Saturday, August 01, 2015

Death Merchant #51: The Inca File

In the deepest heart of the Andes mountains, surrounded by the thick dark jungles of Peru lie the ancient medical secrets of the Incas. The Soviets send in a mission to get their thieving hands on this priceless information, new drugs with the capacity to increase Soviet world power one hundred percent.

The CIA hears of the Russian expedition and sends out its own team to investigate, a team that vanishes without a trace. It becomes frighteningly clear this is no ordinary crisis - it's time for the Death Merchant to go into action, the kind of unparalleled destruction no one is ever prepared for.

The Inca File has Richard Camellion once again working with Mad Mike Quinlan and his Thunderbolt Unit: Omega kill-specialists. (Omega has been called in to assist the Death Merchant in a few recent end-of-book battles, but here they are doing some wet work right as the book opens.)

The Incan "ancient medical secrets" mentioned on the back cover are located at Pachu Ittu, an ancient site in Peru meant to be a stand-in for Machu Pichhu. Rosenberger lays out the plot. Hundreds of years ago, Incan priests made use of certain drugs that could reputedly cure cancer, insanity, and "nervous disorders" like Parkinson's disease. (How the Incans knew about Parkinson's disease is not explained.)
What intrigued the CIA was the technique that was used to cure all forms of cancer: the Inca priests would "manipulate" a human being's qupa capac hu-tiqu, an individual's "earth spirit of light." ...

[The CIA had learned that the KGB] was sending an expedition into the Andes in an effort to learn these secrets. How? By searching for a treasure trove of quipus that, mathematically, would reveal exact scientific formulas. Although the Incas had not had a written language, they had had a system called quipus—knotted strings, often of different colors and lengths.
CIA scientists were convinced that the "earth spirit of light" was actually the "human aura, the electromagnetic charge generated by the M-Field that is part and parcel of every living thing, animal and vegetable". Rosenberger fills the next two pages with mumbo jumbo that explains the M-Field.
The M-field could also explain many paranormal events. Past-life experiences (as well as deja vu) might be just a thin layer of an individual's M-field. ... [T]he theory could explain many things that had puzzled scientists for hundreds of years. It could explain such discrepancies as inequitably distributed knowledge and cultural patterns among human beings. ...

Thinking about it, sitting there on the couch, the Death Merchant knew it would be a long time before scientists in general would accept the concept of the M-field. Their specialist mentalities were too small, taking a form of mental and spiritual eclecticism, whether in philosophy or electronics. What was actually needed: that which could expand scientific concepts beyond the capacity of the universities; to endow people with the necessary capacity. Yet there weren't the instructional or pedagogical resources to change and expand scientific thought in the proper way—Man is an eternal intelligence walking around, for the moment, in a body. Try telling that to establishment scientists!
Anyway ... so it's up to Camellion and his team to trek to Pachu Ittu, get rid of the Russian "pig farmers" who are already searching the ancient site, and secure the valuable quipus for themselves.

On the journey to the temple, however, Rosenberger offers too much description of minor events, like setting up a radio transmitter one evening. Nothing happens while the men set it up - and the equipment works when they turn it on. Episodes like this seem written simply to fill pages.

Camellion's force gets near the Inca city well before the end of the book, and they engage in at least two big battles with the Russians before taking over the site. Camellion and the others have absolutely no problem blowing the holy hell out of this ancient site with all manner of grenades, explosives, and gunfire. I was hoping Rosenberger would tell us a little more about the quipus, but the book ends with the CIA preparing to continue digging under the Temple of the Sun.

One interesting moment: After some small squabble before the team sets out on its journey, Camellion demands that the men cease any and all racist comments. "Just remember that I'll slap silly the first man who starts trouble with any racist bullshit!" Quinlan backs him up, saying, "There isn't going to be any trouble due to racism on this damned plateau. If Canyon* doesn't break the back of the man who starts it, I can—and will." They must mean canning racist comments directed at each other, because even after Camellion's stern warning, various members of the team refer to "spics", "chili-peppers", "Jose-boys", etc., and the Death Merchant doesn't do shit. [*: Camellion's alias is "Dean Canyon".]

In one footnote, Rosenberger makes reference to an upcoming Death Merchant book: #53, The Vatican Assignment. At the end of the next book, The Vatican Assignment is also mentioned. However, DM #53 was actually titled The Judas Scrolls.

According to one of the few interviews with author Joseph Rosenberger, the man behind the Death Merchant did not like to travel. That makes his extensive research for these books even more remarkable. Apparently, he used old issues of National Geographic as part of his research. (If he ever simply made things up, he did a good job of hiding it.)
They made camp that night in a grove of coigüe trees, beautiful, graceful formed trees native to Chile. The Chilenas porters made a fire and heated water for Yerba maté tea; they would eat humitas, a mass of corn and husks boiled, and charqui, a good-tasting meat, sun-dried flesh of the llama. The scientists unpacked their sleeping bags and prepared to make a meal of powdered milk and Compo-Rations.10 For desert [sic] they would have coffee and hi-energy survival candy. ...

Footnote 10: Composition Combat meals—packed exactly like C-rations. There are 12 meals with 6 menus: brunswick stew, beans with chicken franks, turkey and dumplings spaghetti with beef, chicken hash, turkey loaf plus accessory packet.

The Chileans sat as quietly as statues, huddled around their fire, one of them occasionally tossing a piece of wood into the low flames. Unlike the other members of the expedition, the ten bearers wore their own "native" costumes—heavy woolen chamantos (pull-over shawls), under which was a short poncho, a short-cut jacket; a fajas, or sash; leather pants and high leather boots; and a toctos, or floppy brimmed hat. ...

There was more than the "Sun Mountain" to the haunted panorama. There was the valley, Our Lady of the Pains, covered with mist as thick as whipped cream. Below the mist would be the forest. But not a rain forest. There would be abundant araucaria pine, rauli beech (both well known for their wood) and the unusual quillay tree (whose bark could be used as soap). There would be numerous birds, such as the garza and the queltehue. The jilguero would still wail in the darkness and parrots would hatter in the daytime. There wouldn't be any insects. the dirt wouldn't wiggle. Creepy, crawly things could not exist at this altitude. ...

In the dim past, hundreds of years earlier, the Indians had cultivated potatoes on these terraces, and quinua, the heavily-seeded stalk that could grow well above the timberline and tolerate frost and drought and turned every color of the rainbow as it ripened. The Incas used the quinua as cereal for making flour and thickening soups. This along with sara (corn), and Chuno (dehydrated potatoes) had fed the Inca people and their armies.
Towards the end of the book, Rosenberger gives us his usual highly-detailed descriptions of hand-to-hand combat:
As fast and deadly as Mad Mike was Ali Bassam Safadi, who had killed three MIRs with lightening-fast Nukite, Shuto and other hand strikes, not to mention a variety of front or rear spin, thrust, and snap kicks. Safadi gave Arnaldo Lacosti a Kakato Geri heel kick that sent the Fracción Roja yokel crashing back into Bull Wohlwebber who instantly snapped Lacosti's neck with a Commando Break—left palm heel to the chin, a right palm heel to the right side of the head and a quick, powerful twist. Snap! Crackle! Pop! That's all there was to it. The dead Lacosti hadn't even decorated the ground with his dirty corpse when Wohlwebber used a Sokuto Geri sword-foot-kick aimed at a fat, ugly slob who had a bandanna tied around his black greasy hair. Fat Boy jumped back. Wohlwebber's kick missed. But Fat Boy's backward movement put him within striking range of the deadly knife expert, José Jesus Santino who had a Colt AR-15 bayonet in each hand and had just sliced the left side of a terrorist's neck and was pulling back on the bloody blade. Twice as fast as a striking cobra irritated during the mating season, Santino used the left bayonet to stab Fat Boy in the right armpit while he used the left AR-15 to stab the joker in the back of the neck, the sharp blade going all the way through and tickling the top of Fat Boy's Adam's apple. When Santino stopped pushing on the bayonet, three inches of the steel was sticking out the front of the man's thick throat, the blade dripping blood. Santino lowered his arm as the dumb-bell fell and let the weight of the corpse slide the 200 pounds of dead meat from the blade. . A fine kill.

Not far from Santino, "Iron Glove" Hyde was a whirlwind of pure destruction, although he was not wearing on his right hand the Middle Ages gauntlet, made of chain mail over leather, for which he was famous. Instead he was swinging not only an octagon rosewood Nunchaku, but also using a thirty-six inch long Japanese Manrikigusari chain to attack, block, defend, throw, lock, and disarm. Whenever one of the "bolts" made contact, an enemy howled in pain and bones were broken. Or a man died instantly, such as Captain Paul Radam Chorfniff, one of the Soviet GRU advisers. One of the end bolts slammed into his left temple and smashed through the temporal bones as though they were toilet paper. The pig farmer blinked his eyes and dropped dead.
Rosenberger also mentions that Quinlan was "a man few others could match in hand-to-hand combat. Camellion was one of those few—but only because of his iron-clad agreement with the Cosmic Lord of Death".

At the very end of the book, his mission completed, Camellion acts drunk and stumbles around, falling onto two military officials (who he had vowed to kill earlier in the book). Several days later, the two men die within hours of each other, apparently from heart attacks. CIA chief Cortland Grojean demands that Camellion tell him what really happened, but the Death Merchant feigns innocence and says nothing. Only Rosenberger's lengthy footnote clues us in:
The Death Merchant used DIM-MAK—Chinese-sometimes called "The Poison Hand of Death" or the delayed death touch. On the human body there are 308 nerve points, which will adversely affect the body; 72 of these points are considered extremely harmful, comprising what are known as the "running nerves"—not that they go anywhere, but they are the time-related ones. Typically, they are associated with a major nerve of the peripheral nervous system or of a blood vessel. Attacking the DIM-MAK points causes a "damning" of the Ch'I energy, and there are various methods of attacking the points.

When the Death Merchant fell against Barella and Prado, used the Bye-Mak technique—and it takes an expert. This method is the pinching off of a vessel that results in a blocked blood flow and blod clots, which, in time, travel to the most unfortunate places—for the victim.

The Death Merchant used the Bye-Mak method because Barella and Prado were heavy eaters of meat and lots of food high in cholesterol. Knowing also that the victim is one of those super-ordered people who goes to bed and rises on schedule also helps: his meridian clock-time will be "dead-on."

A Bye-Mak strike at the proper time, on a vessel near the Fee Ti Hsueh point will break off a chunk of cholesterol, which lines the veins, and this piece will lodge in the heart days or weeks later depending on how the Bye-Mak strike is delivered. In later books, we will inform the reader how this deadly strike is accomplished.
So stay tuned!

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Death Merchant #50: The Hellbomb Theft

Only three days after the end of his last assignment in South Yemen, detailed in Night Of The Peacock, Richard Camellion is in Frankfort, West Germany, tracking members of the terrorist organization, the Brotherhood.

It turns out the previous mission was only half-completed. Before Colonel al Bin Shaabi was killed by the Death Merchant, he had extensive conversations with Muammar Kaddafi, the "crackpot dictator of Libya". Kaddafi is still expecting delivery of two ADMs (Atomic Demolition Munitions or "Little A's", as the CIA calls them). It's up to the DM (working under the name Norlyn Kester) to find the suitcase bombs before it is too late.

After an explosion at Ramstein Air Force Base, 20 men are found dead and 2 ADMs were stolen. That afternoon, a KGB agent walks into the US embassy in Bonn with information on the two stolen mini-nukes. The bombs have been stolen by a "world-wide criminal syndicate" known as the Brotherhood and the KGB has proof that Kaddafi has paid the Brotherhood $135 million to steal and deliver the ADMs to him. Kaddafi plans to have the bombs smuggled into Tel Aviv and detonated. The Russians end up working with the US to find the bombs and keep them out of Kaddafi's hands.

The Hellbomb Theft includes raids on a furniture factory, a farmhouse, an abandoned brewery, and a castle. After Camellion and his commando crew gain access to the brewery by crawling through an abandoned sewer pipe (they "felt that they were moving within the giant bowel of some alien animal"), author Joseph Rosenberger takes time out to explain how beer is made. And in the big fight at the castle, even after everyone's ammo is exhausted and the men are fighting only with their hands or using empty weapons as blunt instruments, Rosenberger fills 11 pages with intensely-described action.

And in what I think is a first in the Death Merchant series, Camellion is actual shot and wounded during the final moments of the raid. He passes out, only to awaken a few days later in a hospital bed. He is told he nearly bled to death. His next mission, in Peru, will have to wait approximately six weeks until he recovers.

As is usually the case with Rosenberger, it is the non-plot stuff that is most entertaining.

With the Russians and Americans working together, there are plenty of opportunities for political discussions that are little more than pointing out the hypocrisies and bad deeds of each nation (and who supports terrorism more). There is also a two-page discussion about Israel's Prime Minister Menachem Begin. Just because.

In discussing the search mission of the Germans and the fact that the bombs are likely still hidden in West Germany, Camellion notes that the terrorists would not have had time to drive the bombs out of the country:
"[T]hey would have had to drive very slowly through the six villages or else risk arousing suspicion. German traffic police don't take kindly to speeding."

Albert Wittenborn interrupted, saying heartily, "You can say that again, Kester. A driver caught drunk behind a wheel loses his license for one year, even if it's his first offense. It's a good law."

"We should have such a law in the States," tacked on Arnie Stipe, shifting about in his chair. "We don't because the good liberals won't permit such inhuman treatment of drunken trash."
Relaxing on a flight to Munich, Camellion muses about BND agent Paul Richelman and his belief "that war is just around the corner".
Richelman was basing his belief on the predictions of Nostradamus, the sixteenth century French physician and astrologist who had correctly predicted, among other things, the rise of Napoleon in the early 1800s, the coming to power of militaristic leaders in Italy, Germany, and Spain - Mussolini, Hitler, and Franco - the two world wars and World War III.

If one was to believe Nostradamus, World War III would break out before 1986, a world-wide conflict in the U.S., England, and France, and religious persecution in Poland. West Germany, the most powerful nation in Europe, would be invaded by a Soviet-Arab army that would land on the Mediterranean coasts of Italy and France. The war would last three years and seven months. Western Europe would be occupied by the Soviet Red Army for two years. Paris and Rome would be completely destroyed.

The Soviet Union would eventually lose, suffering a series of serious defeats at the hands of the Americans. One such defeat would be in Italy, another one somewhere in the Alps. The final Soviet defeat would take place in Armenia, now a part of the Soviet Union and of Turkey.

The Death Merchant knew that world trends and indicators now had a striking similarity with those in 1937, 1938, and 1939. His own research indicated that ...

Richelman had said to Camellion, "Nineteen eighty-two will be the beginning of riots and civil disorder in the United States. The danger of the United States begin involved in a war is very great in 1983. You see, Herr Kester, Mars is forming a conjunction with its midheavens." As an astrologer, Richelman had made a chart for Washington, D.C., and explained that, since the planet Mars is related to military activity, the implications that the United States would be involved in a world war - "Or at least a major conflict!" - were extremely apparent.

Frightening? Not to the Death Merchant, who knew that it was ignorance and a lack of knowledge of man's true role and place in the Universe that generated fear in society, especially fear of the unknown.

Camellion smiled softly to himself. What would the "man-on-the-street" think if the United States government announced that for the past seventeen years the government had known that an intelligence from outside our own "Milky Way" galaxy had been "observing" Earth for thousands of years and, over the years, had made contact with certain individuals on this planet. [A footnote refers readers to two Death Merchant books: The Shambhala Strike (#30) and The Bermuda Triangle Action (#37) as proof!] ...

Men in general are not meant to know certain things, certain hidden knowledge that, if known to the world's people, would destroy them.

Man is a sleeping puppet playing at ceremonial charades called religion!

The Death Merchant knew it. Paul Richelman knew it. Both knew that the creature called Man is a bridge between two worlds, the earthly and the supersensitive, between the "real" and the "unreal".
Rosenberger continues for another two pages, culminating in an anti-religion rant. Camellion agrees with Richelman that "America is now in danger from crackpots who believe they are doing the 'will of God'":
The Moral Majority - in reality a minority of self-righteous loudmouths - were shredding the spiritual fabric of American society by their constant attack on diversity of opinion, threatening through political pressure and public denunciation anyone who might dare disagree with their Hitler-like authoritarian positions. Bible-pounding boobs who peddle coercion, who go about pressing for "truths" and "doctrines" that are dangerous fairy tales of nonsense. The same idiots who maintain that "God doesn't hear the prayers of Jews!" Uneducated, steeped-in-stupidity polyester "mystics" who have brought about a resurrection of bigotry that is manifesting itself in racism and discriminatory postures!
Later, Camellion and a German named Bruno Zeitenhausen discuss "law enforcement efforts" in the United States. It turns out that (coincidentally!) Zeitenhausen holds the exact same opinions as most of the DM series' characters: he blames minorities for everything bad.
"It is not the fault of your American policemen," Zeitenhausen had said. "It is the fault of your politicians who kiss the arsch of the so called minorities, the blacks and the browns who have already wrecked your nation with violence. It will become worse, with riots in all your cities. It will happen because you Americans do not know how to control the savages in your midst. There is nothing more destructive to any society that the unequal philosophy of 'equal rights,' which conveniently ignores equal responsibility. American, your nation has already been invaded. The 'Hun' is already in your midst."
Camellion agrees: "Liberals always condemn violently anyone who disagrees with their bigoted doctrines."

With Rosenberger needing to describe every gun being used and the caliber of everyone's ammunition - he did this much less in the earlier books, so I assume this was the trend in the industry - the action scenes get a bit clogged:
The Death Merchant jumped back in time. A wave of 5.56 x 45mm (or .223 Remington) and 7.62mm x 25 Tokarev projectiles flooded over the two doors and turned the thick glass into a million pieces of sharp fragments. ...

Weapons consisted of a Heckler & Koch MP 5K sub-machine gun ... and a P-38 Walther autopistol, with five spare magazines. ... [T]he German agents carried autoloaders of various makes, all Walthers, P9Ss, PSPs and VP70Zs. Conversely, the Company men carries pistols of non-German manufacture. Arnold Stipe was armed with two 9mm Berettas. Wittleborn carried two 9mm Colt Commanders, Cutler two Safari Arms .45 Enforcers in the side pockets of his fatigues. ... The Death Merchant carried not only a MP 5K SMG ... but a .44 "Backpacker" Auto Mag in a belt holster and two .45 MatchMakers ... He also carried a hand-held Model AM-180 short-barrelled .22 SMG.
Etc.:

The night "was as black as the inside of a barrel buried in concrete".

The barn was "deserted - as empty as the head of a Russian peasant".

Jablonsky: "a Czech so fat he must have left stretch marks on any vehicle he entered".

"Kurk Gnagi, who had a face like a scrambled egg ..."

"Ridiculous! That pig farmer from Mother Russia is better dressed than any of us. How does a peasant from the land of the red oink-oink rate a suit from an exclusive men's shop in London's Savile Row?"

"The sows in the barnyard of the Soviet Union tend to be as lumpy (in the wrong places) as a flophouse mattress."

"Our consciousness is only a value that permits but a few drops of awareness to trickle through, just as much as is necessary for us to stay alive on this particular little dot of a planet - without our going stark raving mad!"

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Death Merchant #49: Night Of The Peacock

The Death Merchant is in South Yemen, trying to stop Colonel Qahtan al Bin Shaabi (of the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen) from collaborating with various Russian officials on a possible invasion and annexation of North Yemen. Richard Camellion, who claims to abhor racism of any type, is tasked to battle what he refers to as terrorist "sand crabs" in the Middle East.

Night of the Peacock opens with Camellion sneaking up on Rabadh Yahya Tabriz's desert camp. The goal is to assassinate Tabriz, the leader of the Dasni (or Yezidis), who is expected to offer military support to Shaabi. Shaabi needs the Dasni rebels on his side when he attacks North Yemen, and the Soviets need Shaabi and his Marxist goons in an ultimate move against Saudi Arabia. Author Joseph Rosenberger helpfully offers a ton of background information on Yemeni history, outlining the succession of governments, and various coups and actions.

Camellion (as a representative of the CIA) is working with members of Sons of the Falcon, an underground organization in South Yemen, and one that is virulent anti-Shaabi. However, although Camellion and his men kill a few Dasni guards, they are unable to get Tabriz. So they hot-foot it away from the village of Danikil and fly back to Riyadh to discuss their next moves.

Soon, Camellion and eight other men (and 29 camels) are walking across the desert, disguised as Bedouins. They are making their way, over the course of about 10 days, from Al-Lu-baylah (a small oasis on the edge of Rub' al Khali) to the city of Aden. Rosenberger devotes several chapters to the monotonous journey of crossing the "Empty Quarter". They meet other groups of travellers and for awhile you think some violence might break out, but nothing happens.

One thing Rosenberger does in all of these books is provide in-depth descriptions of the cities, the citizens and their customs. They often read like encyclopedia entries - he apparently relied heavily on back issues of National Geographic - and have little-to-nothing to do with the plot, but they do show his high level of research, something that was much harder to do in the early 1980s:
The Death Merchant and his small band, now mingling with a stream of traffic pouring into the city - people of the various Arab tribes riding camels, horses, donkeys; or leading packed camels, horses or donkeys - saw their first Yemeni houses on the northeast side of the city, fortresslike houses built of multicolored stone or brightly painted adobe mud brick, some three stories high. Some houses had tiny windows and crenelated roofs, others layered rows of stone slate jutting out to protect the walls against the seasonal rains.

This was the old spice route and this river of traffic would enter the Crater, the old commercial quarter of Aden. There were three other quarters - at-Tawāhī, the business section, Ma'alah, the native harbor area, and at-Wanani, a small residential section for the wealthy and the influential. ...

There were hundreds of travelers spread out along the stone-paved route, men and women from the various Middle East and African tribes - not all of them Semites as were the Arabs. There were the Hamitic Beja from the northern Sudan, with their copper-red to deep-brown skin; the tall Beraber with their colorful clothes and pretty unveiled women, the arms of the females loaded down with copper and brass bracelets; people of the Zeer, Yafelman, Zemmun and other tribes who spoke the Berber language. And many, many Arabs; the Djerba, the Filala, the kabyle, the Shammar, etc.
In Aden, they meet with Nuri Boustani and his group, Ibn'u Alib Saqr. After learning from Boustani that Shaabi will be departing from the Aden airport in two days, Camellion formulates a plan of attack at the airport. The men with him are not too keen on the idea: "Today we are fire. Tomorrow, we will be ashes."

Nevertheless, the group approaches the airport at night, kills a couple of guards patrolling the perimeters, and steals their uniforms. While wearing the uniforms, Camellion and Colonel bin Maktum are able to commandeer an armoured car, crash a hole in the protective fence and let the rest of the group through. In a repeat of the action described in at least one previous DM book, they drive two armoured cars around the airport, blasting the holy hell out of everything and everyone. With the airport in ruins - Shaabi survives, hiding in one of the hangars - they head towards a Soviet transport plane, in which Camellion aims to have everyone escape.

The action of Camellion flying the plane from takeoff to an extremely bumpy landing in the mountains is pretty suspenseful, even though the reader knows there is absolutely no way that Camellion won't land it safely. (Because this is Rosenberger, Camellion also has random thoughts flitting through his head during the flight, most notably how crime rates have risen in California because of the abolition of the death penalty.) The men meet up with Yadollah I'Zoir, who leads them through the mountains to meet Ali Sa'galli, the head of the Sons of the Falcon. Camellion and Sa'galli have a multi-page conversation about Soviet expansionism, the stupidity of the U.S. government, and the insanity of gun control. The Death Merchant also rants about having to pay five-cent deposits on beer and soda bottles! ("Instead of cracking down on people who litter, they force nonlitterers to pay deposits on beverage bottles to ensure their return.")

Later, the Death Merchant lays out the particulars of Operation Camelback, which will include Sa'galli's fighters, as well as 200 professional mercenaries - Mad Mike Quinlan and his Thunderbolt Unit: Omega. They will be transported to Aden to attack the heart of the capital: the Government House. But Camellion soon receives a message that Shaabi knows their location (his planes have been flying overhead) and is meeting with Tabriz, formulating a plan to attack with a force of 600 men. The Aden attack is aborted and the Death Merchant and Quinlan's and Sa'galli's fighters will immediately attack Tabriz's main camp instead.

Fourteen helicopters transport the men to the site of the attack. First, five of the copters fire tens of thousands of rounds into the village of Danikil. The five copters can fire a total of 36,000 rounds per minute and they lay waste to nearly everyone in the village. All of the copters land and the armed men jump out, ready to finish the attack. Shaabi, his assistant, and the three Russians have taken cover in the Temple of Melek Taus. The fighters go house to house in their slaughter and, eventually, converge on the temple. Camellion blows open the wooden doors with several blocks of RDX explosives and they charge inside. A fierce shootout ensues, with plenty of martial arts fighting. Naturally, the evil doers are killed.

Rosenberger describes the action in exquisite detail, while also telling us the name of every fighter and exactly what type of firearm and ammunition he is using:
Surprise! The atsonished [sic] Dasni were promptly cut to pieces by Manfred "Scarface" Rohde who started raking the area with a Heckler & Koch GMBH G3A4 automatic rifle. With the battered-faced West German, leaning around the broken and jagged wall stones at the south end of the rip in the east wall, were Rashid al-Khaima, firing an Igram [sic] sub-gun, and Carlos Luis Ceron, an Omega merc from Argentina, who was firing short, deadly bursts of 9mm Parabellum slugs from a Belgian Mitraillette Vigneron M2 chatter box; and while the three men saturated the area with streams of high velocity death, other Omega kill experts poured through the ugly gap and stormed forward, running in a crooked pattern. With them came the Death Merchant, ducking and darting, dodging and weaving, an AMP Alaskan in each hand. A 5.45mm AKS projectile spub by his head, only three centimeters from his left temple. Half an eyeblink later, a 9mm Vitmorkin machine pistol slug, fired by Major Vasili Tarasov, almost struck his wrist as his right arm was raised. Instead of hitting flesh and bone and almost tearing off his hand, the flatnosed slug struck the edge of his Seiko, shattered the wristwatch and sent the blown-apart mechanism to the four hot winds.
Etc.:

Camellion's .44 projectile bored into the left side of the Arab's chest and blew open a hole in his body large enough to permit the passage of ping-pong balls.

As happy as a drunken hillbilly with a credit card, Rashid al-Khaima began firing ...

"Well, kiss my transmission!" (this strange expression is actually used twice)

Death Merchant: "I don't want your brain to rush to your head!"

Cooked human flesh has the aroma of a good grade of pork.

Camellion prepared the explosives "all the while wishing he could hear Liszt's Les Preludes - perfect music to kill by".

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Death Merchant #48: The Psionics War

I miss the goofiness of the earlier Death Merchant books. Joseph Rosenberger's later volumes, while following the same formula, are more serious. They lack the lightness and occasional silliness of, say, the first 20-25 books. But there is still enough to enjoy - and usually enough detailed violence - to keep going.

The Psionics War is a bit light on the carnage, however. Richard Camellion engages in only a couple of small skirmishes before the big finale. For most of this book, we follow the Death Merchant as he plans what he will do later in the book. Chapter after chapter of planning ...

Dr. Wayne Davis is a psionics expert whose research into mind control is of great interest to the U.S. military as a valuable new military weapon. Naturally, his knowledge is also desired by the KGB/Soviet Union. With Davis's Alpha One machine, an operator can focus in on someone miles away and kill him simply by thought. While the U.S. is ahead of the Russians in many aspects of the Cold War, psionics is not one of them. Davis's unit could give them the upperhand if he is willing to share his secrets. The U.S. appeals to his hatred of communism and he agrees. However, the doctor and his assistant (and two CIA men travelling with him) never show up to meet the Death Merchant at Kennedy Airport. Camellion suspects they were somehow kidnapped by the KGB, and it's up to him to find Dr. Davis.

While Camellion walks to his car in the airport parking garage, someone takes a shot at him. He returns fire and ends up killing three men and one woman. Camellion discovers that one of the shooters, a hood named Manny Rich, kept a veterinarian's receipt tucked into a hidden part of his wallet. Camellion plays psychologist and says that Rich kept the receipt safe because it represented his dog, and because he loved his dog, having the receipt represented "psychological comfort".

Camellion and CIA man Merle Duvane talk to the vet who notes that Rich made a strange request. After his dog's operation, he wanted the dog delivered to a different address, to an apartment building in Yonkers. Camellion and a few others go to this building (which Rosenberger calls both the Ark and the Arms at various points) and find KGB agents hustling Arnold Quincy (a friend of Rich's) through the lobby. During and after a brief shootout, Camellion has to kill nine innocent bystanders so there are no witnesses to their presence in the building and nearby alley. (Four of the dead are "black dudes" caught trying to strip their van. One remarks: "Bet they done kidnap that por man they is carryin." Camellion pronounces: "They were trash that interfered. The penalty for that is always death.")

They take Quincy and one of the unconscious Russians to a series of safe houses, including Amityville, New York. They pump the Russian for information, but he isn't cooperating. Camellion, remembering his aversion to rats when chained in the basement of one of the safe houses, devises a coffin-like structure into which the Russian is lain and several rats are let loose on his chest. He freaks out and talks. The Russians plan to take Dr. Davis and his assistant to a farm in Patten, Maine, then to St. John's, Newfoundland, on their way to a weather station on Resolution Island. There is a team of Canadian researchers at that station, but the Russians plan to overpower them.

The Russians plan to conduct an experiment with their own weapon, something called an L-Wave Disrupter, which will cause blackouts in the Canadian capital of Ottawa and also increase murder and suicide rates in the city by means of mind control. They will then take Davis back to Russia.

Camellion and a team of American and Canadian commandos attack a fish oil refinery in St. John's, where Davis was apparently being held. (The Death Merchant is not happy about the set-up: "A white blind honkey in South Chicago would have a better chance!") Nevertheless, they wipe out a lot of the Soviet enemy, and one of the wounded reveals the name of the vessel on which Davis is being transported. After considering all the angles, the Death Merchant decides that they must wait until the Russians take control of the weather station before moving in and grabbing Davis, as well as the Russians' L-Wave Disrupter.

After this decision is made, Rosenberger uses the next several chapters setting the stage. At length. What equipment will Camellion need, how will the various items function, in what order are their tasks going to be completed, what might the Soviets do, and what would each possibility mean, etc., etc. There is plenty of time for this as the men sail to the north. (I have read complaints about Rosenberger's over reliance on planning, and I finally see to what those readers must have been referring.)

The Death Merchant and his team get to Resolution Island at the perfect time - after some of the Russians have taken control of the weather station but before another group has come ashore with four scientists and the L-Wave Disrupter. On the island is "a landscape such as Milton or Dante might have imagined ... inorganic, desolate, mysterious". The Americans and Canadians hide among the rocks and when the Russians come walking along to the station, they open fire. Camellion's group also engages in a healthy amount of hand-to-hand combat. The second group storms the weather station and is able to surprise the Russians so completely that they are overwhelmed.

Having won the battle on the island, Camellion et al. notice that the Soviet submarine is moving straight towards the shore and soon begins shooting 75mm shells at the station building. The men get down to the shoreline, but realize that if they try to travel back to their ship, the submarine will likely target them. At the last minute, a wounded Dr. Davis speaks up - and offers his secret knowledge in order to destroy the submarine. It's pretty nutty resolution. Davis draws an outline of a submarine on a piece of paper and writes the name of the sub (Eugene Origen) on it. Then he asks Camellion to fire a bullet through the crude drawing of the sub. Davis then places the paper with the hole in it in the "well" of the L-Wave Disrupter and begins turning a few knobs. (Rosenberger spends two pages explaining the science behind all of this.) And sure enough, there is soon an explosion from out in the harbour - the submarine has exploded! As one of the men says, psionics "is the weapon of the future, and the future is now!"

The end.

Etc:

While including a bunch of information on government mind control experiments and other parapsychological research (telepathy, precognition, telekinesis, out-of-body experiences, remote viewing), Rosenberger mentions, in a footnote on page 8, that while working as a "Security Officer", he "was forced to kill three men" and he had an out-of-body experience afterwards. He gives no other details.

"People need religion," [Camellion] said. "It gives the little morons the means by which they can halfway triumph over big bad death. The average man fears death because he fears the loss of human identity and integrity in a transient stream of atoms. He doesn't know it but his anxiety over so-called 'death' results from nothing more than the frustration of not being able to have life without death, that is, of not being able to solve a nonsensical problem. ... But the Cosmic Lord of Death gets them all in the end..."

While being held by the Russians, Dr. Davis refers to the Soviet Union as "that big pigpen" - an odd insult, yet similar to Camellion's often-used slur "pig farmers".

"Sweating more than a Black Muslim who had been caught spying at a KKK rally, Brown stopped, threw up his arms and tried to twist his gorillalike face into a friendly grin."

"Like people, neighborhoods change. While Tenth Avenue [in Yonkers, New York] was not exactly a slum area, the neighborhood was not of a type where one found the best people. ... Minority groups had moved into the area."

"Merle Duvane was busier than a one-toothed mouse in a roomful of cheddar."

"You might as well try to convince me that a doughnut is a pregnant Cheerio."

"He looked as oily as a corporate head and as scared as an Arab at a Barmitzvah!"

"I understand," Moan said, "sounding as cranky as an old maid who had discovered a man wasn't under her bed."

The Death Merchant calls out someone for making a racist remark, saying the speaker's mind is obviously not "cluttered up with facts and knowledge". However, after receiving a coded message about his next mission, Camellion muses, "I don't like the desert and I like sand crabs and their Moslem crackpotism even less."

During the final fight, a Russian yells, "Idyi zho ssat ya natyb yahachoo!" Rosenberger footnotes this (presumably nonsense) phrase: "Too vulgar to be stated in English."

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Stephen King: Cell (2006)

At 3:00 PM on a sunny October afternoon in Boston, graphic novelist Clay Riddell witnesses the beginning of the end of the world. As he later learns, an electronic pulse has been sent out over all cell phone lines, turning anyone who is using a phone into a violent, mindless zombie; people who later use cell phones - such as in response to the ensuing carnage - are also affected.

Stephen King exercises his anti-technology muscles in Cell, a 350-page book that would have worked much better for me as a novella. The main plot concerns Riddell travelling on foot to his home in Maine, hoping to learn the fate of his 12-year-old son Johnny.

Soon after the Pulse (as it is called among the group of survivors we follow), Clay meets up with a middle-aged man named Tom McCourt. At first, they wonder if this is another terrorist attack. Hearing huge explosions coming from the direction of Logan Airport, Tom cries, "The bastards are doing it by plane again." King's description of the air full of "fine dark ash" from numerous fires evokes downtown Manhattan on 9/11. The diaspora after Hurricane Katrina is also mentioned later in the novel.

A little while later, the two men are joined by a teenaged girl named Alice Maxwell. The three self-described refugees head out of Boston on foot to Tom's house in the suburb of Malden - and then head further north from there, as Clay is obsessed with getting back to his house near Kent Pond in Maine.

The theory in Cell is that the Pulse has wiped out the minds of its victims, like a virus wiping out a computer's hard drive. However, the "phone-crazies" seem to evolve quickly and are soon acting in concert and roaming around in packs. The Pulse has removed the thin veneer of civilization from many citizens and they have reverted back to a more primordial state. A university professor tells Riddell and the others that
man has come to dominate the plant thanks to two essential traits. One is intelligence. The other has been the absolute willingness to kill anyone and anything that gets in his way. Mankind's intelligence finally trumped mankind's killer instinct, and reason came to rule over mankind's maddest impulses. ... [M]ost of us had sublimated the worst in us until the Pulse came along and stripped away everything but that red core.
Besides the thinness of the plot and some rehashed ideas from The Stand (characters communicating through dreams, being drawn to something or a force they have been dreaming about), King has a number of annoying tics that ruined what little pleasure I took from the book. He has the habit of repeating facts, events, and descriptions of people throughout the narrative, as though he doesn't trust his readers to remember what has happened or who a character is. This happens dozens and dozens of times in Cell, and this one example will suffice as an illustration: On page 126, "a man with a pair of flashlights rigged to a kind of harness [on his head]" introduces himself as "Mr. Roscoe Handt of Methuen". A mere three pages later, on page 129, King writes: "... and by four o'clock they were nearing Methuen, hometown of Mr. Roscoe Handt, he of the stereo flashlights".

King also writes a lot of sentences along the lines of "Clay didn't know why he thought that, but he did." In addition, the characters spitball theories about the "phone-crazies" and sort of agree on one possibility. That is then used for the rest of the book as a proven fact and the crazies act accordingly. I see this as a sly trick to push the plot forward among a group cut off from everyone else, but it isn't very well hidden - and it happens a lot in Cell.

Online reviews of the book were mixed. Blog Critics stated that "Cell represents a refreshing, grizzly, creepy and often powerful exploration of the nature of humanity ... [T]he brilliance of Cell is how King manages to mix exploration of humanity with a powerful and engaging apocalyptic story." Pop Matters published a glowing rave: King "creates a kind of sickening dread that only gets deeper as the novel continues. ... [T]he overwhelming feeling of helplessness, fatalism and inevitability makes Cell one of King’s most potent page-turners."

Others faulted King for "flat characters and flatter dialogue". Although King is usually quite good at creating full characters, I agree with this last assessment.

Next: Lisey's Story.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Memorial Day: "Please Don't Thank Me For My Service"

Camillo Mac Bica:
[P]lease do not thank me for "my service" as a United States Marine. I make this request because my service, as you refer to it, was basically, either to train to become a killer or to actually kill people and blow shit up.

Now, that is not something for which a person should be proud nor thanked. In fact, it is regrettable, and for me a source of guilt and shame, something I will have to live with for the rest of my life, as the past cannot ever be undone. So, when you thank me for my service, it disturbs me ... a lot. ...

Where is the honor, glory and nobility in killing and dying for greed, incompetence, and paranoia? ...

[I]f you really insist on thanking me for something, do not thank me for the eight years I spent as a Marine, but for the 45 or so years following my discharge from the military that I have spent as an activist fighting for human rights and social justice and to end the insanity of war. ... [I]f you truly want to demonstrate your good character, patriotism, and support for the troops and veterans, rather than merely mouth meaningless expressions of gratitude for something you don't truly understand or care much about, do something meaningful and real. Do what is truly in the interest of this nation and of those victimized by war.

Make some demands.

Demand, for example, an immediate end to the corporate takeover of our "democracy" and to the undue influence of the military-industrial-Congressional complex. Demand sanity in Pentagon spending and a reallocation of finite resources to people-focused programs such as health care, education and jobs rather than to killing and destruction. Demand an immediate end to wars for corporate profit, greed, power and hegemony. Demand that we adhere to the Constitution and to international law. Demand accountability for those who make war easily and care more for wealth, profit and power than for national interest or for the welfare of their fellow human beings. And finally, demand the troops be brought home now, and that they be adequately treated and cared for when they return.
tazman69er:
There are numerous points I would like to make in this proclamation, yet, if you only take away one thing, please, don't ever thank me for my "service." For when you thank me for my service, you are thanking me for being a dupe, an unconscious human being, engaged in the enterprise of state sanctioned murder to an "other, over there." ...

When you thank me for my service, you are unconsciously re-affirming your belief that somehow we are fighting "them, over there" so we "don't have to fight them here." You are telling me, "thank you for putting on a state sanctioned uniform costume and murdering 'them' for me, while I look away from the awfulness of state sanctioned murder." ...

My service was nothing other than committing state sanctioned murder on behalf of a bunch of old (mostly white) guys and gals with their own agendas, without regard for humanity. I don't want to be thanked for that. ...

Every time someone thanks me for my "service," it only brings back all of the emotion, guilt and shame for having been duped into the enterprise of war in the first place.
Michael Krieger:
[W]henever I find myself in the midst of a large public gathering (which fortunately isn't that often), and the token veteran or two is called out in front of the masses to "honor" I immediately begin to cringe as a result of a massive internal conflict. On the one hand, I recognize that the veteran(s) being honored is most likely a decent human being. Either poor or extraordinarily brainwashed, the man or woman paraded in front of the crowd is nothing more than a pawn. ...

On the other hand, the entire spectacle makes me sick. I refuse to participate in the superficial charade for many reasons, but the primary one is that I don't want to play any part in the crowd's insatiable imbecility. It's the stupidity and ignorance of the masses that the corporate-state preys upon, and that's precisely what's on full display at these tired and phony imperialist celebrations.
Phil Rockstroh:
Rather than continue to memorialize it, let's bury a reeking heap of noxious and obnoxious mythos: US soldiers did not and do not kill and die defending freedom. The soldiers of militarist empires are not sent to war for any noble purpose. They are trained killers and their mission is conquest in the name of power and for the purpose of plunder. And that is the reason that it is imperative for the beneficiaries of said power and plunder to make sacred the obscenities that the soldiers of empire perpetrate.

This is the task of the hagiographers of war: To make noble and heroic mass murder; to banish any lingering trace of the stench of death. All voices of doubt must be shamed and silenced -- for the lie is fragile.

If the mortifying truth was known then fielding new recruits would prove a daunting task. The empire would be hobbled. Empire's patrician class would have to seek honest work. Sounds like a plan to me.

Memorial day is a marketing roll out. If you desire to make meaningful the deaths of those lost to wars then cease believing the lies of those who grow wealthy from the hideous business of waging it.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Death Merchant #47: Operation Skyhook

After pretty much ignoring the entire plot of Blood Bath, and focusing my attention instead on the various characters' political comments, I'm doing something different with Operation Skyhook. I'll summarize each chapter as I go along.

Back cover: "Out Of Orbit". A test version of a Russian satellite "armed with lasers" crash-lands in Indonesia and the Death Merchant - "the slickest, cruelest saboteur in the business" - must race the KGB (and the Indonesians) to nab the dangerous oktok-1.

Chapter 1: After Richard "Death Merchant" Camellion meets with CIA agent Forrest Dasher at a warehouse a few miles outside of Jakarta, they are ambushed coming out of the building. Dasher is killed; Camellion ducks back inside. He eventually kills two three-man teams of Russians and makes his escape back to the city. He thinks about the mission. (It turns out that the name of the satellite is misspelled on the back cover! It's actually Votok-1.) The US managed to override the satellite's electrical instructions and it parachuted to Earth, landing in the mountains of Indonesia. It is now apparently hidden somewhere near Jakarta. The US must possess the inner workings of the satellite at all costs, as it trails the Russians in the space weapons race.

Chapter 2: Colonel Andrew Uzhgorod heads a meeting the following morning at the Soviet Embassy in Jakarta. The Russians debate the encounter at the warehouse and offer all sort of exposition about how they tracked Dasher to the meeting. They also have an informer in the town who saw soldiers, technicians, and other Indonesians dismantling Votok. One of the Russians suspects that the lone agent who wiped out the six would-be assassins was the Cempt Tobtocpam (the Death Merchant).

Chapter 3: More discussion as Camellion (using the name James George Valdorian, a travel journalist) meets with six other men (CIA, SIS and Western Germany military intelligence) at a Jakarta safe house. They suspect that Uzhgorod is the Chief of Station at the Embassy and Camellion suggests they "blackbag" him at his house. (The men recoil in surprise, calling it a "high-octane hazard" and "suicide"). Camellion also requests a map of the city's power generating plant.

Chapter 4: Camellion and Lester Cole are near Uzhgorod's house. Cole is setting up "Mister Fuck-Up", a Microwave Impedator that renders all audio and motion detectors and alarms, etc. useless. When a diversionary explosion at the power plant plunges Jakarta into darkness, the Death Merchant goes to work, cutting a hole in a chain-link fence, killing a guard with a 2-inch steel needle coated with pure nicotine, picking the front door lock, and going inside the house. But it's a trap! Uzhgorod and four KGB attempt to take him alive, but Camellion, using martial arts and his Browning, manages to escape, but he has to kill Uzhgorod to do so.

Chapter 5: Camellion and Cole are on their way back to the getaway car when the Death Merchant has a strong hunch they might be walking into a trap. They use some listening devices and it turns out there are seven members of the Secret Police Agents hiding near the car. C&C split up and circle around and wipe out the goons with bullets and thermate. Three other cars approach and they eliminate them, as well. They steal one of those cars and drive away.

Chapter 6: Major-General Mashuri and Colonel Thojib Sadli of the Indonesian Army discuss events and suspect the two Americans are CIA agents. Although Valdorian and Cole are unlikely to return to their hotel rooms, there are agents waiting just in case. They suspect the explosion at the power plant was a distraction before the kidnap attempt. They must find the Americans, but also suspect that they might be the Americans' next target.

Chapter 7: On a balmy fall day in Tjikini Market, an elderly Chinese man (Camellion in disguise) walks around. Camellion planted listening devices in his hotel room and as they get close to the building, they can hear conversations from the waiting assassins. ("Screw a crippled crab!") He and Cole go instead to the Brass Palace to meet with Chao Bing Thepkok and his assistant. It's unclear why they go to this place, but Thepkok says the local police (GROB) were in asking about Valdorian and Cole, and they had photographs. GROB agents are returning and the four men make their escape through a tunnel accessed from the back room. Camellion leaves behind some explosives to destroy the building and kill the agents. The tunnel exits in a garage owned by Thepkok. Cole kills Thepkok and his assistant and he and Camellion escape in a Toyota. More planted RDX destroys the garage, killing 67 people who live nearby.

Chapter 8: At Soi-Simokk safe house. Pessimism over not finding Votok. The likelihood of nabbing Kdija or Sadli, who are very well-guarded, is small. Maybe they could grab one of their underlings. Camellion needs information on the men surrounding Kdija and Sadli. (Also a quick narrative diversion to call Indonesia food "slop".)

Chapter 9: The Death Merchant decides to get Captain Kuwloon at his apartment in the Morning Rose apartment complex in the middle of the night. GROB has agents across the hall and in the adjoining room and has planted listening devices throughout Kuwloon's apartment. Camellion and Cole sneak in the back of the building, while three others go in front of the apartment house and kill the desk clerk. "Sleeping peacefully, the numerous residents of the apartment house didn't realize that the Cosmic Lord of Death was about to descend on the Morning Rose ..."

Chapter 10: Up the elevator to the 9th floor. Camellion and Cole break into the apartment and quickly kill the 2 half-asleep GROB agents acting as guards. They head for Kuwloon's bedroom and gather him, his wife, and children in one room. Cole has found listening devices and tells Camellion. Camellion takes his Auto Mags and fires through the walls into the adjoining apartments, killing several men and confusing the others. Cole comes out of the bedroom saying that GROB has hidden Votok "in the temple of Pura Besakih on Bali". It turns out he has also killed the entire family; Camellion is upset because Cole disobeyed orders. The surviving GROB agents from the other apartments attack, but they are stopped by a greenish gas ("diphenycyanoarsine") and shot.

Chapter 11: Alkenazy, the next day, discusses the attack on the apartment. The KGB also has information on Votok, as a female agent slept with Indonesia's Minister of the Interior. Now, with the KGB and CIA knowing the true location of Votok, the race is on! It is thought that both sides will use helicopters to bring troops to the side of the mountain.

Chapter 12: The CIA doesn't want to use any American personnel for this mission, so Camellion calls on Mad Mike Ryan and his Thunderbolt Unit: Omega (who apparently will make future appearances in the series). Nine Boeing-Vertol CH-49 copters head towards Mount Agung. They pick up 12 aircraft to the east on radar - Russian copters! But they decide not to fire on them, choosing to have the battle on Gunung Agung, near Pura Besakih, the fabled Hindu temple.

Chapter 13: Fighter jets start the battle from the air, raining down missiles on the temple and the surrounding area. The Indonesian army - a force of 3,000 - is in the clearing around Pura Besakih, but are undertrained and uncertain about firing their weapons. They are summarily slaughtered by both the US and Soviet fighters jets and by the guns aboard the helicopters.

Chapter 14: The Indonesians believed that only the Americans would be attacking and are stunned when the Russians also appear. After jumping out of their copters on opposite sides of the temple area, both the Americans and Russians begin firing missiles at the closest wall of the temple, as whoever gets inside the temple first will have a great advantage in finding the satellite. Both sides plan to lay down a cover of smoke grenades and make a straight-in charge.

Chapter 15: On the DM's side, they race to the temple and are not fired upon by what remains of the Indonesian force. Tossing in grenades and firing machine guns, both sides pour into the temple at nearly the same time. The US has an advantage as they have specially-rigged crossbows that can carry grenades - which they fire across the Sanctum area to where the Russians are. "Two Black Berets and a Soviet Marine became an assortment of arms, legs, and bloody, twisted entrails."

Chapter 16: Camellion, Cole and six mercenaries are hiding behind a huge statue of Siva when they realizes there may be Indonesians hiding inside. There is: Kdija, Sadli, and three others. The DM tosses in a couple of grenades, blowing them apart. Upon inspecting the damage, he spies a door to an underground room and surmises this is where the satellite is being hidden. He plants explosives - and blows the statue apart. When it comes crashing down, it crushes 74 Russian troops. Then Camellion places five blocks of HBX on the underground crates, set the timers, and make their escape. "Once more World War III had been avoided. There would be peace ... for a time ..."

The climatic battle in Operation Skyhook is pretty weak, with Rosenberger offering very little violent interaction between the two forces. Each side goes about its business without much interactions from the other. And the ending comes too abruptly, as though Rosenberger had reached his page limit and wanted to quickly wrap things up.

Etc.:

"Nothing ever came easy in this business - except dying, and I won't be lucky enough to die by a bullet. I'll probably end up broke and living to be ninety, spending my days counting mule fritters!"

..."blowing a hole in the man the diameter of an averaged-sized orange".

"[Camellion fired] seven rounds, three of which struck Sibramanian, killing him faster than a Jew travelling through Damascus on a pogo stick."

"Killing the sons-of-bitches would be as easy as using a shotgun to shoot a baby whale in a bathtub ..."

"Ever look into those eyes of his? I mean really look? It's like a dozen ice picks playing 'Chop Sticks' on your spine."

Rosenberger continues to flip-flop as far as how much information about the Death Merchant is known to foreign governments. Sometimes Camellion is infamous in the spy underworld; other times, like in Operation Skyhook, his identity is not known to any KGB/GRU agents.

Rosenberger mentions Jeff Cooper, who runs something called The American Pistol Institute in Paulden, Arizona. Cooper is quoted several times during the DM's attempted kidnapping of Uzhgorod. Like the oft-mentioned Lee Jurras, Cooper and his Institute are real. Now called Gunsite Academy, it "offers firearm training to elite military personnel, law enforcement officers and free citizens of the US".