitors looking to horn in on the lucrative counterfeiting racket. Our hero struggles to keep his false identity intact amidst multiple double-crosses and gunfights — and, yes, somebody’s mink does get bloody. Story highlight is a shoot-out on the empty late night streets in the City of Brotherly Love.