DavidW solved a recent story-ID question by identifying the short story "Coins" by Leo P. Kelley (1968; ISFDB entry), featuring a young man named Lank living in a post-apocalyptic wasteland where decisions are made by coin tosses.

I thought this story sounded interesting, so I tried to look it up online, but instead came across a novel The Coins of Murph by Leo P. Kelley (1974; Goodreads entry), featuring a young man named Lank living in a post-apocalyptic wasteland where decisions are made by coin tosses.

Obviously these two works aren't the same, but they're also far too similar to be entirely separate tales. What is the relationship between them?

  • Is the novel a sequel to the short story?
  • Is it an extension of the same basic tale, with all essential details preserved but a longer story told?
  • Is it "inspired by" the short story but with an essentially different plot/setting/characters?

I haven't read either story, and haven't been able to find much information about "Coins" at all (it's hard to search for since its title is a subset of the novel's).

  • Kind of astonishing that an obvious hack to generate an extra sale out of some already-sold material gets its own wikipedia page that upgrades it to "literary form".
    – davidbak
    Feb 13, 2021 at 0:49

1 Answer 1


So, it appears that The Coins of Murph is now available at the Internet Archive.

The stories start virtually identically for the first few pages, with the protagonist Lank travelling on his own and meeting Doll. (Save for some word choices.) At this point the novel inserts a section where Lank and a group of other young men are recruited and indoctrinated by priests of Murph.

The stories synchronize again for the scene of the Toss but in the novel Lank Wins and follows the Losers at a distance instead of being one of them. The novel adds a lot of extra material here showing Doll's exile from her people, nursing a young Loser named Lincoln (who was a friend of Lank's before he Lost), Doll teaching Lincoln to be Coinless, caring for Hound, etc.

Six months later there is another Toss, and this time both Doll and Lank Lose. The novel synchs up with the story again, to show their descent into Randland and the winnowing that happens there. This part is almost identical in both versions, except for the beaters and that in the novel Lank goes back alone to discover the truth hidden behind the walls.

This is roughly where the short story ends, but the novel continues with Lank planning to change his society so it actually follows, instead of merely aping, the patterns that Murphy tried to establish. Doll discovers the secret of Randland herself (in the story this is part of the scene behind the walls of Randland, from Doll's point of view), and falls out with Lank because of it. From there the novel proceeds to its conclusion.

So, in summary, every event of the short story is retained in the novel, though spread out. Considerable extra background and filler material are added, there are two new major characters (three, if you count Hound), and considerably more plot.

Note that if you want to compare both, "Coins" is also available (in Fantasy & Science Fiction, November 1968) at the Internet Archive.

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