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The Silverberg Business

In 1888 in Victoria, Texas, for a simple job, a Chicago private eye gets caught up in much darker affairs and ends up in the poker game to end all poker games.

In 1888 Shannon, a Chicago private detective, goes home to Texas for a wedding and is asked by Galveston’s new rabbi to locate swindlers, claiming to be seeking money for a future colony of Romanian Jewish refugees, and a man named Silverberg who has disappeared in Texas along with them.
Though this appears to be a simple missing person/ land swindle job, Shannon quickly finds himself in stranger territory. His investigations lead him toward a demonic white-haired gambler, monstrous sand dune totems, and a group of skull-headed poker players trapped in an endless loop of cards and alcohol, who may be his only means to survive the business.


“It’s one of the mostly deeply weird novels I’ve read in some time, at times hallucinatory and dreamlike, at other times gritty and naturalistic. We’ve heard a lot in the past several years about genre-blending or ‘‘cross-genre’’ fiction, but Wexler starts out by combining two genres that seldom come up in these discussions: the western and the hard-boiled private eye mystery.”
— Gary K. Wolfe, Locus

“A weird but oddly convincing creature feature.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Steeped in the early history of Texas’s statehood and laced with eerie portents of supernatural horror, the outstanding latest from Wexler (The Painting and the City) impresses with its originality and inventiveness. In 1888, a Jewish private detective who goes by the name of Shannon travels from Chicago to Victoria, Tex., to investigate the disappearance of New Yorker Nathan Silverberg, who was sent with donor funds to buy land on the Texas coast for a settlement of Romanian Jewish refugees. Shannon discovers that Silverberg was first swindled, then murdered by a pair of con men, one of whom—a gambler named Stephens—wears an ornate ring with magic powers. When Shannon pursues Stephens, the ring’s magic transports him to an otherworldly “scratch land” populated by skull-headed beings whose rituals—involving card games and strange dancing—shape a cosmic context for catastrophic events that unfold in the human world. Wexler keeps his twisty plot refreshingly unpredictable and endows his characters—even the non-talking skullheads—with vividly realized personalities that enliven his surreal, atmospheric tale. This weird western packs a wallop.” — Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Early reader reactions

“Robert Freeman Wexler never fails to knock me out, and The Silverberg Business hits like a hurricane—there’s strangeness and beauty on every page. The novel is that rare thing, a weird western that’s truly weird, set in a Texas that’s simultaneously gritty, violent, and real, yet soaked in myth. Don’t miss this.” — Daryl Gregory, author of Revelator

Praise for Robert Wexler’s books

“An unusual, haunting tale from a distinctive new voice.” — Lisa Tuttle, London Sunday Times

“This complex, enthralling novel is concerned with relations between art and commerce, and nature and commerce; the importance of the past; the everyday oppression of capitalism; and how art may shape history.” — Booklist (starred review)

“As buoyant and airy as a center-ring trapeze act.” — Publisher’s Weekly

“Quietly stunning.” — Asimov’s

“Wexler demonstrates a wonderful touch with his writing: to render Lewis’s lengthy inner journey through this dream-state without losing a sense of living, vital immediacy is an extraordinary accomplishment.”—New York Review of Science Fiction

“A fascinating, deeply bizarre adventure.”—Faren Miller, Locus

About the author

Robert Freeman Wexler’s novel The Painting and the City has recently been released in paperback by the Visible Spectrum and his short story collection Undiscovered Territories: Stories is out now from PS Publishing. He was born in Houston, Texas and currently lives in Yellow Springs, Ohio with the writer Rebecca Kuder and their child. His website and blog are at

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