This is a toughie I'm afraid. I read it probably in the late 80s. It was a pulp sci-fi of the classic "tough guy agent bloke does tough guy agent things in space" genre.

The only thing I can remember other than that is that the protagonist had a small gun he could conceal in his palm or sleeve that shot out a sudden burst of highly compressed gas - pretty sure it was a kinetic weapon though, and the gas was used as force multiplier so that he could punch a target in the midst of a punch up and yet the gun would kill them with the "punch" of gas, then dissipate leaving no trace a weapon had been used.

I have a vague memory he used it at some kind of party.

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    Welcome to Science Fiction & Fantasy! Please take a look at our guide on how to ask a good story ID question and edit your question with any additional details you remember.
    – Null
    Commented Oct 14, 2021 at 12:40
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    Not your knife, but the wasp knife has some intriguing similarities.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Commented Oct 14, 2021 at 12:53
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    I remember the book but only a few more details - fairly confident that the protagonist was the look-alike of someone important in a parallel world that he ended up in. At least some of the time he didn't kill people by "punching" them but it gave him a reputation for being a ferocious pugilist because of how effective it was when he did hit someone, so he had a nickname along the lines of "slugger" or "hammerfist" etc Commented Oct 14, 2021 at 13:29

1 Answer 1


Worlds of the Imperium
Keith Laumer

Plot: A man is recruited to travel to a parallel world where his twin has become a ruthless dictator, and replace him. To help on his mission he is given a gun like you describe.

Full text of the novel available on Gutenberg.

I moved my right hand carefully, feeling for the pressure of the release spring that would throw the palm-sized slug-gun into my hand with the proper flexing of the wrist.

The little weapon was a marvel of compact deadliness. In shape it resembled a water-washed stone, grey and smooth. It could lie unnoticed on the ground, a feature which might be of great importance to me in an emergency.

Inside the gun a hair-sized channel spiralled down into the grip. A compressed gas, filling the tiny hole, served as both propellant and projectile. At a pressure on the right spot, unmarked, a minute globule of the liquefied gas was fired with tremendous velocity. Once free of the confining walls of the tough alloy barrel, the bead expanded explosively to a volume of a cubic foot. The result was an almost soundless blow, capable of shattering one-quarter inch armor, instantly fatal within a range of ten feet.

It was the kind of weapon I needed- inconspicuous, quiet, and deadly at short range. The spring arrangement made it almost a part of the hand, if the hand were expert.


I moved back, dazed, dodging blows. I had only one chance and I needed a dark corner to try it. Miche was right after me. He was mad; he didn't like that smack on the jaw in front of the boys. That helped me. He forgot boxing and threw one haymaker after another. He wanted to floor me with one punch to retrieve his dignity. I dodged and retreated.

I moved back toward the deep shadows at the end of the room, beyond Chica's pantry. I had to get there quickly, before the watching crowd closed up the space.

Miche swung again, left, right. I heard the air whistle as his hamlike fist grazed me. I backed another step; almost far enough. Now to get between him and the rest of the room. I jumped in behind a wild swing, popped a stinging right off his ear, and kept going. I whirled, snapped the slug-gun into my hand, and as Miche lunged, I shot him in the stomach, faked a wild swinging attack as he bounced off the wall and fell full length at my feet. I slipped the gun back into my cuff and turned.

"I can't see," a man shouted. "Get some light down here." The mob pushed forward, forming a wide ring. They stopped as they saw that only I was on my feet.

"Miche is down," a man called. "The new guy took him."

Gros pushed his way through, hesitated, then walked over to the sprawled body of Miche. He squatted, beckoned to the man with the candle.

He pulled Miche over on his back, then looked closer, feeling for the heartbeat. He looked up abruptly, got to his feet.

"He dead," he said. "Miche is dead." He looked at me with a strange expression. "It's quite a punch you got, mister," he said.

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    Bingo, that's definitely the one I remember, hope it's what the OP is after. Commented Oct 14, 2021 at 13:36
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    That is definitely it. "Slug gun" rings a huge bell as does the whole description of the weapon, particularly the pebble-like appearance. Even the name Miche rings a bell bizarrely because the actual plot from Wikipedia is completely unfamiliar :D Thanks so much, amazing identification speed! Commented Oct 14, 2021 at 13:59

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