Ok, I don't remember a lot about this, but it was rather intriguing.

From what I recall, it was written in such a way that it must have been published as a serial; multiple climaxes and denouements.

Elements I remember:

  • Someone was using various high-level secrets to trade for other high-level secrets... VERY high-level.
  • One of the secrets was how legitimate currency was verified electronically. It ended up being something about creases or marks at very specific locations.
  • At one point the hero, or one of his people, got arrested to make contact with someone inside a prison of some sort; they then bought his way back out, using paper that was properly 'tweaked' using the above secret.
  • The final secret at the end was some form of physical immortality, achieved by some nasty method. The hero, as I recall, ends up killing the person who was behind this, and who had made use of that last secret.

Any ideas? I read it maybe 5 years ago, but I believe it was from a VERY old book.

2 Answers 2


Jack Vance, The Killing Machine. Vol. 2 of the Demon Prince series.

The Killing Machine (1964) is a science fiction novel by American writer Jack Vance, the second in his "Demon Princes" series, in which Kirth Gersen, having brought arch-villain Malagate the Woe to justice, sets his sights on Kokor Hekkus, another of the Demon Princes. The name Kokor Hekkus, which means "killing machine" in the language of the planet Thamber, does not refer to Hekkus's own predilection for homicide, but to his fondness for horrific and murderous devices, including the giant robotic executioner that first gained him his nickname

  • Bingo! Just read the synopsis on Wikipedia, and that's the one. Thanks much!
    – K-H-W
    Commented Nov 7, 2011 at 22:48
  • You're welcome.
    – ohmi
    Commented Nov 8, 2011 at 0:08

Maybe Bug Jack Barron by Norman Spinrad?

  • Interesting sounding novel, but not it. The one I'm looking for has the characters stumbling up one of the secrets, and discovering it was sold for another one, and find out the eventual goal secret was the one that bestowed immortality.
    – K-H-W
    Commented Nov 5, 2011 at 21:23

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