It's a short novella, I think, something Scandinavian (i.e. Swedish, Danish, or something like that, but I'm not really sure) from 1980s (or maybe even 1970s) Russian translation.

There's an outbreak of a disease where people become extremely violent in the affected area. Some (few?) are unaffected, but must run from the infected who attack them.

A narrator goes into the area (is sent into it, to investigate?). After some running about he meets doctors, who turn out to be the worst -- they pretend to help people but in fact put them to sleep and take all their blood out.

Turns out the disease makes human blood clot inside the veins, so they do transfusions to themselves every few hours and must have new subjects all the time.

In the story's end it is revealed that the outbreak was actually started by a governmental experiment by accident, when some infected postal stamps were sold in certain areas. The idea being that people would moisten the stamps with their tongues before putting the stamps on envelopes, and that was the way the agent was introduced into their bloodstream which was thought to be -- don't remember, but say, beneficial in some way even, maybe.

  • 5
    BTW I have never moistened any postal related item with my tongue since I read that story. Ever. :)
    – darveter
    Feb 13, 2019 at 16:24

2 Answers 2


This is Stålsprånget (1968) by Swedish writer Per Wahlöö, who is best known for his crime novels with co-author Maj Sjöwall . I read it in Danish as a teen.

Chief Inspector Jensen has been away from Sweden for some while to get a liver transplant. While he is away, uncontrollable outbreaks of violence ravage the country, and the exile government in Denmark sends him to investigate. It eventually turns out that the government feared to lose the next election because a lot of voters wouldn't bother to vote even though they sympathized with the governing party. Hence, they released some kind of compound, that experiments had shown made people more passionate about everything, in the hope that it would get the lazy voters off the couch. What could possibly go wrong...?

There is an English language version called The Steel Spring (a literal translation of the Swedish title).

the book cover

  • 3
    Just to verify, here is an extract from my ebook of the Steel Spring..*The idea was quite simply to dissolve D5H in glue that could then be used for the gumming of stamps or stickers. Need I say more?’*
    – Danny Mc G
    Feb 14, 2019 at 10:18

Sounds like The Kill Order by James Dasher. It is a prequel to The Maze Runner, etc The Kill Order

The story starts with a heat wave and flooding. People in different refugee camps notice helicopters fly overhead. Some people are darted. Within days, people who survived the attack become violent.

  • 3
    Apart from the "people become violent" part this doesn't seem to match at all.
    – TheLethalCarrot
    Feb 13, 2019 at 15:49
  • 1
    I only know the rough outlines of The Maze Runner universe, but isn't that a bit recent? OP was looking for "a short novella" from the 70s/80s, and a very quick Google search for "the kill order" "stamps" doesn't seem to yield anything about infected stamps...
    – Jenayah
    Feb 13, 2019 at 15:50
  • yes, I'm absolutely certain about the stamps part. that I remembered vividly through years. (and the clotting blood.) everything else is a blur.
    – darveter
    Feb 13, 2019 at 16:00

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.