Friday, January 23, 2015

Death Merchant #36: The Cosmic Reality Kill

Is Hannibal Nigel Frimm, the founder and leader of a religious cult called The Church of the Cosmic Reality, responsible for the murder of Everett Padden, a "deprogrammer" of young people who have managed to break away from the cult?

Padden was a close friend of Richard Camellion, so the Death Merchant is going to do everything he can to find out the answer to that question. And it should come as no surprise that the Church of the Cosmic Reality will soon have a rendez-vous with the Cosmic Lord of Death!

The 58-year-old Frimm - referred to as "His Oneness and His Onlyness" - lives in a modest frame house in the New Earth Community, at the church's national headquarters outside of Colorado Springs. His Cosmic Truth magazine has more than one million subscribers, due in part to his unstinting patriotism and the fact that many Americans agree with his views: "Namely, that the morals of the United States were more debased than those of Ancient Rome. Obscene books, motion pictures, and especially televisions were corrupting the minds of millions of American children!" Frimm tells his followers (known as "Frimmies") there is only one country on earth more morally evil that the U.S., and that is the Soviet Union (of course!), diseased by Satan with "the moral cancer of communism".

Camellion cases the Haven of Truth camp in Colorado Springs, one of roughly 70 communities established by Frimm throughout the United States, because it was the specific camp targeted by Padden. Camellion's initial attempt to infiltrate the camp goes awry and he ends up killing 8-10 guards during his escape. For the next three weeks, Camellion chills at the nearby Warm Rest Trailer Park waiting for a CIA contact. But Frimm's goons have somehow located him and they attempt to run him off the road while Camellion is driving his car. Although he has no weapons, the Death Merchant manages to survive the attack (while several of the goons perish). The local cops are highly suspicious of this event, but Camellion insists it must have been a case of mistaken identity.

Eventually, Camellion - relaxing in a "white gabardine jumpsuit" - meets up with CIA man Russell Linders and his girlfriend, an ex-cop named Janet Minnick. (Janet is very attractive, as Rosenberger writes: "Just looking at her was distracting, making [Camellion] think of creating life instead of destroying it." !!) Linders has a motorhome and they agree to take a tour of the New Earth compound, with Camellion in disguise, posing as Linders's elderly father.

Camellion stays behind after the day's final tour, hiding in a bathroom closet. At 3 AM, he goes into action, but is captured and questioned by Frimm himself. Camellion jabbers a lot of nonsense and makes a bunch of strange noises - causing Frimm believe he is possessed by Satan! Locked in a basement cell, the Death Merchant then uses some explosives and blasting caps hidden in the heel of his shoe. He blows the cell door, rushes out and surprises the guard, stealing his gun. Camellion shoots some Frimmies, steals a jeep, blows a hole in the fence, and drives away.

The overall mission seems to be a bust, but the Death Merchant has more more plan up his sleeve. (Janet: "Camellion's plan is so fantastic and ridiculous, it might work!") The plan is certainly ridiculous, as it involves projecting holographs of a UFO and a giant fly in the sky above the compound. This is meant to terrify Frimm and his armed followers. (We are told that Beelzebub is often portrayed as a fly.)

After the theatrics, the helicopters drop the DM and 13 fighters into the compound and the final battle is on. During the raid, Camellion dumps LSD into the compound's water supply, but not much is made of this tactic, though afterwards, we hear that hundreds of Frimmies were hospitalized after suffering mass hallucinations. (I guess this rendered them unable to fight.) In the end, Camellion learns that Padden was indeed killed by the cult and his body destroyed by being thrown into a pond of acid. (However, in the early pages of the book, Padden's body was found by the authorities, which was what got the Death Merchant involved in the first place.)

The Cosmic Realty Kill began as Camellion avenging a murder, then evolved into putting the Frimm cult out of business. Either way, the reasons for the mission are pretty thin. But the subject matter gives Rosenberger the opportunity to have Camellion discourse on the nature of reality, the past, present, and future, and the idea of good and bad being only illusions.
"Standards of moral conduct are all relative, like time and space. The Inquisition, or the systematic pursuit of heresy, was not only 'moral' and 'ethical' in the 15th century, it was considered the 'will of God.'"
When Camellion is hiding in the closet, waiting for the Frimm camp to empty out, he has plenty of time to think about "man's illusion of time":
Nature does not advance in a line - it happens simultaneously, everywhere-at-once. And because nature does not proceed in a line, it does not proceed in time, but has the whole of its existence simultaneously, and that is the nature of Eternity.

Actually, Camellion thought, the whole notion of succession, of one "thing" succeeding another "thing" in time, depends entirely and directly upon our precesses of memory, for it is quite obvious that without memory we would have absolutely no idea of time, either of the past or of the future. Okay. The question, then, is whether memory represents a real phenomenon which we call time, or whether memory creates an illusion of time. Yet in remembering any "past event", we are not really aware of the actual past at all. I remember what I ate in the tent hours ago, but this memory won't let me see the meal, or touch it, or taste it. The truth is, we are never aware of any actual past at all, but rather only dim mental images of the past, and those pictures exist only as present experience.

The same holds for the "future" as well, for any thought of tomorrow is nonetheless a present thought. Inescapably, we know the "past" and "future" only in the present and as part of the present. The only time we are ever aware of is now. Mind is always now. There is really no before and no after for the mind. There is only a now, this instant. The past is literally nothing but a memory and the future nothing but an expectation, with both memory and expectation being a present fact. Think of the past - that is a present act. Anticipate the future - also a present act. All done with the mind - a state of ever-present non-dual awareness wherein the observer is the observed! The mind and the now-moment, the only true reality for man. ...
Although Rosenberger has never shown Camellion smoking dope at his Texas ranch, I have to believe the Death Merchant does inhale.

There is an amusing typo concerning Frimm's prophecy about the end of the world. On page 3, Rosenberger writes: "The end of all Time, of all Matter and Space, would occur the first second of the year 2000 A.D." Nothing wrong with that; many stories envisioned the end of the world coming as the calendar clicked over to 2000. But then, two pages later, Rosenberger pinpoints the time of destruction as "a microsecond after midnight of January 31, 1999"!

"Richard J. Camellion" contributes a two-page introduction to the book in which he defines a cult and explains how they differ from more established religions. "Cults are nothing more than big business, enriching their founders and making saps out of thousands of men and women who should know better, but haven't the guts to stand on their own two feet and fight the battle of life."

Rosenberger's story is only 167 pages. It is followed by an eight-page readers' survey.
Now that you've finished reading this volume in The Death Merchant series, we'd like to find out what you liked, or didn't like, about this story. We'll share your opinions with the author and discuss them as we plan future books. This will result in books that you will find more to your liking. ...
Some of the 40+ questions: Are you glad you bought this book, and did it live up to your expectations? ... What seems to be the major factor that persuades you to buy a certain book? ... What do you do with your paperbacks after you've read them?

Respondents are asked if they have read (or watched on TV) Taylor Caldwell's Captains and the Kings, John Jakes' The Bastard, James Michener's Centennial, or Irwin Shaw's Rich Man, Poor Man.

They are also asked to rate the "sexuality" and "romance" portions of the Death Merchant books - Excellent / Okay / Poor - which is amusing, since, outside of a stray sentence like the one quoted above, those portions don't apply to Camellion at all. ... I also wonder how "A sense of reality" fared in the survey.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Death Merchant #35: Massacre In Rome

The reclusive Maria Angelina Gondozatti is "one of the world's greatest mystics". Since the age of thirteen, she has been able to predict world events with 100% accuracy, and has been "an enigma to the scientific world for over fifty years". While her predictions have never been made public, they have been transmitted to the Vatican, and picked up by the CIA's "many ears".

Now Gondozatti has been kidnapped by the Red Brigades (Brigate Rosse), an Italian terrorist organization demanding its imprisoned and on-trial members be released or she will be executed. The Italian government has a month to make its decision. "The CIA made its decision in fifteen minutes. It called in the world's deadliest master of controlled violence - the Death Merchant." As the back cover of Massacre In Rome explains, Richard Camellion's job is: "Find Maria Gondozatti, and settle the Red Brigade's [sic] hash once and for all - at any cost!"

The big question is why is the CIA's Scientific Division of the CIA so interested in Gondozatti. Is there another, more exciting subplot to this story? Is this an excuse for Joseph Rosenberger to explore his thoughts on the supernatural? No and no. While the reasons the Death Merchant is hired to go to extreme lengths to rescue Gondozatti are not really explained, that's the book's plot. It's a pretty thin idea.

Gondozatti seems to be the real deal. She predicted - in 1924 - the series of events that would lead to World War II and she predicted as far back as 1969 that a man named Carter would become President of the United States. Her latest prognostication? "The end of the world before the end of this century." (Note: MiR was published in August 1979. However, one character mentions that they have only about one decade's amount of time left?!?)

Camellion and his companions work step-by-step until they can rescue her. Camellion first stalks a villa outside of Rome, hoping to grab Vito Camerini, who supposedly has contacts in the Red Brigades and could provide some valuable intel. However, after icing three lookouts outside the villa, Camellion discovers that he's a bit tardy. He sees five Russian goons escorting Camerini down the stairs of his home. (Are the "pig farmers" also on the trail of Gondozatti?) In the gunfight that follows, Camellion kills all of the Russians - and Camerini, too, unfortunately - before high-tailing it back to CIA man George McAulay II, who is waiting in a getaway car. On their way back into Rome,  the men are forced to kill three cops at a roadblock.

Camellion next tries to nab Alfredo Bertini, the alleged paymaster for many of the Red Brigades cells in Rome. They wait for him in a tratorria, as per Bertini's usual schedule, but when he doesn't show, they head to his apartment. There, they find another group of goons escorting him down the stairs. Gunfire erupts, but this time, the Death Merchant leaves with Bertini - who tells Camellion that he gets the money from Angelina Moretti, wife of a dentist named Bernard Moretti.

So it's off to the Morettis' house. The DM has a cunning plan to dress as Gypsies but after buying a used car, colourful clothes and whatnot, they decided to simply storm the place without any pretense. They drive a 1968 Dodge through a big picture window and the assault is on. They eventually corner Dr. Moretti and he tells Camellion that Gondozatti is being held at a farm southwest of Anzio.

So it's off to the farm owned by Vittorio Salvi Duse. The Death Merchant and four others are dressed as priests, disguises which enable them to safely get through two roadblocks. Grenade launchers come in extremely handy as they wreck the hell out of the farm house and the barn. ("It beats pushing a plow through a turnip patch.") Gondozatti is being held in an underground room beneath the barn, but Camellion et al. are too late. It turns out she died in her sleep of a heart attack the day before the big raid. Oh, well. Camellion and his forces escape in waiting helicopters just before the cops arrive. The end.

During the final assault, the antitank grenades are flying and suddenly the action skids to a halt as Rosenberger decides to spend nearly an entire page explaining exactly how the grenades work.
The enormity of the explosion did not surprise the Death Merchant. A high explosive antitank rifle grenade, the M31 had an explosive filler of 9.92 ounces of Composition-B, and the capability of penetrating 25 centimeters (10 inches) of homogeneous steel armor or 50 centimeters (20 inches) of reinforced concrete. What made the M31 so very deadly was that the antitank grenade achieved penetration by means of the Munroe Principle of the shaped charge. The Munroe Principle is governed by the following three principles of explosive reactions: (1) An explosive force reacts against the weakest force containing it. In the M31, this containing force was a thin sheet of copper which forms an inverted cone liner. This cone gives the filler its shaped effect. The grenade's hollow nose provides the proper standoff distance for the explosive forces to converge. (2) An explosive force reacts against the force containing it at right angels. In the case of the M31, the forces reacted against the copper cone at right angels and moved toward each other. (3) Converging explosive forces combine to form a third and greater force known as the explosive jet. In the M31, the jet is a combination of heat and force which will melt a path through armor and carry pieces of molten armor through it. These molten chunks then rapidly return to solid form. In the case of an armored vehicle, the jet penetrates the vehicle's body armor and also flakes off pieces of the inner side of the armored hull. This fragmented armor ricochets about the interior of the vehicle's body, killing personnel and detonating sensitive ammunition.

When the shell burns through concrete, it is the jagged chunks of concrete that act as fragments; and since concrete is much softer than armor plate, the radius of destruction is always four to five times larger.
Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz ....

In two footnotes, Rosenberger gives some advice on the most effective way to shoot someone in the head and describes a technique known as "fanning":
Don't believe all the nonsense that the "victim was shot between the eyes and died instantly." It is not wise to shoot between the eyes unless one is using a very powerful cartridge, such as a magnum bullet, in which case the brain will be destroyed by hydrostatic shock. A target can be shot in the head with a bullet of moderate power and still survive long enough to get off several shots. ...

This technique is very useful when you are facing several opponents at once and works best with an autoloader which has a large magazine capacity. Brace your hand against the hip and wiggle the index finger of your other hand against the trigger. the technique - also called the "Alley Broom" technique - can be mastered with practice. But it is only useful close up, as it is a very inaccurate method of shooting.
Massacre In Rome has two epigraphs: one by Boris Pasternak, the author of Doctor Zhivago, and this one from Richard J. Camellion:
Intelligent people do not try to reason with sadists who slaughter the innocent, with terrorists who murder in the name of "freedom". Intelligent people kill them!
This is an odd quote for Rosenberger to invent and highlight, since Camellion quite clearly murders innocent people - the three Italian cops at the beginning of the book being the most recent example - and he certainly does his job in the name of "freedom". At one point in Massacre in Rome, an agent named Lola Presswood, having assisted Camellion in one gunfight, is somewhat sickened by "the violent side of international intelligence operations". Still ...
She supposed that men like Richard Camellion - and even that vulgar Ferro - were necessary in a world that was only a sugar-coated slaughter house ... men who were self-contained, men who needed nothing or no one and who would always be alone, even in a crowd. Without such men - would there be a United States of America?

Friday, January 09, 2015

Death Merchant #34: Operation Mind-Murder

After doing battle in northern Alaska in #33, it's more cold weather for the Death Merchant. Richard Camellion and three Chinese-Americans (including the awesomely-named Dionysius Woo) are sent on a re-con mission to Wrangel Island, a Russian island located a little north of Siberia. Camellion has been tasked with taking secret photographs and video of a Soviet installation in which the Russians conducted medical experiments on still-held prisoners of World War II.

In a footnote, author Joseph Rosenberger writes that the reports of Russian torture are "fact", and not invented for Operation Mind-Murder. He cites a February 20, 1978, article in The Spotlight, a far right-wing publication of the Liberty Lobby. (Through the wonder of Google, I found a copy of both the original article and a follow-up on February 27.)

The February 20, 1978, article begins:
An Alaskan island in the Arctic Ocean is the site of three super-secret Russian concentration camps where KGB agents carry out incredible human experiments on thousands of prisoners held captive there.

And the United States government has known about this gross violation of human rights on American territory since 1973 but continues to ignore the deplorable situation. ...

Thousands of prisoners of war - including high-ranking German, Spanish and Italian officers thought dead since World War II - have been secretly imprisoned on Wrangel Island. ...

Official government maps of Wrangel Island, made for the CIA from satellite photographs and which would confirm or deny the existence of the horror camps, have been classified "secret".
Rosenberger copies quotes from the article from Avraham Shifrin, a former Wrangel Island prisoner, into Operation Mind-Murder. In 1973, Shifrin testified before a U.S. Senate Internal Security Subcommittee that was investigating Soviet labor camps. Shifrin later interviewed hundreds of prisoners for his book, The First Guidebook to Prisons and Concentration Camps of the Soviet Union (Bantam, 1982).

Rosenberger writes at one point that the torture and other inhumane experiments are not the main reason for Washington's (and, thus, Camellion's) interest in Wrangel Island. The Russians are rumoured to be building an enormous complex, some sort of weather experimental base. And because the Ruskies cannot be trusted, the U.S. decrees that this complex must be destroyed. Later in the book, though, Rosenberger forgets about this subplot. It's never mentioned again. During the island invasion, all Camellion is concerned about is that the men take pictures of the Russians' documentation of the experiments.

There is a lot of action in Operation Mind-Murder. The book opens with the four men on the island. After Camellion and Woo photograph the Soviet buildings, they travel back to the beach where they have stashed their scuba gear. Woo stays with the equipment and Camellion heads back to their cave to get the other two men and the three of them return to the beach. Each bit of travel across some part of the island includes a run-in with some "pig farmers". And almost half the book (pp. 98-184) is taken up with the climatic invasion of Wrangel Island by Camellion and a 180-man force. It features the usual Rosenberger insanity, with some highly-detailed scenes of karate thrown in for good measure:
Gordon then resorted to a defense that was all karate. He employed a hiza ate knee lift to the groin of one man, ducked another KGB man's straight-in fist-punch, slammed out the fellow with a haito uchi sword-hand ridge-strike to the side of the neck and, with his left hand, stunned into partial unconsciousness an enemy by using a tettsui uchi hammer-hand blow that caught the Russian squarely on the end of the chin. The Russian that Gordon had struck in the side of the neck went down choking and gasping ...

The Death Merchant blocked Roshgin's closed-fist blow with a right hiji uke elbow block and the intended nukite stab with a left sukui uke scooping-hand sweep. ... The Death Merchant's hands and arms moved with such blinding speed that the Russian couldn't realize what was happening. Roshgin could only gag from the agony of Camellion's otoshi hiji ate downward elbow-strike that broke his nose and made blood spurt from both nostrils. Camellion's koko-i tiger-mouth kill-clutch to Roshgin's throat ended his life by crushing his voice box and the upper part of his windpipe. He was choking to death, velvet falling over his mind, by the time the Death Merchant turned and used a right-legged knee shift as a defense against Colonel Milovanov's left-foot stamp that was intended to shatter his knee cap; and a double ko uke arch block to wreck Milovanov's double-piercing-finger strike aimed at the side of his neck.

Milovanov was very fast and very good at sambo. His only flaw was that he wasn't good enough. He jerked back from Camellion, feigned a left foot kick to the groin and a right-handed fist-strike to the side of the neck. With his left hand he attempted the real McCoy, a vicious spear-hand thrust to the Death Merchant's solar plexus.
Camellion, who had fought far better men than Milovanov, wasn't fooled by such tactics. He blocked the spear hand by sweeping aside the Russian's arm. Simultaneously, he used an ippon ken single-knuckle punch to shatter Milovanov's front teeth. A very fast haito ridge-hand to the Russian's left cheek sent him staggering, his senses reeling ...
Rosenberger provides his usual allotment of gore (while tracing the destructive path of numerous slugs):
The LMG roared, but the stream of 7.62mm slugs passed a foot or more to Camellion's right. The Russian couldn't fire again. One of the .357 magnum bullets exploded in his neck, blew apart his throat, and sent his Adam's apple flying like a bloody golf ball. ...

Both KGB men had half executed the swing around when the Death Merchant fired both Auto Mags. One .357 magnum bullet, going in at a steep angle, hit Vilenski in the right chest, exploded, and sent up a tiny cloud of cloth, foam padding, bits of flesh, and pieces of rib bone. The expanded projectile came out the left side of his chest, then smacked Dashkov in the right forearm at the same time that the Death Merchant's second big bullet bored into Dashkov, just above the humerus of his right arm. The bullet exploded, tore the humerus from the scapula, or shoulder blade, then, travelling downward, shattered the end of the right clavicle, broke six ribs on both sides and finally left the Russian's body via his left side.
Etc.:

Camellion "knew that while the Cosmic Lord of Death rules the Universe - He does not rule alone!"

"Like Time, Death was relative and not at all important in the long scheme of one's total development."

"Telling Richard Camellion to be careful was as silly as telling a crocodile to beware of minnows."

"... sweating like an Israeli spy at a PLO meeting ..."

"The big show is getting hotter than the balls of a Gila monster in a New Mexico desert in August!"

"The only thing dumber than an average Russian is two average Russians."

"Although as grimy as two old-time chimney sweeps, the two commandos were as cheerful as two prostitutes who had the sole franchise at a salesman's convention."

After coming up empty in the last few books, Rosenberger gives us a fruit mention: "One of the Death Merchant's Auto Mags roared and the head of the KGB man exploded with the kind of sound a hammer makes when it hits a watermelon."

At the very end of the book, Camellion asks one of the captured Russian scientists about the wide road in the middle of the island. Dr. Agarev says that it leads to an underground installation, where there is a machine known as a "Cosmic Generator". We don't get much of a description of what this machine is or does, but I wonder - considering Camellion's mysterious connection to the Cosmic Lord of Death - if it will turn up in a future volume.

Saturday, January 03, 2015

Death Merchant #33: Alaska Conspiracy

Richard Camellion is at the Prudhoe Bay Operations Complex - along the north-central Alaskan coast, 200 miles north of the Arctic Circle - only two days when an attempt is made on his life. (Five men attack; he kills three and knocks out the other two.)

The Death Merchant has been sent to look over security operations at several points along the 800-mile Alaskan pipeline, because it has been attacked six or seven times in recent months. If the pipeline becomes inoperable, the U.S. will be more dependent upon foreign oil - which would please OPEC.

In talking to people in charge of keeping the pipeline running smoothly, Camellion feels it is likely that disgruntled local trappers (as opposed to "environmentals and other kooks") are being hired to dynamite sections of the pipeline, but the big question is: Who is the puppet-master that is funding and directing the trappers?

There is more action in Alaska Conspiracy than in the last few DM books. Shortly after Camellion arrives at his second stop, Atigun Camp, the camp is invaded by armed gunmen. After exchanging rounds of gunfire, Camellion suggests to Alaska Fish & Game Department official Jasper Happenset that they go out, grab a snowmobile, and come around behind the attackers, trapping them in a cross-fire. The plan works. At the very end, instead of easily gunning down the final 5-7 attackers from a safe distance, Camellion wants to question one or two of them, so he sneaks in extremely close, shooting a few at near point blank range and knocking out two others. He learns from them that Virgil Spain, a bartender at the New Frontier in Fairbanks, ordered the attack on Atigun to make sure they eliminated "some man named Camellion".

Camellion is then at a camp on the outskirts of Fairbanks, letting the Feds know that he (and he alone) is in charge of the operation. As he is getting some information on Spain and the other men involved in the New Frontier, they hear a large helicopter land nearby. It's yet another attack! Camellion and about 11 others wipe out the attacking force of 40-50 in roughly 15 minutes. Plus, they learn from the leader of this invasion - again, luckily spared until the end of the firing so he can give valuable info - that Spain was behind it and that bar owner Marion Westerhouse and the bar's gambling boss Duane Rhemus are also somehow involved.

A few days later, Camellion decides that he should pay a visit to the New Frontier. The ensuing battle lasts 33 pages - three chapters! The scene begins in near-identical fashion to a scene in Nipponese Nightmare (#28) - with Camellion using the same stink-bombs-detonated-in-the-men's-room-to-create-confusion-while-he-rushes-upstairs-to-where-the-bad-guys-are trick. This time, the stink bomb fizzles and Camellion (in disguise) quickly gets fingered as the guy trying to destroy the place and he is forced to swing into action earlier than planned. Much mayhem ensues and the bar is destroyed by fire, but the Death Merchant never finds Westerhouse and Rhemus. They escape with a sack of dough down the back fire escape. The over-long scene rivals the book's final battle for detail and body count, but since it ends up being a bust for the Death Merchant, it's questionable whether it needs to be in the book at all, let alone at this length.

Around the same time, a missile is launched into the Prudhoe complex, destroying 15 oil wells. This turns out to be a test run for a huge upcoming attack for a conglomerate of European companies known as the Council of Six. They plan to launch another ten missiles from a cargo ship and utterly destroy both the complex and pipeline. Camellion learns about the plot only two days before it is set to occur. He hastily assembles a fighting force and announces: "We attack at dawn ..."

The Council of Six has a base at an abandoned mine in the Wrangell Mountains. The DM and his men parachute out of a plane to points both north and south of the mine. (We learn that Camellion is terrified about leaping out of planes: it "tied his stomach in knots and flooded the corridors of his mind with tidal waves of fear". (Funny how Rosenberger never mentioned that before previous jumps.) Camellion once again eschews quick-killing the last few goons and instead uses some hand-to-hand combat so some of them can remain alive to give up the name and location of the missile-laden ship.

Alaska Conspiracy includes pointless gun info, though Rosenberger confines it to his footnotes:
Both men carried U.S. Army surplus M14* rifles ...
*: A selective-fire weapon, the M14 7.62mm NATO rifle was produced at Harrington & Richardson Arms Co. Production of the M14 ceased in 1964 at which time 1,380,353 rifles had been produced.

[Camellion] shoved a fresh magazine into the left Hi-Power Browning* ...
*: Although the 9mm browning Hi-Power autoloader does not have the punch of a .45 or a Magnum of any caliber, it is one of the finest weapons in the world for close-in combat, primarily because its magazine holds thirteen rounds.

... the Death Merchant was certain that the terrorists were using Israeli Galil G3 automatic rifles*.
*: This weapon was designed by Uziel Gal, who also designed the famous Uzi submachine gun in 1949. The Galil Rifle is assembled in Tel Aviv at Israeli Military Industries from parts imported from the U.S., Belgium, and Finland. The Galil uses the U.S. M16 30-round magazine, as well as a special 50-round magazine manufactured in Israel.
Camellion's knowledge of weaponry knows no limit. At one point, he hears a machine gun chattering in the distance and he immediately identifies it as a "West German Rheinmettal MG 42/49".

Rosenberger footnotes the term "Lower 48", explaining that it's the term Alaskans use for the continental United States. I thought - from taking a wonderful vacation in Alaska in 1996 - the local term was "Outside". Rosenberger actually has a character use "Outside" thirty pages earlier, though he doesn't bother with a footnote.

Part of Happenset's back story is that he was among a group of men who endured a Mount McKinley "wind chill factor the equivalent of a staggering 162° F". (I'm assuming Rosenberger meant -162°! ... The internet tells me that a wind chill factor of -191° was recorded in Vostok, Antarctica, on August 24, 2005. The coldest temperature recorded on Earth (-128.6° F) was also at Vostok, on July 21, 1983.)

The Death Merchant's enemies are rarely attractive: "He had a face that only a blind mother could look at with any kind of affection. ... The third joker had the build of a dump truck and the face of a broken chair."

The Death Merchant kills two jokers, with one slug ripping out a guy's tongue: "Camellion's second soft-lead slug had taken away Corbin's ability to lick stamps. ... Never again would Spain get constipated or have to worry about a sore throat."

More lines: "Happenset looked more serious than a funeral director faced with the problem of how to cram a seven-foot corpse into a six-foot casket." ... "All the while he studied the Death Merchant as if Camellion were the most important clause in a life insurance policy." ... "He would have had more luck going over Niagara Falls on a handkerchief." ... "Whoever this Camellion is, he must eat death on soda crackers!" ... "Sanity is nothing more than sharing the hallucinations of your neighbors."

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Death Merchant #32: Deadly Manhunt

After thwarting a potential roadside ambush upon his return from South Korea, Richard Camellion is back at Memento Mori, his ranch in the Big Thicket region of Texas, where his handyman, Jesus Sontoya, was recently murdered. Sontoya's death was meant as a warning to the Death Merchant. Someone is gunning for him.

Camellion enters his house through a secret entrance to make sure there is no one waiting inside. He searches the house before going into several well-protected underground rooms, in which he stores his disguises and weapons arsenal ... and shoeboxes full of $100 bills. (The DM receives $100,000 cash (tax-free!) for each of his missions for the U.S. government.)

Camellion heads to Langley, Virginia, to meet with the CIA's Deputy Director of Operations and get the lowdown on this new threat. Camellion is convinced someone with the CIA has ratted him out. On a hunch, he asks for the files of agents who have resigned or retired in the last five years - and finds that two men ended up working security for the same metal company in New Jersey. It turns out that this company happens to be (ultimately) owned by the Silvestter family. It was Cleveland Winston Silvestter - the self-proclaimed son of Satan - that the Death Merchant battled and killed back in Billionaire Mission (#8). Plus, Camellion recognizes the face of Silvestter's 25-year-old son as the man who escaped from the ambush that began the book!

After the meeting, Camellion drives back to his hotel. The motion detection transmitters he placed in his room tell him that there are people awaiting his return. The Death Merchant sets off the hotel's fire alarms to create confusion before storming into the hotel room and wasting most of the waiting gunmen. Silvestter and an associate escape out the fire escape, but they leave behind an attache case containing a strange device with many knobs, wires, and a small screen. From the labels on the various knobs - which include Hypothalamic Read-In, Limbic Adjustment, Pons Inset, Thalamic Coordinator, and Aura Pattern & Adjustment - Camellion deduces that the machine can detect a particular person's aura and that this is how they have been able to pinpoint Camellion's exact location. Rosenberger does not explain how the Auraic Transfinder can differentiate Camellion's aura from the hundreds of thousands (millions?) of others in its range (and why did they bring it with them on the attempted hit?), but Camellion nevertheless believes the machine works - and he believes in the existence of auras.
Aura? That's something right out of occultism. The aura is a luminous appearance seen surrounding the human body. I'm convinced it exists and that it's made up of numerous elements of the human forcefield, including perhaps heat radiation, electromagnetic fields, and many other things unknown to modern science.
Camellion first tries to invade Silvestter's mansion near Hyannis on Cape Cod. A CIA boat takes him close and he scuba dives to the shore and makes his move. He manuvers and shoots his way through the fences and patrolling guards and gets into the mansion, only to be pinned down in a room by six armed thugs. Using some grenades and his usual quick thinking, he ices them and escapes. But fires have started and the house is burning down, and Camellion has to get out before he can kill Silvestter.

The Death Merchant then travels to Santa Fe, New Mexico, with the idea of hiding in the Sangre de Dios mountains. I'm not sure why he chooses this location, beyond the fact that there is a CIA station in Santa Fe. Perhaps it is to see if Silvestter's thugs can track his aura (if they have a second machine) across the country. After catching up with an old friend, Norberto Martinez, Camellion sets off into the mountains, making his base of operations in a small cave. Camellion spends 18 days getting a good feel for the layout of the area, while also setting up electronic detection transmitters and burying packs of explosives. On the 19th day, he hears a helicopter, which was sent by Silvestter to fly over the area and draw the Death Merchant's fire, thus revealing his position. Camellion, wisely using a silencer, succeeds in damaging the copter with his trusty Auto Mags, and it crashes.

Silvestter had spent the past three weeks on the west coast hiring a team of 80 gunmen to track and kill Camellion in the mountains. With groups of men advancing, the Death Merchant detonates the buried explosives and nearly all of Silvestter's goons are obliterated. Only 17 men are left. Camellion uses his recently-acquired knowledge of the terrain to help him hide and sneak up on various shooters. He picks them off in groups of two and three. Naturally, he ends up in a martial arts showdown with Silvestter after everyone else has been killed.

Deadly Manhunt is a fairly perfunctory story. It's missing a lot of Rosenberger's usual silliness. The recent volumes have not been nearly as goofy as the early books. Plus, Rosenberger/Camellion have been making references to religion that seem wholly inconsistent with the Death Merchant's supposedly virulent anti-religion stance. In #32, Camellion mentions "the murder of Jesus" early in the book, and someone is described as looking as forlorn as Joseph trying to find a manger. At one point, Camellion thinks, "No man is infallible. Except the Pope!" And Rosenberger writes: "With his back facing Silvestter, Camellion didn't have time to say any Our Fathers."

Finally, Rosenberger has Camellion show an interest in women and sex, something absent from most of the books:
The second part of the surprise was that the agent was not a he. It was a she - an attractive woman of about thirty, with well-rounded curves in just the right places of her off-white pants suit ...

[Camellion] tilted the cup to his mouth, watching her over the rim, wondering how she would look wearing nothing but a wristwatch and a smile. She was crisp, cool, and all business. He had met dozens like her, and everyone of them had been fire and ice in bed - at least those he had bedded down for the night. Or the weekend. Or, occasionally, for the entire week.
If you came up with 100 nouns or adjectives to describe Camellion, I don't think "horndog" would be among them. But we did learn in an earlier volume that the Death Merchant is "a leg man", so maybe he gets a lot of action outside the confines of the books.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Death Merchant #31: Operation Thunderbolt

Operation Thunderbolt was the 12th Death Merchant book published by Pinnacle during the years 1977 and 1978. Joseph Rosenberger turned in one manuscript every other month, like clockwork, for two years! That's a tremendous workload, even by the grind-'em-out standards of the men's adventure pulps field. (And it looks like his pace continued into 1979.)

In #31, the CIA sends Richard "Death Merchant" Camellion to North Korea to rescue Dr. Douglas Hausheer and his wife, two of the 37 survivors of a plane that was forced to make an emergency landing. (The plane was "blown off course during a severe storm"; is that possible?) Unbeknowst to the North Koreans, Dr. Hausheer is a scientist working on a top secret ultrasonic bomb for the U.S. Camellion's mission: Get the Hausheers out of North Korea or, failing that, kill them. Either way, Hausheer's scientific knowledge must not fall into the hands of the enemy.

Camellion pretends to be a journalist from Australia, and the book opens with him getting a tour of various sites, including the Sinch'on Atrocity Museum, which was "the most vicious and ridiculous example of black propaganda the Death Merchant had ever seen". Back at his hotel, Camellion receives a message that a CIA contact wants to meet. But before Camellion can do anything, four Korean officers are at his hotel door, accusing him of being a spy. The Death Merchant uses martial arts to disable all four, taking one man with him down through the lobby (killing a few more Koreans along the way) and into an alley where they take a car to the contact's address. There, Camellion is introduced to Kang Ban Sok, and they discuss where the airline passengers are being held, how heavily they are being guarded, and how possible is it to break them out. The Death Merchant is highly skeptical: "The whole scheme has got more kinks than a two-dollar garden hose. ... This strike was the biggest gamble he had ever undertaken."

But Camellion - who is in disguise for most of the book as a 70-year-old Korean going by the name "Kim Cho Wang" - formulates a plan to get the Hausheers and the other passengers safely across the DMZ and into South Korea. (The pilot of the downed plane exclaims: "My God! Your plan is so crazy it might even work!"*) The multi-part escape takes up most of the second half of the book. The action is all right - at one point, Camellion notes "what we're doing beats bone testing in a ladies'-corset factory" - but it was somewhat confusing as the three-part Korean names all ran together. It was sometimes difficult to remember who was on which side. (I think even Rosenberger got confused, with one character apparently fighting for both sides.)

* The pilot, Dennis Wilburn, is impressed with this "Wang" character. He remarks that "Wang could spend six months in a cave and come out with a suntan." ... Earlier in the book, someone else exclaims about Camellion: "A strange and weird person. A first-rate killer with the education of a philosopher! Incredible!" (The DM quote that prompts this description is "Mankind is a victim of collective amnesia." Not all that deep, philosophically.)

Here are a few of the men fighting with the Death Merchant: Kang Ban Sok, Bong Yi Choy, Jo Go Pugchi, Lin Bi Wubok, Chu Ji Su, Pok Shi Pom, Pog Li Sibki, Chub P'o'do, Pong Do Chamko, Tita Sum Kida, and Map Gap Win.

Among the bad guys we have: Chim Ki Wu, Gin Ki Ping, Sasip Wong Yong-ri, Obu Hu Dang, Cho Ip-Poon, Lee Jwa-ye-t'anh, Yon Gip Kajang, and Bigiru Kowdow, among others. (There is also a weapon called a Hanko-ji'gok and the NK police force is known as the Ju-sun-kyong.) Thankfully, Rosenberger does not fully indulge his habit of identifying every single man fighting (and then dying) against the Death Merchant this time around.

The Death Merchant engages in martial arts at several points, so we also get the names of various moves, like ken tsui, shuto, ura ken, teishi, fumikomi, chungdan pandae, yon hon nukite, yoko kekomou, hiraken, empi, heiko zuki, soku-to, and ashi kubi.

After the copious anti-Asian slurs that littered the last book, The Shambhala Strike, I was intrigued to see Rosenberger's author's note at the front of Operation Thunderbolt:
In this book I used the word "gook" in referring to the North Koreans. Certain liberals object to this word.

By "gook" I mean precisely an uncivilized Asiatic Communist. I see no reason for anyone who doesn't fit this definition to object to the way I use it.
Because, hey, why be bothered or concerned about anything if it doesn't affect you personally?

It turns out Rosenberger doesn't use the term "gook" nearly as many times as I was expecting (I counted only 40 or so instances). There are also a few references to riceballs, rice-eaters, and Nips.

In the epilogue, Camellion expresses his serious interest Nostradamus's alleged predictions of world events.
"By 1990 there will not be a United States. There won't be any civilization. ... 'The world shall be put into trouble by three brothers. Their enemies will seize the New City by the water, hunger, fire, blood, plague, and all evils doubled.'"

A serious look crossed [CIA agent Geoffrey] McKenna's face. "I've read Nostradamus, too. I've got to admit that his prophecies, down through the centuries, have been very accurate."

"According to him, World War III will start in Red China, and the entire U.S. will be destroyed by nuclear weapons," Camellion said. "As he wrote in one Quatrain, 'The Sky of the New Land will burn, its cities a new ash to form.'"
At the very end of the book, Camellion gets some horrible news: Jesus Sontoya, the handyman at his ranch in Texas, has been murdered. McKenna says: "The consensus is that someone is out to neutralize you. There's a deadly manhunt going on and you're the target..."

Wednesday, December 24, 2014