Cover image for The donor
The donor
Robinson, Frank M., 1926-2014.
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Forge, [2004]

Physical Description:
366 pages ; 25 cm
General Note:
"A Tom Doherty Associates book."
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
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Item Holds
FICTION Adult Fiction Open Shelf
FICTION Adult Fiction Open Shelf

On Order



You've heard the urban legend about a man who wakes up in a tub of ice in a hotel room with a kidney missing. In fact, organ thefts are a real phenomenon and the occurrence of the crime is on the increase. The legend comes to life in this dramatic and scary story ripped from the headlines of tomorrow's newspaper.

Dennis, a college-age young man and an adoptee, wakes up in a small private hospital in San Francisco after a minor car accident to discover that one of his organs is missing. He's an involuntary transplant donor. He flees to a municipal hospital, only to learn that this is the second organ to be harvested from him.

He runs for his life. Clearly someone, somewhere, is a close match for him, needs his organs, and knows his every move. The next time, he might lose his heart or lungs. He won't wake up after that.

Dennis heads home to Boston to confront his adoptive father, who seems to have forged his name to a donor card. And so the hunt is on: Dennis must find his harvester before the harvester finds him again.

Author Notes

Frank Malcolm Robinson was born in Chicago, Illinois on August 9, 1926. After a tour of duty in the Navy during World War II, he graduated from Beloit College in Wisconsin and then was drafted again to serve in the Korean War. He received a master's degree in journalism from Northwestern University. He was a writer and editor for men's magazines including Rogue, Gallery, and Playboy. At Playboy, where he worked from 1969 to 1973, he was the ghostwriter for the Playboy Advisor column, a colloquium of sex and lifestyle advice for men.

During this time, he also wrote science-fiction books including The Power, which was made into a television special in 1956 and a film in 1968. He wrote several books with Thomas N. Scortia including The Glass Inferno, The Prometheus Crisis, The Nightmare Factor, and The Gold Crew. Parts of The Glass Inferno were mined in creating the final script for The Towering Inferno and the authors earned a screen credit. His 1991 novel, The Dark Beyond the Stars, was selected as one of The New York Times' notable books of the year.

He worked as a speechwriter and adviser to San Francisco city supervisor Harvey Milk, who was assassinated on November 27, 1978 by a disgruntled political rival, Dan White. Robinson had a small role in 2008 film Milk. He died of heart disease and pneumonia on June 30, 2014 at the age of 87.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 1

Publisher's Weekly Review

Robinson's creepy new thriller hits the ground running, with young hero Dennis Heller waking in a hospital to discover that he's just undergone major surgery for a minor car accident. Worse, it isn't the first time: the strange masked surgeon is the same one who cut him open in Boston after Dennis went in for a routine physical. Before they can take something else out of him, Dennis flees into the cold San Francisco night. Meanwhile, in Boston, the similarly young and confused Robert Krost jockeys for a better position in his father Max's cold heart and, more important, his will. A secret (a very dark one, Robert suspects) lies at the bottom of Max's frequent surgeries, but neither elderly Max nor his belligerent and aging trophy wife, Anita, is telling. In his sleek tale, Robinson brings these two protagonists progressively closer and closer together, and while he doesn't always maintain the high-stakes tension of the book's opening chapters, he's a crackerjack writer with a great ear, and he keeps the pages turning by giving his characters psychological depth. Thus, Dennis is searching for clues to his past while pining for his adoptive sister, not to mention running for his life, and Robert has so confused his greed with his need, he's convinced this is his last chance. This is a gripping tale, extremely well told. Agent, Mitchell Waters at Curtis Brown. (July) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved



DONOR Chapter 1 DENNIS HELLER       Even with the drugs, Dennis Heller still hurt like hell. He shifted in bed, winced at the pain, then fumbled for the call button. A few minutes later a hatchet-faced nurse came in, moved him slightly so she could check the catheter in his spine just below his shoulder blades, then adjusted the numbers on the morphine pump hanging on its stand by the bed. He tried to ask her questions about what they'd done to him but all he could manage was a croak. The morphine gradually took effect and as the pain drained away he tried desperately to remember why he'd landed in the hospital again. They had been driving on the Great Highway, talking about spending a week with Uncle Leo in Alaska, when Graham lost control of the car. The next thing he knew they'd sideswiped a telephone pole. His air bag hadn't worked and he'd been thrown against a side window. He was dazed and there was broken glass everywhere. His shirt felt wet and he knew without looking that he was bleeding. Graham had yanked open the door and pulled him out of the wreckage, careful of the broken glass and twisted metal. Then Graham called 911 on his cell phone and a few minutes later the cops and an ambulance roared up. Two paramedics strapped him to a gurney, shoved him in the back and tookoff, siren blaring. He couldn't feel any broken bones and decided he had been cut up fairly badly but that it could've been a lot worse. Old Hatchet-Face was back, shaking him by the shoulder to wake him up. "What did you do?" Dennis mumbled. "How do you feel?" "Hungry." She handed him a glass of juice. "Drink it slowly. No solid food until your G.I. tract kicks in." When he looked blank she said, "Not until you fart." Graham had ridden in the front of the ambulance yakking it up with the medic who was driving, at one time laughing about something as if they were old friends. Graham was in Theater but maybe he had friends in Health Science who were moonlighting as ambulance drivers ... . Graham was one lucky son-of-a-bitch, he hadn't been hurt at all. They took him into the hospital's small operating room, cleaned him up and gave him a shot of something for the pain. He was frightened and asked what the fuck they were going to do to him ... . One of the nurses told him they suspected internal injuries, which didn't sound right at all. While they were prepping him he insisted he was okay except for a few cuts. They ignored him and he struggled to get off the operating table but his strength was already beginning to fade. The surgeon was very businesslike, very cool, very professional. When the doctor asked him to turn on his side so he could be examined, Dennis had difficulty understanding him, the doctor's Spanish accent was so thick. But he sounded a lot like the surgeon who'd cut him open in Boston. He twisted around to look up at the doctor but the fluorescents in the operating room blinded him. Then the anesthetist slipped a mask over his nose and that was the last he knew before he woke up in the recovery room. He had an IV in his left arm and a tube in his back to administer morphine and a catheter up his dick so he could piss. It was Boston all over again. Later that morning the surgeon came in to examine him while hewas still half asleep. He wore a surgical mask so once again Dennis couldn't see his face. But he had the same pronounced Spanish accent as the Boston surgeon. Same doctor, Dennis thought. Had to be. In Boston it had been a routine physical--Ray Heller, the man who had adopted him, had insisted he have one twice a year--that somehow had ended with a full-scale operation. When he'd come out of the anesthetic, his abdomen covered with a long row of stitches, the Spanish surgeon had told him he was minus his gallbladder. He couldn't understand it. He hadn't been sick a day in his life. Compared to Boston General, this hospital was understaffed--the surgeon and old Hatchet-Face were the only ones to come around during the day. He thought for sure that Graham would visit and couldn't figure out why he hadn't. For years now he and best-friend Graham had been practically joined at the hip. When the nurse came in to take his blood pressure and empty the catheter bag, he asked her again why they'd cut him open. "They told you in the OR. Internal injuries." "Like what?" She said, "You're doing fine," inspected the morphine pump and walked out. The next afternoon Hatchet-Face returned with the surgeon. She helped Dennis turn onto his side for the examination. He was half smothered by the pillow and still couldn't see the doctor's face. Before leaving, Hatchet-Face gave him a glass of water and a pill and waited to see that he swallowed it. After they left, he heard them talking quietly in the corridor outside. " ... wants us to go ahead--take the rest ..." " ... somebody's going to be looking for him ..." " ... maybe ... maybe not ..." " ... he'll die ..." " ... be an anesthesia accident. It doesn't happen often but it will happen this time ..." Dennis could feel the sweat pop in his armpits and start to coat his forehead. The nightmare was for real. They wanted to operate again and he'd die on the table. Then the pill took effect and he never heard the end of the conversation. The following morning Hatchet-Face took the tubing out of his back and the IV out of his arm, disconnected the oxygen and removed the catheter so he could piss on his own in the plastic urinal hung on the side of the bed. "When do I get out of here?" he asked. She didn't meet his eyes. "We have to hold you for a few more days of observation," she said. They were going to kill him. When she brought in his lunch tray she gave him a glass of juice and another pill. He faked swallowing it and when she left, took it out of his mouth and hid it in his pillowcase. That evening, after they'd turned the lights down low in his room and in the corridor outside, he made up his mind to split. The only people he'd seen on duty were an elderly janitor mopping the corridor floor and the night nurse who peeked in occasionally from the doorway. He counted to himself to time her visits. Every thirty minutes. As soon as she left, he swung his legs over the side of the bed and sat there for a moment, trying to catch his breath. He was weak as hell but so far, so good. He wasn't a heart case, he wasn't wired for sound so there would be no warning on the monitor at the nurses' station. He stood up, holding onto the bed and fighting a wave of nausea, then padded across the floor to the closet where they'd hung his clothes. Earlier, the security guard had made an inventory of the contents of his wallet, bagged it and taken it away to lock in the safe out front. He'd be leaving with no money and no ID and that was really dumb ... . But it would be a whole lot dumber if he stayed. Dennis pulled on his pants and shrugged into his shirt and jacket. When he bent down to tie his shoelaces the pain made him catch hisbreath. He peeked around the door, edged out into the now empty corridor and walked silently past the other rooms in the hallway. He stopped when he felt cold air coming from beneath a door. It was slightly ajar and Dennis eased it open. A small loading dock, nobody in sight. He stepped out and the door clicked shut behind him. He couldn't go back now even if he wanted to. For a moment the chill air felt good, then he started to shiver. It was cold enough to frost his breath. But still--better out than in, there would be no return visit to the cutting room. And when he got to a phone, he'd dial 911 for the cops. Somebody must be looking for him by now. Graham, probably somebody at the university, maybe Ray Heller who called every other day just to keep an eye on him ... . Except the cops would probably take him back to the same hospital; they'd think he was out of his mind if he told them the surgeon and the nurse were plotting to kill him. And by now somebody at the hospital must have discovered he was missing and called the cops themselves. The best idea was to head back to the small apartment he and Graham shared near San Francisco State. At the corner he glanced up at the street signs--Jesus, he was in the Mission district, miles away from State. He struggled for four more blocks, keeping to the shadows even though the streets were empty. There was nobody to ask for help and even if there were, they'd probably take him to the same small hospital just like the cops would. He was hurting badly now and it was hard to keep his balance. If he had any money, he could call Graham or try to hail a cab on Valencia. How much had the guard counted out? Thirty-nine dollars and change? Despite the cold night air the right side of his shirt felt warm and wet. He tugged at it and pulled back bloody fingers. Jesus Christ, he'd torn his stitches ... . For a moment he was desperately sorry he'd left the hospital and the warmth of his bed. What a goddamned dumb thing to do, he was on drugs when he'd overheard them, gotten paranoid and run-- But the doctor was the same one who'd operated on him in Boston and what the hell was he doing in San Francisco anyway? Another wave of nausea hit him and he started to black out. He staggered and fell, rolling into a ball behind some bushes. When he hit the ground, he didn't feel a thing.   It was the dog licking his face and barking that jarred him back to consciousness. He didn't know how long he'd lain there but the shirt sticking to his side had started to dry and he was as cold as he'd ever been, shivering so badly inside his thin jacket his teeth chattered. Somebody had stopped--two of them, by their voices. A woman gently rolled him on his back and he groaned a little from the pain. It was hard to tell by the streetlight but she looked young, twentysomething. The man beside her was black--older, thin and with a moustache. Not friendly. The woman ran her hands through his pockets. "No wallet, no ID," she murmured. "What'd you expect? He's been mugged, Amy." "So what do we do?" "Call the cops and get the hell out of here--they might think we did it. Come on, we're late for the show." They had started to walk away when she suddenly turned and came back. "We can't just leave him here." She bent down to look at Dennis more closely. "Probably a college kid." "You want to take a closer look, he can't stop you." "You're a crude bastard, Paul." "You knew that when you moved in." Then: "San Francisco Municipal's nearby--they've got a good ER." "I think there's a clinic around here someplace." Dennis tried to sit up, holding onto her arm for support. "Not there," he mumbled. "They'll kill me." They stared at him, then Paul said, "He's drunk." Amy looked doubtful "Maybe he's got a reason. You ever been to San Francisco Municipal?" "Once, maybe twice." "What the hell for?" "Don't ask, Amy. I'll get the car." "What'll we do with the dog? It might be his." A shrug. "You bring it along, you take care of it--I sure won't." He turned and jogged back to the end of the block. Dennis started to cry then. He hurt so goddamned much and he was scared as hell and he didn't know either of them. She put her jacket under his head so he'd be more comfortable, then felt his wet shirt and jerked away, looking down at the blood on her hands. "Oh, fuck," she said. Copyright (c) 2004 by Frank M. Robinson Excerpted from The Donor by Frank M. Robinson, Frank Robinson All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.