April 14, 2018

The Rosenberger Library: Action-Adventure

Joseph Rosenberger wrote and published more than 90 action-adventure books between 1971-1989.

The Death Merchant
.1. The Death Merchant (February 1971)
 2. Operation Overkill (February 1972)
 3. The Psychotron Plot (August 1972)
 4. Chinese Conspiracy (January 1973)
 5. Satan Strike (April 1973)
 6. The Albanian Connection (July 1973)
 7. The Castro File (January 1974)
 8. The Billionaire Mission (May 1974)
 9. The Laser War (August 1974)
10. The Mainline Plot (November 1974)
11. Manhattan Wipeout (March 1975)
12. The KGB Frame (July 1975)
13. The Mato Grosso Horror (September 1975)
14. Vengeance Of The Golden Hawk (January 1976)
15. The Iron Swastika Plot (March 1976)
16. Invasion Of The Clones (May 1976)
17. The Zemlya Expedition (July 1976)
18. Nightmare In Algeria (September 1976)
19. Armageddon, USA! (November 1976)
20. Hell In Hindu Land (January 1977)
21. The Pole Star Secret (March 1977)
22. The Kondrashev Chase (May 1977)
23. The Budapest Action (July 1977)
24. The Kronos Plot (September 1977)
25. The Enigma Project (November 1977)
26. The Mexican Hit (January 1978)
27. The Surinam Affair (March 1978)
28. Nipponese Nightmare (May 1978)
29. Fatal Formula (July 1978)
30. The Shambhala Strike (October 1978)
31. Operation Thunderbolt (December 1978)
32. Deadly Manhunt (February 1979)
33. Alaska Conspiracy (April 1979)
34. Operation Mind-Murder (June 1979)
35. Massacre In Rome (August 1979)
36. The Cosmic Reality Kill (November 1979)
37. The Bermuda Triangle Action (February 1980)
38. The Burning Blue Death (April 1980)
39. The Fourth Reich (June 1980)
40. Blueprint Invisibility (August 1980)
41. Shamrock Smash (October 1980)
42. High Command Murder (December 1980)
43. The Devil's Trashcan (February 1981)
44. Island Of The Damned (April 1981)
45. The Rim Of Fire Conspiracy (June 1981)
46. Blood Bath (September 1981)
47. Operation Skyhook (December 1981)
48. Psionics War (January 1982)
49. Night Of The Peacock (March 1982)
50. The Hellbomb Theft (June 1982)
51. The Inca File (August 1982)
52. The Flight Of The Phoenix (November 1982)
53. The Judas Scrolls (December 1982)
54. Apocalypse, USA! (March 1983)
55. Slaughter In El Salvador (June 1983)
56. Afghanistan Crashout (August 1983)
57. The Romanian Operation (November 1983)
58. The Silicon Valley Connection (March 1984)
59. The Burma Probe (June 1984)
60. The Methuselah Factor (September 1984)
61. The Bulgarian Termination (December 1984)
62. The Soul Search Project (March 1985)
63. The Pakistan Mission (June 1985)
64. The Atlantean Horror (September 1985)
65. Mission Deadly Snow (April 1986)
66. The Cobra Chase (August 1986)
67. Escape From Gulag Taria (December 1986)
Super Death Merchant #1 - Apocalypse (April 1987)
68. The Hindu Trinity Caper (July 1987)
69. The Miracle Mission (October 1987)
70. The Greenland Mission (February 1988)

Murder Master
1. Death Trap (November 1973)
2. Caribbean Caper (March 1974)
3. Operation Hooker (1974)

Kung Fu Featuring Mace (writing as Lee Chang)
1. Year Of The Tiger (September 1973) 
2. Year Of The Snake (February 1974) 
3. Year Of The Rat (June 1974) 
4. Year Of The Dragon (September 1974) 
5. Year Of The Horse (December? 1974)

1. The Heroin Connection (December 1986) 
2. Paris Kill-Ground (April 1987) 
3. The Red Dragon Operation (September 1987) 
4. Nightmare In Panama (December 1987) 
5. Project Andromeda (September 1988) 
6. Belgrade Battleground (January 1989)

Shadow Warrior
1. The Hong Kong Massacre (May 1988) 
2. Caribbean Blood Moon (July 1988) 
3. Ninja Nightmare (September 1988) 
4. Hell Wind In Burma (November 1988)


Assassination: Theory And Practice
(Writing as Richard Camellion, the fictional Death Merchant; non-fiction; August 1977)

Behavior Modification: The Art Of Mind Murdering
(Writing as Richard Camellion, the fictional Death Merchant; non-fiction; June 1978)

Nick Carter #125: Thunderstrike In Syria
(March 1979)

Geneva Force
(January 1989)

December 18, 2017

Death Merchant #70: The Greenland Mystery

Arctic Ambush

At a top-secret weather station, American scientists have made a shocking discovery - a mysterious city of extraterrestrial origins buried deep beneath the polar ice cap. Already the Soviet supersub Lenin is bound for Greenland with a strike force of elite commandos. Fortunately the CIA has dispatched their own deadly emissary to protect the defenseless post.

Richard Camellion has prepared a surprise reception for the unwelcome visitors. Now, in the Arctic wilderness, the Death Merchant and a cutthroat band of mercenaries are poised for an explosive showdown that will convince the advancing commies that Hell itself has frozen over!


In The Greenland Mystery, the final numbered book in the Death Merchant series, author Joseph Rosenberger goes for the high weirdness angle, imagining the American government has discovered an ancient alien city buried beneath the Arctic ice cap. However, the US fears that a Soviet force of Spetsnaz will attack Camp Victory and take control of the frozen city.

The book opens with Richard Camellion and Wayne Baylesson driving to the Connecticut home of Dr. Ernst Schwengel, the leader of a group of scientists set to travel to Greenland. Camellion gets directions over the phone from Evelyn Schwengel and senses something is wrong (the Death Merchant is adept at noticing even the slightest change in a person's voice). As soon as the front door of the house is opened, Camellion and Baylesson race in with their pistols booming.
The next five shots came one right after the other, each one so close it almost bumped into the one preceding it. To the left of Wayne Baylesson, Josef Sofinov triggered his BRNO CZ semiautomatic pistol and sent a 9mm FMJ projectile at the CIA man a tenth of a second ahead of Wayne's firing at him and the Death Merchant's sending a 10mm bullet at Davyatkin and another big TC-HXC at Yevgenni Ogoidikova. ... Josef Sofinov let out a strangled cry of pain, dropped his BRNO pistol and went down from the impact of Baylesson's 9mm projectile. Baylesson was also using TC-HXC's, and the hole in the Russian's chest was so large that one could have shoved a penlight into it.
After the Russians have been killed, Baylesson calls the police. (Why??) Camellion explains to the cops that he and Baylesson were simply making a social call on their friends and ended up shooting it out with the six invaders. Camellion says one of the bad guys got away through the back door. When a cop asks if they pursued him, the DM replies, "In the darkness? Don't be ridiculous. That would have been as silly as an octopus trying to make love to bagpipes."

We then jump ahead 16 days, with everyone settled in at Camp Victory, where the unrelenting wind is blowing snow and ice chips around the various buildings. Camellion, Mad Mike Quinlan, and a few others descend down a shaft to the alien city:
"I see it, but I don't believe it," Mike Quinlan said to the Death Merchant, who was also experiencing a creeping eeriness from the biofeedback of his senses, from the impulses his eyes were conveying to his brain. Even unreality had to contain elements of reality, no matter how jumbled.

The elevator had taken them down to a tremendous cavern, or what could be described as a massive bubble within the ice sheet (which, at this location in Greenland, was estimated to be 1,230 feet thick). ...

But it was what the ice contained at the north end, in the east side and under the "floor," that was truly mind-boggling. It was difficult for the men to see clearly through the ice; yet they could recognize the weird Cyclopean structures whose architecture was beyond human imagination, a city that could not possibly have been built by human concepts and human engineering. There appeared to be enormous aggregations of gargantuan blocks cut at angles defying all known principles of geometric laws. There were slablike constructions reminiscent of piles of nightmarish rectangular wedges. Between some of these impossibilities were multitudinous towers, some round, some square, and some topped with truncated cones. Others were crowned with what resembled pyramids turned upside down, so that they rested on points. ... Networks of oddly angled pinnacles stretched between many of the solid objects, ending at times in titanic globes from which projected, in all directions, hundreds of shaftlike rods, forcing one to think of gigantic pufferfish or colossal porcupines with hundred-foot-long quills. All the febrile structures were knitted together by twisting bridges that crossed and recrossed each other without any discernible pattern being in evidence. ...

There was something else. Every man could feel it: a subtle hint that something was very wrong, that what they were seeing was a monstrous perversion of truth, a mockery of reality. The Death Merchant was suddenly weighed down by the impression that here, waiting, was pure Evil—But it's only evil because we don't understand the technology that built the city, if it is a "city"!
The scientists determine that the metal used to construct the buildings is more than one million years old. There were also five rounded pedestals, upon which informational discs had been placed.

Rosenberger has returned to the theme of pole-shifting, which he has used a few earlier books. He happily goes on for pages explaining the process of shifting poles—and the subsequent destruction of life on Earth—tens of thousands of years ago and the myths that the few survivors passed on to future generations. He has Schwengel explain the information found on the discs:
"In a nutshell, they give clear evidence that the Earth had turned over numerous times on its physical axis—a roll-over, a flip-flop of the planet. In other words, the north and the south poles had changed their locations."

"I'm not speaking of the magnetic pole," continued Schwengel, his voice breaking the astonished silence of the others. "We all know that the north geomagnetic pole is located here in Greenland, in the northern part of Hayes Peninsula. I do mean the physical poles. The last roll-over was 11,500 years ago, in 9550 B.C."

This time, not even Lawrence Bok snickered. As an archaeologist, he was very familiar with ancient history and with the numerous world legends of a great catastrophe that had happened in the distant past, one in which there had been fire and flood followed by incredible cold. Doctors Ashcroft, Steiner, and Steinfeld were also aware of the legends. For that matter, so was Ernst Schwengel, as well as Richard Camellion and Michael Quinlan, both of whom were highly educated.

"I recall reading an article in Scientific American about astronomers from Potsdam University who deciphered writings found in the ruins of Tiahuanaco," Isadore Steinfeld said thoughtfully. "Unless those astronomers are wrong, the sixty-mile thick shell of the earth shifted once more seven thousand years after the previous roll-over."

"The disks gave the story," confirmed Schwengel. "It was eleven thousand five hundred years ago that the South Pole moved around and the North Pole shifted south. Then, it was the Sudan Basin in Africa that became the new North Pole."

Doctor Steinfeld interjected, "The Talmud states that this was the time when the Pleiades set below the horizon and when the Holy Land was moved into a region of terrible cold."

"Yes, and the Holy Land remained there for five thousand years," said Schwengel, "until the earth rolled over again, six thousand five hundred years ago. It was then that the biblical Deluge occurred. During this shift, the equatorial pivot points were off the coast of mid-Chile and in mid-China, near the Yangtze, north of Vietnam."

"I must admit, there is evidence all over the world for such destruction on a global scale," offered Ashcroft, a worried look on his face. "For example, the sudden end of the Laurentian Basin ice cap in Canada, about 11,500 years ago, and the sudden end of all work in the prehistoric city of Tiahuanaco, Peru, 9,550 years before Christ, or—I'm sorry to say—11,500 years ago. To that damning evidence we can add the computable age of the Antarctic and Greenland ice caps. Both are around 6,500 years old."

Lawrence Bok gave a long, shuddering sigh. "Let's not forget the legends from primitive man in Tierra del Fuego, at the southern tip of South America. This legend tells of the day when the sun set in the wrong direction."

Or the Piri Reis map, showing the North Pole in the Sudan Basin! thought the Death Merchant. Even if modern science continues to ignore it . . .

"There is also quite a bit of evidence in Australia," offered Dr. Bok. "There's the Pejark Marsh which shows a very quick extinction of civilization eleven thousand five hundred years ago. There is also the geological datings in the Murrumbidgee River Basin system in Australia, revealing the end of an ice cap there about eleven thousand five hundred years ago."

Mad Mike Quinlan, having taken another drink of brandy, capped the bottle and said, "I think the evidence in Alaska and in Arctic Siberia should be more than enough. There is ample proof in these regions that civilization was completely wiped out in less than a day. Why the Bereovka mammoth was frozen solid so quickly in mud that he didn't even have time to swallow the buttercups in his mouth!"

Dr. Ed Steiger stepped closer to Ernst Schwengel, who was shifting from one foot to the other. "Ernst, the cause of the shifts! Did the disks reveal any information about the 'trigger' that affects the shifting of the earth's physical axis?"

Cut in Ashcroft with a nervous little laugh, "Well, it's been 6,500 years since the last shift, and since it was only 5,000 years between roll-overs, it seems to me we're overdue for the next one."

Ernst Schwengel hesitated, after which he said, "The disks gave the date for the next flip-over—during October of the year 2000."

"My God! That's only twelve years from now!" exclaimed Steinfeld. [The Greenland Mystery was published in early 1988.]

"As to the cause of the shift," said Schwengel, "it has to do with the two molten layers inside the planet, the most important of which is the thin molten one about sixty miles thick and between sixty and 120 miles below the surface. The thick, deep molten layer, starting at 1,800 miles down at the bottom of the mantle and extending 1,300 miles deeper, is the inner layer. Both are liquid; however, the inner electromagnetism of the earth makes these layers act as if they were near solid, or plastic. As long as the electro-magnetism does not 'flux,' order is kept and the earth rotates on its axis in a normal manner.

"The growing ice caps—Antarctica and Greenland—are not centered on the earth's axis; and, because they rotate around the poles, are trying to swing to the equator. The only way they could do it would be to pull the whole sixty-mile shell around with them. They can't, but only as long as the shallow molten layer stays plastic. But after so many thousand years the electromagnetic orderliness is disrupted, and the molten layer is free to act like pure liquid, which it was all the time anyway. It then serves as a lubricant for the ice caps to pull the shell of the earth around the inside.

"The shift takes place, triggered by neutral matter escaping from the 860-mile-radius center into the 1,300-mile thick inner layer and on up to the sixty-mile thick outer molten layer. The electromagnetism is disrupted between the two layers, and finally the ice caps are permitted to pull the shell of the earth around the liquid interior. It takes only one-fourth to one-half a day for the poles to move toward the equator.

"The planet rolls over, literally. On the surface of the planet unbelievable destruction takes place. There are giant earthquakes. Entire mountain chains rise and fall. New volcanos are born instantly and the oceans leave their beds. The atmosphere and the oceans don't shift with the shell; they keep rotating west to east, and at the equator that speed becomes 1,000 miles per hour. So, while the shell shifts with the poles going toward the equator, the winds and the water go eastward, blowing across the face of the planet with supersonic speeds, inundating entire continents with water more than three miles deep."

Even the Death Merchant didn't like to think about it. Five days after the roll-over in the year 2000, the Arctic Ocean Era will be ended, and the new Stone Age will have begun. The Bay of Bengal basin, just east of India, is now the "new" North Pole. The Pacific Ocean, just west of Peru, is now the "new" South Pole. Greenland and Antarctica are now rotating in the Torrid Zone, their ice caps dissolving madly in the tropical heat. Massive walls of water and ice will surge toward the oceans, taking everything—from mountains to plains—in gushing, heaving paths. In less than thirty years, the ice caps will be gone and the oceans will have risen 200 feet. For generations the Torrid Zone will be shrouded in a thick fog from the enormous amounts of moisture poured into the atmosphere by the melting ice caps.

New ice caps will form in the new polar areas while Greenland and Antarctica will begin to bloom with tropical foliage. Ha! Australia will be the "new unexplored" continent . . . with only a handful of survivors.

After this tumble, we will join Noah, Adam and Eve . . . Atlantis, Mu, and Olympus—and Christ will join Osiris, Zeus, and Vishnu. Thousands of years later there will be new myths and new legends about "the Motherland" that sank beneath the sea. There will be a "new" Adam and Eve story and more superstition about the Creator of the universe.
Oddly, none of the discs contain any information on the identity of the builders or how or when the city was constructed. Eventually, the men discuss religion.
Edward Steiger fingered his Adolf Hitler mustache with a gloved finger. "I have always been of the opinion that the holy books of the world's religions are altered accounts of historical events, that their 'religious truths' are based on myths that originated from genuine facts twisted and dimmed by time."

Right on, Doctor! Osiris, the ancient Egyptian "god," was a man who lived during one of the earth's roll-overs. "Adam and Eve" are only the most recent myths of how man was "created"! Eve was actually a generation after Adam—and was his daughter . . .

"That's logical," agreed Schwengel. "A hundred years after the next axis-change, man will have degenerated into an ignorant savage, and the true story of the cataclysm, handed down verbally from generation to generation, will be cloaked in myth and religious superstition. Once more, man will have been 'punished by God' for his sins and there will be new myths of how man was created." ...

"I think both of you are overestimating the power of religion," intoned Norman Ashcroft.

"And I think you are overestimating the intelligence of the human race," Quinlan replied. "Look at modern America or Europe. Millions believe in reincarnation, out-of-body experiences, witches, UFOs, magic and so-called PSI powers—all of it in the face of hard proof that such things do not exist."

"I tend to agree with you, Quinlan, and you, Ernst," said Bok. "We carry in us a cargo of instincts and drives which will never yield completely to rationality. Human beings at heart are superstitious tribal savages living in a world of scientific magic. Proof is all around us. It's like an incredible mass schizophrenia, a dual reality in which ordinary people can read of space probes, medical break-throughs and other scientific 'miracles,' and yet press a button on television and hear fundamentalist crackpots rave about heaven and hell. The pity is that millions believe such nonsense."

The Death Merchant said, "Gentlemen, it isn't that man is so stupid. The reason is that he is so afraid and unable to face his own mortality. He needs God to exist. He needs the supernatural. He needs Satan. He has to believe that death is not the end. He must believe in immortality. That there is some kind of eternal existence after death is the bedrock psychological need of the human species, and no proof will penetrate or demolish this belief. Death must not be the end, at all costs."
When Rosenberger switches to the Russians' POV, I was surprised to read:
Colonel Alexander Zorkvinov landed at Toronto's Pearson International Airport, he quickly saw that the Canadians lived as well as the Americans, even though their "dollar" was less in purchasing power than the American dollar. ... Zorkvinov took a cab from the airport and checked in at the Valhalla Inn on Highway 427, Exit Burnhamthorpe. Later in the dark afternoon, he went to Hertz, rented a car—a Turbo-ZX Datsun—and drove to Don Mills, a suburb northeast of the heart of Toronto.
The Burnhamthorpe exit on the 427 is only a few kilometers from where I live! I often shop at a grocery store there. (If there was a Valhalla Inn, it no longer exists. But Vahalla Inn Road is right off the highway.)

Camellion and Quinlan discuss how the "vodka-drinking lice" (aka the Russians) might gain control of the camp. They will likely not use missiles because they do not want to destroy the base or the alien city. Quinlan vows that if the Spetsnaz attack, "we'll paint the ice red with their blood".

Mad Mike is also a recurring character in the series, as are his top four Omegas. Each of them is a different nationality and I really wonder if Rosenberger's portrayals are meant as satire because each one is such a broad stereotype. Alexander Pratt, the Englishman, begins every third sentence with "I say ..." and refers to those around him as "chaps". Karl Wilheim "Willy" Bruckner's German-accented dialogue is presented like this: "Ja, he has der answer to der problem!" and "Vel, Camellion, ve are ready to kill der arschfickeren." There is also a Frenchman and a former member of the Spanish Air Force. Also, the group's "details man" is Marcello Salamo, who is only 42 inches tall, "as ugly as a gargoyle and as mentally sharp as a Japanese businessman".

Before the attack on the ice, however, we need a diversion (to fill some pages), so Camellion and Baylesson go to Halifax planning to kidnap and question a GRU sleeper agent about the possible Soviet attack. On the night they sneak up on the warehouse, there happens to be a big meeting of enemy agents (what a coincidence!). So we get another shootout—but the chance to nab the GRU agent is missed.

Camellion believes the Spetsnaz will come over the ice to attack, so they burn some "hide-in holes" in the shape of a V in the ice with Thermite. When the 90 Russians unknowingly march into the "killzone", the slaughter begins and "gallons of pig farmer blood" seeps into the ice. The Death Merchant captures two Russian colonels and forces them them to contact the Lenin, a nearby nuclear submarine, and report a victory over the Americans and let them know when "they" (actually Camellion and his men) will be returning. The Death Merchant plans to get aboard the sub and dismantle it so it sinks. He knows that fighting the sub's crew of 155 men would be "an exercise in stupidity".

And that's what happens. Camellion, Mad Mike, and the Omegas go about their wet work perfunctorily and Rosenberger does not include as many gun battles (and thus has less descriptions of the ensuing gore) as he usually does, so the finale of The Greenland Mystery is somewhat dull. Also as usual, Rosenberger does not bother returning to the various loose threads he spun out earlier in the book, so it's as if the apocalyptic pole-shift discussed earlier in the book was never actually mentioned.


In a footnote on page 152, Rosenberger refers to Super Death Merchant #1, Apocalypse, which I will be reading next.

"Jerking and jumping like a kitten spanking sunbeams, the corpse began to sag."

"He had never liked anyone with crooked teeth—why didn't the Zhusekik go to a dentist?"

"Everything had worked as slick as goose grease on a puppy's nuts."

"He had such strange sky-blue eyes, as though they had a life of their own, removed from the rest of his body that carried them."

"Even if the .50 caliber bullets had not been Geco-BAT, they were so large that a single round could take off an arm or a leg as easily as a cleaver chops a head of lettuce in two."

"Looking as frustrated as a pickpocket trying to steal a bowling ball ..."

"During the short time [Baylesson] had known the man with the strange blue eyes, he had come to realize that Camellion had the instincts and the intelligence of a born hunter. ... Baylesson had also sensed that Richard Camellion had little need for people. He wasn't selfish or overly introspective, only coldly logical: people were either obstacles to be removed or were a means toward some end. Baylesson often compared him to a Pope—condemned to a solitary pilgrimage. No, not condemned. He was a man who had chosen to make such a lonely journey."

"Bolar had never mentioned it to anyone, but Richard Camellion always made him feel slightly uneasy, as though he might be riding on a lunatic express with a laughing idiot at the throttle."

"All time is really one, Camellion had remarked to Quinlan. We are dying every second and being reborn every second, renewed bioelectrically in order to remain in this continuum. That's why 'death' is really so very easy. All that happens at death—at a specific micro-moment—is that certain features of the individual will not be reborn, or renewed. There will be no next moment. There will be no millisecond anticipation of the 'future,' nor a concern for the past. One is locked in the eternal Present—for a 'time' . . . depending . . ."

* * *

Pole Shift: Predictions and Prophecies of the Ultimate Disaster—a book that treats pole-shifting as if it was real—was published in 1980. Author John White actually cites two of Rosenberger's articles, a 1972 article for Search and a 1973 article for Fate, as though they were scientific papers! In 2013, White wrote:
In the early 1970s, when I was working in California as Director of Education for the Institute of Noetic Sciences, there was a widespread rumor that the West Coast was going to experience a terrible earthquake and a large portion of it would "fall into the ocean." This rumor owed much to the psychic readings of Edgar Cayce, "the sleeping prophet." In the 1930s, Cayce had predicted vast changes in the geography of our planet. He called them "earth changes." There would be terrible earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and the rise and fall of land masses, he said. They would begin in the second half of this century and increase in intensity, culminating at the end of the century in what Cayce described as "the shifting of the poles."

Over the years these predictions had permeated the psychic community and set up the expectation of terrible global destruction. ... I listened with interest to their warnings because part of the Institute's mission was to apply psychic functioning to planetary problems. ...

[I]n 1973, I began to investigate the subject. During six years of research, I gathered a large amount of data supporting the two principal questions I had asked myself: Have there been previous pole shifts? Might there be one in the near future? The evidence came from three sources: ancient prophecies, contemporary psychics, and scientifically-oriented researchers.

It pointed toward this conclusion: Yes, Earth had experienced pole shifts before and would again in the near future—at the end of the century. ...

The year 2000 came and went without the predicted disasters. Today, more than a decade later, it is more than obvious the predictions and prophecies were just plain wrong.

Does that mean there was no value to what I reported? Not at all.
Well ... okay. Way back when I started reading this book, I found this article in the New York Post:
Scientists believe a massive object that could change our understanding of history is hidden beneath the Antarctic ice.

The huge and mysterious "anomaly" is thought to be lurking beneath the frozen wastes of an area called Wilkes Land. The area is 151 miles across and has a minimum depth of about 2,700 feet.

Some researchers believe it is the remains of a truly massive asteroid more than twice the size of the Chicxulub space rock that wiped out the dinosaurs. ...

However, the wilder minds of the internet have come up with their own theories, with some conspiracy theorists claiming it could be a massive UFO base or a portal to a mysterious underworld called the Hollow Earth.
A video made by "Secure Team 10" can be viewed here. (I wonder if some members of that group have read any of Rosenberger's work.)

October 16, 2017


Thanks to Joe Kenney for his plug at Glorious Trash.

It was through Joe's highly-entertaining and informative reviews that I first discovered Joseph Rosenberger and the Death Merchant series, back in the early part of 2014. Shortly thereafter, I found a small pile of Death Merchant paperbacks in a used book store in Toronto - and I dove in.

I was immediately intrigued and entertained by Rosenberger's unique writing style, with its bizarre turns of phrase, extended digressions on various social and political topics (sometimes conducted in the middle of vicious gun battles), and its over-the-top and intricate descriptions of violence. All that - and the constant presence of the "Cosmic Lord of Death".

I wanted to know more about this writer, but there was next-to-nothing about him online (although Joe has posted some stuff in the last few years). I have done some research, as well, and will be posting some stuff (such as several letters to the editor from the 1970s) next year. For now, I am in the process of reading Rosenberger's action-adventure books. I know it's been a while since the last DM review, but a post about #70 is coming soon.

December 2, 2016

Death Merchant #69: The Miracle Mission

Holy Avenger

They called themselves the Brotherhood of Belial - a diabolical alliance of Red Brigade and Arab extremists. Together they'd staged one of the most shocking and blasphemous acts of world terrorism: the theft of the sacred Shroud of Turin. Someone has to recover the precious relic and teach the terrorists a lesson they won't forget.

Now the CIA has its own avenging angel. His name: Richard Camellion. 

Only the Death Merchant could lead a strike force of Israeli paracommandos from a daring kidnapping in Damascus to a stunning air assault in Tunisia - and lead his enemies into the hellfires of Judgment Day!


As the book's back cover states, a group of terrorists have stolen the famous Shroud of Turin and it's up to the Death Merchant to get it back. For this mission, Camellion teams up with fellow mercenary Lester Vernon Cole (aka the Widow Maker).

Courtland Grojean, Camellion's CIA boss, explains that the terrorists (a mix of Italian Red Brigades and Moslems) "want to strike at Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular. The Arabs have a long memory and their hatreds run deep. What better way to show up the Christian world than by destroying the Shroud? ... [It] would be Score One for World Terrorism and could begin an escalation against Catholic Shrines all over Europe. We want it nipped in the bud. ... Camellion, find that Shroud and whack out the scum who stole it. I don't give a damn how you and Cole do it."

The book opens with Camellion and Cole sneaking up on an Italian villa where Ahmed Nasir al-Din is supposedly hiding out with various Red Brigades district leaders. Al-Din is the main contact for the Syrian Vice President, who is also the brother of the President and a major link in financial support of terrorist organizations trafficking in heroin. The CIA had been watching al-Din and tracked him to the villa, which is owned by a "well-known left-wing sympathizer" who is also "a wealthy manufacturer of mass-produced ballpoint pens and pencils".

After their assault on the villa - al-Din was able to escape during the shootout - they learn from one of the survivors that al-Din lives in Damascus and knows who stole the Shroud. (Also, during the shootout, author Joseph Rosenberger takes time out to describe various artifacts in the room that end up being destroyed, including "a recreation of a 1927 sculpture by the famed Arthur van Frankenberg—a nude, in a sleek black lacquer finish, standing on a silver globe, her arms holding up a black half globe on which rested an eighteen-inch-diameter piece of plate glass" and "two prints of paintings by Renoir in hand-carved hardwood frames and a tall green tulip-shaped vase resting on a teakwood side table".)

Camellion says that he and Cole cannot do this job without the help of the Mossad, the Israeli intelligence service. There is a meeting with two Mossad agents, who say they know where al-Din lives. An agreement to attempt a kidnapping of al-Din is made. During the meeting, Cole rants about the Pope and all of the children that "God sends" to poor people in Africa and Latin America. (Rosenberger has included this complaint in at least a dozen Death Merchant books, including the last volume. He clearly was no fan of the Pope.)
Cole gave a loud snort. "That's even more ridiculous than the Pope's running around Africa and Latin America and exhorting the populace, who already have countless millions of children they can't feed, to accept all the crumb snatchers 'God sends them'. I didn't know that God was in the business of 'sending' babies to people! I tell you, religion has caused more misery in the world than all the dictators in history!
Then we shift to the POV of the Red Brigade leaders meeting in an abandoned barracks on the top of Mount Mijerda. We get a lot of explanation and exposition as they discuss the possibility of their ransom demands (33 billion lira and the release of six Red Brigade prisoners) being met. The thieves' goals are two-fold: "make the Vatican look like the corrupt, imperialistic suppressor of the workers that it actually is" and to force the Pope to make a speech asking Israel to give a homeland to "our people". (Even if their demands are met, they plan to burn the Shroud.)

Rosenberger must have done a ton of research on the Shroud, and he dumps much of it into a chapter that has Camellion and Mossad agent Benjamin Eshkol talking about the relic on an El Al plane ride. At one point, Eshkol says, "I gather than you think the Shroud is a fraud." Camellion replies:
"A lot of accepted 'truth' today is the result of what people thought in the past. We in the Western world have progressed because, thousands of years ago, our part of the race began following the Greek rationalists. That's why Western man won't leave anything alone, why he is constantly asking 'why' and looking for new ways not only to shape nature but to extend his hopes and dreams and ambitions out into the universe itself. That's the difference between the West and the East. People in the East are content with the past. They are satisfied with what they have. Oh, sure, the Arabs drive cars and carry transistor radios, but their ethics and moral values are the same as those that prevailed a thousand years ago. ...

"The future will prove that almost all of our concepts about god, creation, and the universe are false. Fifty years ago scientists proved that the 'biblical version of creation was only a tale based on ignorance and myth—understandable for those times. We in our own way today are equally as ignorant. Tell the average man that he is not a solid object, that everything he perceives to be solid matter is only electrical points of energy, and he will think you should be carted off to the funny farm. The gods all men worship today are man-created, man-manufactured myths with all of man's own emotions—love, hate, mercy, revenge, blood-letting, punishment—and even regret! We are still intellectual pigmies on the universal ladder of evolution.

"It is for that reason that much of the world's problems are still being caused by religious beliefs that are unrealistic and misplaced in time, rightly belonging to the past, their true origins coming from those days when people believed the earth had 'four corners,' and it was common for deluded men to 'talk with the gods.' The only thing man has to save himself from is his own stupidity and destructive impulses. And what does all that have to do with the Shroud. Nothing, really."
After landing at Lod Airport, they are taken to a meeting with various Mossad generals. The plan is to get into Syria (or, as Rosenberger puts it, "President Assad's little Disneyland of Moslem morons") by way of Jordan. There are spots along the border that are not guarded in the middle of the night. The crossing goes without any trouble and soon they are on the road to Damascus. They eventually arrive at a shop run by Abdullah and Leila Talalka, who know the area in which al-Din lives (Kaft Susah, three miles southwest of the city).

At night, Camellion, Cole and two others sneak up on al-Din's house, which "loomed like some kind of jet-black monolith of evil, daring them to come closer". They shoot it out with the guards and make their way upstairs. Al-Din, his wife and young son surrender and are taken to a waiting helicopter. (Apparently, his wife is not very attractive: "Mrs. al-Din was so ugly she would have to beg a peeping Tom for an appointment.") Once they are in the air, Camellion threatens to toss the young boy out of the copter if al-Din doesn't give them the necessary information. He tells them the Shroud is in Tunisia, in a little village called Takrouna.

Fifteen hours later, in Tel Aviv, discussions are underway about how to attack the village and rescue the Shroud. Camellion knows that Israel is assisting the United States in this mission because the US has promised to give Israel various military weapons. But why is the US so eager to help the Vatican?
[T]he Vatican's influence was actually nil. Nations faced reality, not the "wisdom" of fifteen hundred years of superstition. For the U.S. to be a part of a surgical strike directed at terrorists hiding in Tunisia, something far more than "Vatican influence" had to be involved. The Death Merchant would never know the true answer.
During the planning, Cole nearly comes to blows with a commando named Haim Reber while discussing "the merits and demerits of world religious beliefs". We only hear Cole's side of things, though:
The paratrooper became angry when Cole bluntly remarked that all monotheistic religions are "brutally militant." Cole had then stated that fanatical believers in the Bible, the Torah, and the Koran were "brainwashed halfwits" who had been killing each other for centuries without realizing that they had more in common than they had against one another and that there was simply "no way for anyone with intelligence to decide which of their 'unique revelations from God' was the true one.

"A fanatical Moslem will trot out the same dumb arguments for his point of view as a Bible beater. Neither can listen to reason because their entire system of belief excludes common logic and depends absolutely on following an external authority. The very existence of this authority, as well as the emotional security of the 'true believers,' requires a whipping boy—an excluded class of sinners and heathens and infidels, poor saps you can punish and send to 'Hell.' These religious fanatics believe the weirdest of fairy tales and call this kind of stupidity 'faith.' That Roman lawyer and idiot Tertullian said 'Credo, quia absurdum est!—I believe because it is absurd.' He was a damn fool. Tell a man you believe the moon is only five hundred klicks away, and you believe it because such a belief is 'absurd,' and he'll tell you you're crazy."

Cole had then given a more rational example—and it was this illustration that enraged Reber.

"Or consider how the Jews in Israel expect the world to accept the belief that God 'gave' them the land of Israel five thousand years ago! Only a fool would believe such crap!"

It was then that the enraged Reber jumped to his feet. The Death Merchant, afraid that Vern would break the man's neck, immediately stepped between the two men, as had Colonel Hille, who had then proclaimed loudly that from then on, there would be no discussion of religion or politics between the Americans and the Israelis.

Later the Death Merchant had told Cole, "You've got to learn to keep your opinions to yourself, Vern. We both know the world is five hundred years behind reality."

"Bunk!" Cole had snapped. "You know as well as I do that a truly intelligent person who is honestly religious is as rare as rocking-horse manure!"

"That's not the point. When you castigate a person's religious beliefs, even if you tell him the truth, you seriously interfere with his sense of eternal 'social security,' his adult 'security blanket.' You remind him of his own stupidity. No one likes that."
The Death Merchant has no illusions that the upcoming attack will cause future terrorists to think twice (despite saying the exact opposite earlier in the book: "With this strike into Tunisia, we'll be sending a message to all terrorists, especially the Islamic Jihad: Scum who grab religious relics will pay for it with their lives."). At the same time, Rosenberger gets to sound off on a few political issues:
American planners did not have the capacity to understand the fanaticism of Moslems, especially the psychotics in the deadly Islamic Jihad—"Holy War." Both the CIA and the Mossad had hard intelligence to prove that the Jihad was trying to recruit West European and American mercenaries to carry out specific operations involving nuclear terrorism. Small nuclear devices—ones below the one-kiloton destructive capability range—would kill five to ten thousand people outright and infect thousands more with radiation. It would happen in some city in Western Europe and in the United States. Already four American cities had been targeted—New York, Chicago, Omaha, and Los Angeles. It would happen because European governments did not have the common sense and the ability to stop it. The same applied to the United States, only more so. The American answer to terrorism, other than hot-air speeches about "our greatness," was always given by left-wing trash and unrealistic liberals. They would attack the rights and the freedom of the general public instead of dealing with the real problem and its solution. Led by the Kennedys, O'Neals, Cranstons, and Dodds who were constantly demanding "gun control" as an answer to crime, this bloc of airheads would only reluctantly admit that terrorism of the worst kind was even possible in the U.S.A. If it did occur . . . shucks, SWAT teams could handle it! It was enough to make even a halfway intelligent person vomit. Against automatic weapons, grenades, and shoulder-fired missiles, the best SWAT teams in the U.S. would be blown away as fast as either Camellion or Cole could kill a man with his bare hands. The police couldn't even make the streets safe for citizens! In Washington, D.C., a woman couldn't go out at high noon without being propositioned, or assaulted, by one of her "equals"! Yet SWAT teams were going to protect the American people from terrorism! Childish, ludicrous, and not only ridiculous but pathetic.

The Death Merchant knew the answer: Nothing will be done until ten thousand people are killed in a twinkling of an eye and another twenty thousand die more slowly from radiation poisoning.

Yes, sir . . . we're going to see some exciting times before 1989.
An attack force of 58 Israeli paracommandos heads to Tunisia and as they approach Mount Mijerda, the copters' GAU-8/A Gatling guns start spitting out 30-mm projectiles, riddling the barracks below. As a steady stream of metal death rains down on the barracks, the other copters land and the commandos get out. Meanwhile, inside the structure, one of the terrorists (Rodocanachi) says he's going down to the dungeon to burn the Shroud!

The Death Merchant and the others attack the barracks, tossing in HdGr 69 offensive grenades and Lodtz L-2 grenades (nicknamed the "Revenge of God") as they move room to room. ("When exploded in a closed room, the shower of steel left a victim resembling ground beef over which blood had been poured.") As they do, the "Italian and Middle East pig farmers" retreat back to other rooms. (We get other slurs, too: "sand crab", "sand crawler", "towel heads", "European spaghetti gobblers" and "garlic snappers".)

At some point, it is every man for himself. In addition to a variety of karate moves intended to disarm and kill, Camellion also tosses some choice insults at the terrorists, including "May a camel crap in your curds, you stupid sand eater!" and "May you find a Mullah with measles in your bed—stupid!"
As Ikrit pulled back with the knife and Abu-Akawi picked up an empty Galil assault rifle, the Death Merchant used his right hand in a very fast Teisho palm-heel strike. It caught Ikrit in the end of his chin and snapped his head back with such force that intense pain shot through his cervical vertebrae.

Again Camellion moved to the right to avoid Abu-Akawi. He grabbed Ikrit's right wrist and twisted, forcing the knife to fall to the floor and making the sand crab's shoulder move higher. Before Ikrit could make any moves or even try to free himself, Camellion pulled back hard on the arm, swung the dazed man toward Abu-Akawi, and executed a left-legged Tae Kwon Do Hyung high middle front snap kick, the toe of his boot burying itself deeply in Ikrit's armpit and against the side of his chest. Now it was Ikrit's turn to shriek in agony. Bones cracked, thoracic organs were jarred, nerve endings ripped apart. In agony, Ikrit became a mass of helplessness, shock causing him to stumble around and vomit all over himself.

Kamal Abu-Akawi was only partially disabled, with a few broken bones in his right hand. He felt he was going to die, but he had to try something. He did have more sense than to the empty Galil AR at the Death Merchant. Instead, he tried to spear Camellion in the pit of the stomach with the end of the barrel. Only Camellion wasn't where he was supposed to be! During that minimoment, Camellion had leapt high off the floor. His body was almost horizontal as he executed a thunder kick with both legs, one foot landing on Abu-Akawi's face, the other foot catching him across the throat. Abu-Akawi dropped the Galil, let out a strangled yell, and stumbled over the arm of a corpse on the floor. He fell heavily, landing on his back. He was choking to death, and not only on broken teeth or a broken nose and shattered jaw. The foot that had crashed into his throat had turned his larynx into bloody mush and crushed the upper portions of both his trachea and his esophagus. Within half a minute he would be as dead as he would ever get or could possibly be.

Haj Fayiz Ikrit was still alive, however—and desperately trying to find a hiding place he knew didn't exist. He found only the waiting arms of the Cosmic Lord of Death.
As for the rest of the enemy, "they were in the toilet and all that Camellion had to do was pull the chain and flush them into nothingness". Soon, the fight is over. "The Death Merchant, wishing he had brought a sack of pumpkin seeds with him, looked around. Vern Cole and three paracommandos had come into the room and were also assessing the bodies on the stone floor, some almost piled on top of each other. Among them were dead Israelis, the brown pattern of their cammies contrasting strangely with the terrorists' half-nakedness."

A small group heads for the dungeon. In one of the cells, they see a faint light. It's Rodocanachi, sitting on the floor, cackling quietly in what seems like a lobotomized state ("a picaresque character in some hideous, hellish play"). His hair has turned snow-white and he is now blind. The men smell petrol and see several burnt matches on the floor - and then see the intact, undamaged Shroud. Why didn't it burn? "I don't have an answer," says Camellion. (While everyone is pretty spooked at this, absolutely no one is troubled that the ancient Shroud was completely doused with gasoline.)

They pack up the Shroud and head out. On the plane, Cole is unusually quiet. "What had taken place in the dungeon had unnerved Cole and had forced him to review his value system and his belief in the future, in the eternal". Camellion also has no idea what happened. "The so-called science of coincidence could not be applied, not in this case."

So Rodocanachi went to the dungeon and had plenty of time to destroy the Shroud, but since the Shroud needed to be saved, this was apparently the only explanation Rosenberger could come up with. It's a lame ending, with Rosenberger - who has railed constantly against religion throughout the series - strongly hinting that a miracle has taken place or that there is some kind of supernatural power attached to the Shroud. ("How could anyone even begin to explain the impossible?")


Camellion thinks about George Washington being the father of his country: "If George could come back and see what a mess the U.S. was in, he'd demand a vasectomy!"

Some lazy writing: "He dropped like a stone to the stones, his head making a thud as it hit the floor of the porch. By the time the Red Brigades coglione was stretched out stone dead on the floor ..."

Cole: "Let's not hang around like a big fart in a little phone booth."

"Assad is a stupid sand crab suffering from delusions of grandeur. If he keeps it up, he might even get the ambition to be the governor of Arizona!" (Note: Rosenberger lived in Arizona when he wrote this book.)

November 20, 2016

Death Merchant #68: The Hindu Trinity Caper

Deadly Acronym

PAL - Permissive Action Link: the President's "trigger" to the detonation of all US nuclear warheads. Four have vanished from a high security government lab. Now, somewhere in India, a renegade communist spy plans to give the KGB the key to America's atomic arsenal!

Enter Richard Camellion. Posing as a harmless tourist, he leads a team of special agents on a blood-soaked manhunt from the back alleys of Delhi to the Holy Temples of Kashmir...toward an explosive showdown that will leave Uncle Sam's most powerful enemies without a hope or prayer.


So ... the Infinite Jest Group Read ended in September and my Stephen King Project has slowed to a pace resembling a jog through quicksand, so it's back to the violent and bloody exploits of Richard Camellion.

Joseph Rosenberger wrote 70 DM volumes and one stand-alone book - twice the length of the regular publications - entitled "Super Death Merchant". Looking at the publication dates, it appears that SDM #1 (titled Apocalypse) was published between #67 and #68 of the DM series. However, I don't believe there will be any problem with reading the final books out of publication order. (And who knows in what order Rosenberger actually wrote them?) I'll continue with the final three books of the series and then dive into SDM #1.

The Hindu Trinity Caper opens with Camellion in Bombay, disguised as a Sikh taxi driver. Faking car trouble, he pulls up to a house full of drug smugglers and asks the owners if he can use the phone. It's a cunning plan to see the layout of the nine-room house, so he can return later that night and apprehend Edgar Bedsloe, an East German intelligence officer. While on the phone, a gun falls out of Camellion's hidden shoulder holster and hits the ground. ... Rut roh! In a "twinkling of a bat blink", a shootout begins. In all of the commotion, Bedsloe runs out of the house. Camellion gives chase through a Dakhma, but cannot catch him.

News of the shootout reaches Mischa Wolf, the head of East German Intelligence. Wolf believes that Bedsloe is actually Franz Holtz, an agent who is planning to defect to the Soviet Union. Then, utterly out of the blue, Wolf and two other men rant about the problem of illegal immigration in the United States. Wolf mentions the "flood of Mexican trash" coming into the US and quotes an article from the New York Times.

In the Soviet Embassy in New Delhi, the Russians are also discussing the shootout, as well as asking questions about Bruce Canover, an American professor visiting India with his wife and 12-year-old son (who are actually Camellion and agents Lana Stanley and Wilbur "Weejee" Theimer (a little person)). They have concluded that Bedsloe is Holtz and that the Canovers are CIA agents. They believe that Holtz has stolen four nuclear safety circuits from the US and will give them to the Soviets when he defects.

The Death Merchant, Stanley and Weejee regroup in a safe house in northwest Bombay. While they wait as Courtland Grojean (Camellion's boss) and the CIA develop a lead on Holtz, we get Holtz's backstory:
The story had really begun almost eight years earlier. It was in late 1980 that MfS, East German Intelligence, sent two illegals into the United States, two highly trained deep-cover agents: Franz Joseph Holtz and Erika Ermatrude Hoffman. Under a man-and-wife cover of "Edgar and Cora Bedsloe," the couple settled in Amarillo, Texas, supposedly moving from Du Quoin, Illinois*.

Their target was the Pantex nuclear warhead assembly plant.

In 1983, Edgar Bedsloe obtained employment at the Pantex facility. A conscientious worker, he was promoted in 1983 to a position that gave him access to the section where the permissive action links were kept.

Bedsloe (or Holtz) was very cautious and bided his time. It was not until October 1986 that he stole four PALs—and vanished.
[* Note: Author Joseph Rosenberger was originally from Du Quoin, Illinois.]

For some reason Camellion and Stanley do not remain in the safe house. They end up going sight-seeing (!) to the Elephanta Caves. Two Soviet agents attempt to kill them during the cave tour, but they are able to gun them down (as well as killing four back-up agents). Camellion and Stanley cannot escape the cave undetected, however, so they turn themselves over the the local police. They claim they acted in self-defense, with Camellion using his superior self-control to foil a lie detector test. While the Indian police privately suspect that Bruce Canover and his wife are CIA, governmental higher-ups order them to be released. They are told to leave the country immediately.

Two police cars escort Camellion and Stanley back to their hotel. But there are two masked men (East German agents) waiting in their room. The masked men kill the cops and attempt to black-bag the Canovers. Another shootout ensues and, after gunning down several MfS agents, Camellion, Stanley, and Weejee escape, stealing a car and heading to a safe house in the Kamatipura District.

Meanwhile, at his country house, Wolf gets the bad news that the assassination attempt has failed. We learn that the Germans have been receiving information from Parveen Babbi, a prostitute who has a relationship with a hard-drinking KGB officer. They need Babbi to find out how the KGB is going to meet up with Holtz. (Babbi will end up passing the same information to the CIA.)

The Death Merchant and his team fly from Bombay to yet another safe house, this time on a betel nut plantation. As usual, Rosenberger is incredibly meticulous in describing the safe house (known as "Ding Bat") and a near-by, half-ruined fort:
Kangra Rasjasthan's house was shaped like half a swastika. There was a long perpendicular section to the north. Connected to this section was an even longer horizontal section that was laid out from east to west. At the west end of this section was the last portion of the house; it, too, was perpendicular. The five rooms of Ding Bat were in the north vertical section.

Next to Rasjasthan's house—to the east—were the rusty-red sandstone ruins of Agra Fort ...

Only Agra Fort's outer front wall, sixty-one feet high and thirty feet thick, was still intact. To the west, the wall moved past the end of the north section of the house, so close that the house's north wall—the perpendicular section to the north—was flush against the south side of the Fort's massive front wall. The wall then curved southeast, then south, then made a wide curve to the northeast.
Inside the house, they chat about Holtz and the PALs before the discussion devolves into racist comments against non-white immigrants.
Gelhart finished his ginger ale and placed the empty glass next to him on the floor. "Win or lose, we're skating on thin ice. I don't think it makes all that much difference in the long run. Sooner or later the Russians are going to lose control of their society. We've already lost control of ours. We're risking our lives to protect a society that is rapidly rushing toward its own destruction."

"That's a very broad generalization," said Lana Stanley, who found Gelhart's pronouncement annoying. "I think there's a lot of good in American society. You've been brainwashed by a media that focuses only on the bad." She glanced at Camellion, expecting him to reinforce her opinion. She didn't like what she got.

"Rory has a good point," he said curtly. "American society has stretched the boundaries of moral behavior so much that we're drowning in a sea of permissiveness. There is a tendency to encourage each delicate ego to become the prime center of its own universe. It's called 'personal freedom,' but it's a freedom that's totally out of control."

"He's right!" Gelhart was quick to point out. "Along with that runaway freedom is the attempt by the liberal-minority coalition to make the American people wholeheartedly accept immigration, integration, and miscegenation."

"That's a racist statement, if I ever heard one!" Stanley snapped. She also gave Camellion a dirty look.

"It's fact," Gelhart insisted. "What the television specials don't tell the American people is that past immigration was almost entirely of European origin, while today it is mostly nonwhite. Today's nonwhite immigrants are coming in so fast and reproducing so rapidly that in a short time white people will become a minority in their own country."

"Nonsense!" sneered Stanley. "There have always been doomsday prophets, and not one of their prophesies have ever come true. I think a lot of immigrants coming into the United States today contribute to society."

"They sure do!" laughed Gelhart. "Go to any large city and you'll see what the majority of these new immigrants contribute—crime, disease, corruption, drugs, poverty, illiteracy—the whole nine yards that's wrecking society."

The Death Merchant said mildly, "Most people don't know it, but the woman who wrote the poem that was placed on the Statue of Liberty, seventeen years after the monument's erection, was named Emma Lazarus. She was a proletarian Marxist, and she called for Americans to accept the 'wretched refuse from your teeming shore.' It's ironic. Today we are certainly accepting that 'wretched refuse'—by the millions!"
The next day, a coded message arrives: Holtz is making contact with the KGB in Fatehpur Sikri, at the Temple of the Rain, in a couple of days.

That night, or rather 3:30 the following morning, Camellion is awakened by Gelhart. Alarms are going off around the house as Indian paracommandos are closing in (it is not explained how they were tipped off to the location of the safe house). After a shootout, during which the house is rigged with explosives, Camellion and his group escape through a secret passage behind a bookcase that leads to the fort, where there is a van stashed. As they leave, they trigger the charges, destroying the house and killing the comandos.

They drive to Brass Coin, the other safe house in town: the colonial home of Malcombe Pratt Walsingham. His motivation for having his house used as a CIA safe place? Money, of course. But also: "He knew that the United States stood for freedom and was the hope of the world."

Finally, the Death Merchant and his associates are at Jammu, mingling with dozens of tourists. As they move leisurely towards the Temple of the Rain, they spy a group of seven men and one woman - and think (correctly, but based on very little evidence) these people have to be Holtz and the Russians. They attempt to surround the group and when they get close, they attack. A huge battle breaks out, and soon there are also KGB agents and East German paracommandos on site.
The Death Merchant didn't walk into Major Bukashev's trap. Bukashev, realizing instantly that he and his men had walked into a trap, was too much of a street fighter to think he could defend himself and still hold on to the attache case with his right hand. He let the handle of the case slip from his hand, feigned a left inside roundhouse kick and a right edge-of-the-hand strike to the left side of the Death Merchant's neck. At the same time, he tried a left hand two-finger spear strike straight for Camellion's throat. The Death Merchant didn't fall into the cleverly executed trap. He blocked the roundhouse kick with a right-legged chado sweep and easily brushed aside Bukashev's knife-hand strike by bringing up his left arm, his forearm slamming against the inside of the Russian's right wrist and throwing the arm outward. The two-finger spear strike was not a problem either. Camellion stepped to his left and the Russian's hand went harmlessly by the right side of his neck.

Bukashev did not have time to reorganize a new attack. The Death Merchant was far too fast, and Major Bukashev had left himself wide open. Camellion used a double-strike. He raised his right arm, and brought the edge of his hand down against the left side of Bukashev's neck in a Shuto sword-ridge slam. Simultaneously, he used his left hand in a Yubi Basami knuckle-fingertip strike.

Major Boris Bukashev might as well have been hit by a fifty-ton tank. Camellion's right-handed strike crashed into the Russian agent's sternocleidomastoid muscle and shook his jugular vein and carotid artery to the extent that, for a second, blood was cut off from the brain.

It was the knuckle-fingertip "claw" that switched off Bukashev's life. Camellion's thumb and first two fingers crushed the thyroid cartilage. Faster than one could say "Praise be to Lenin," there was hemorrhage, and as blood burst from veins the soft-tissues in Bukashev's throat began to swell, cutting off all air. Bukashev's eyes began to expand out of his head as loud gasping and choking sounds poured from his mouth. The hinges in his knees began to fold and he began to sink to the floor. He'd be stone dead within twenty seconds.

Alexander Kogan was having his problems, and Franz Holtz and Suri'an Nushinobey were having theirs. A big man, Kogan had not counted on the speed with which Rory Gelhart would employ a right-legged inside roundhouse kick, any more than Holtz and his Hindu girl friend had anticipated Dillman's cyclone-quick attack.

Almost 90 percent of Rory Gelhart's weight was behind the roundhouse slam, his foot almost burying itself in Kogan's lower stomach and upper abdomen. Blue-hot agony shot all the way to Kogan's face and down to his testicles and through each leg. His bladder and part of his lower intestine were mashed. The femoral arteries were as flat as paper, and the spinal nerves were sending giant impulses of shock waves to the brain. Unable to withstand such an assault of pure pain, the brain exploded psychically. A corpse, Alexander Kogan fell backward.
The Death Merchant is able to grab Holtz and the all-important attache case. Holtz says that there is only one PAL in the case; the other three are in a storage company vault in Chicago.

During the shooting, there are some very close calls!
By the time the other commandos to the east recovered and got into action, the Death Merchant, his three men and their captive were halfway to the first kos minars facing the north. But they were still in a storm of silent death. A 7.62mm projectile tore through the shoulder bag—taken from Major Bukashev—that was bumping up and down against Camellion's right hip. There was a loud ZINGGGgggggg as the bullet hit the side of an M61 Skorpion submachine gun, the impact making Camellion almost lose his balance. Another bullet missed the rear of his head—horizontally—by only half an inch. Several more projectiles tore through the bottom of his long coat, which was fluttering out behind him.

A slug cut through Barry Dillman's clothes and scraped part of his back where the rear of the two scapula protruded. Another tore off the right heel of his jabba boot as his foot was raised. Another came so close, horizontally, to the back of his neck that the metal touched the longer hairs in its passing.

Gelhart, Holtz, and Hondergriff also found themselves in a cloud of flying projectiles. One bullet knocked off Holtz's nritrya; another cut across the underneath side of his right wrist, the same bullet, streaking at an angle, almost hitting Rory Gelhart in the right side.
DARFA troops are standing by with a Panhard M3 command vehicle. They plan to keep the DM's group pinned down until they run out of ammo. A CIA helicopter arrives and uses its 16-Y Ubba chaingun to rain 20mm shells down on the groups of enemy agents.
BBBBBBBRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR! Fifty 20-MM projectiles hit the Panhard, forty-eight going easily through the thin armor plate, twelve exploding with the force of a dozen hand grenades. For the space of a heartbeat there was only flame and smoke as the command car turned itself and its four occupants into hot, twisted metal decorated with bloody parts of arms and legs and other parts of bodies, including internal organs. Major Marchchakka's head flew fifty feet into the air before falling to the stones and bouncing for several feet like a basketball running out of air.
During the hellacious firing from the copter, Camellion and the others escape to the Garden of the Moon, where they will be rescued. Holtz is killed in the firefight, however.

Six days later, Camellion is in Langley, Virginia, where he is told by Grojean that he was not supposed to find Holtz! It turns out the CIA had been wise to Holtz for about a year before he made his move. The CIA had by then substituted fake or altered devices for the PALs Holtz was planning to steal. The CIA had no idea why the East Germans wanted these devices, but were thrilled when they heard Holtz wanted to defect. Grojean believed if the Soviets studied the fake PALs, it would set their missile plans "back several years". The Death Merchant is told he was called in only for appearances sake, to make it look to MfS and the KGB like the US actually wanted to capture Holtz. Camellion doesn't seem too perturbed that he risked his life in a pointless mission that didn't really need to be undertaken.


Camellion dislikes cursing: "Swearing was only the lazy person's way of expressing emotion."

"Not only had the Death Merchant's pile driver foot-stomp broken the main tarsus bone, it had also injured a large portion of the medial plantar nerve, as well as smaller portions of the deep peroneal nerve and the superficial peroneal nerve."

"Self-contradictions, Gordian knots and paradoxes! The entire world was one big absurdity! In the United States and Europe, overweight was a problem of millions. Yet in the world at large, a human being dies of hunger every eight seconds! The West was obsessed with freedom. There were constant references made to the world's most useless debating society, the United Nations—but forty member nations in the UN do not even allow elections!"

Lana Stanley, an attractive woman posing as Camellion's wife, notes that the Death Merchant "hadn't even made a simple pass at her. Before retiring, he would sit cross-legged on the floor and do yoga breathing exercises, after which he would crawl into bed beside her, say "Good night," roll over, and instantly go to sleep."

"I used to be disgusted with the world; now I'm only amused. The Death Merchant often wished that some of the liberal unrealists in the United States could see the reality of the rest of the world. They would know that there can never be total equality. Each group has its own talents and intelligence level. What makes a people great is not "theory," but what they have accomplished. The world belongs not to "people" but to those who have made civilization."

Despite Rosenberger's frequent statements that the United States is a beacon for freedom in the world, he often has Camellion criticize the US:
Listening to the drone of the engines, the Death Merchant thought of Martin Koss. The poor guy had a lot to learn. He believed he was fighting for "freedom," for "democracy," and for that nebulous entity called the "American people." If Koss lived long enough, he would come to realize that, for comparatively little pay, he was risking his neck for self-serving hypocrites who worshiped money and power, for a system too eager to protect and too reluctant to punish, too "equality" happy to be realistic, yet too selfish to really care. A tinsel town of materialistic morons who thought more of half-illiterate sports figures than they did of scientists—That's what that fool Koss is fighting for!
And finally:
The Death Merchant had only one real regret in his life: that more often than not the people he worked with (and Courtland Grojean) regarded him as a master killer. It was paradoxical not only because he killed only when he had to, but because he considered all life special and precious. Even the pig-farmer trash in the Soviet Union contained a spark of the Eternal. However, there were honest Russians, many of whom were willing to fight and die for their belief in freedom.

May 30, 2016

Death Merchant #67: Escape From Gulag Taria

Gulag Death

Deep in the frozen wastelands of Siberia, in an impregnable hospital fortress, a would-be defector with a powerful secret is being held prisoner. He is a Soviet physicist whose work in weather control could give the Cold War a whole new twist. The CIA's problem: how to kidnap him from a psychiatric staff of Soviet sadists and KGB killers. The answer: Richard Camellion. Who else in their right mind would lead a ragtag band of fanatic dissidents against the whole of Mother Russia and find a deadly mission the perfect chance to go a little crazy?


In The Silicon Valley Connection (DM #58), Joseph Rosenberger wrote:
Throughout the length and breadth of the USSR, in thousands of camps, in prisons and on trains, was hidden a population larger than that of Canada4, as large as Czechoslovakia or Yugoslavia, or of Belgium and Austria put together; and in each prison and in each work camp were the KGB sadists, the parilka, or "sweat room," and an utter lack of hope.

4 In Death Merchant number 68, Escape from Gulag Taria—yet to be published—a full explanation of the Soviet slave system will be given—information printed for the first time anywhere.
Rosenberger doesn't deliver on that promise of "a full explanation" of the "slave system", although throughout the first half of the book, several Russians "traitors" working with Camellion continually tell him how awful things are in "this prison of a nation". We hear mostly about the pessimistic character of the typical Russian and his relationship to his repressive government, but we also learn about coarse toilet paper and women who do not shave their legs. (In an odd aside, Rosenberger states that Camellion's extreme, long-standing, and oft-stated prejudice against everything Russian was "based strictly on emotion and had no foundation in fact".)

So the Death Merchant is in southeastern Siberia, on a mission to rescue (or kidnap, in the KGBs mind) Dr. Georgi Ulomov from "Special Psychiatric Hospital UZh-15/5 ITK-14", where he has been imprisoned for speaking out against weather modification. ("The nation that could fully control the weather could control the world.") Much of the story takes place in the area of Yakutsk, located about 450 kilometers south of the Arctic Circle.

Camellion is working with several Russians, including an attractive woman named Zoya Beliyev:
Not immune to the charms of even a female pig farmer (or a roll in the hay, even if the hay was in the Soviet Union), the Death Merchant reflected that Zoya did have a nice body. Each breast was a good handful, and while her hips were a trifle too wide, her stomach was firm and flat, her navel so deep it could hide half a tongue. For a Russian woman, she did have slim legs, and shapely, too, not too thick in the calves and thighs. Nor was she unattractive facially either.
Zoya seems to be flirting with Camellion at one point, but nothing happens as the Death Merchant can't get past "those damned hairy legs"! (Actually, Camellion seems completely immune to the charms of females. He's not gay; sex plays almost no part in any of these books. Once in a while, maybe every 10 books, Rosenberger writes that the Death Merchant finds a woman attractive. I think Camellion has had sex maybe two or three times in the entire series.)

Camellion and two others attempt to get Ulomov out of the hospital by posing as three Russian officers with transfer papers. But the KGB (often referred to as the Kah Gay Beh) at the hospital see through their ruse and the three have to shoot their way out. They steal a jeep and escape. They go into hiding at Beliyev's grandmother's house as the KGB searches for the "terrorists" who killed roughly a dozen men at the hospital.

There are several ambushes or skirmishes that pop up every so often. Camellion and a Russian named Kirill Tarkovsky are driving and find the road has been blocked by an accident. They decide to wait in a cafe. The militia comes in and demands to see everyone's papers. The two men have fake papers and they end up having to blast their way to safety, leaving a pile of slug-stabbed bodies behind. Once the road is cleared, they drive on -- and are followed by more KGB agents. And so there is yet another bloody shootout.

Camellion's plan is to attack the hospital, assuming that while the Russians may think he'll attempt another kidnapping, he won't go all out and attack the place. With explosives and many weapons, he sneaks into the hospital grounds and causes much havoc. Camellion forces one guard at gunpoint to lead him to Ulomov and he gets him out of the hospital. While they are driving away with Ulomov, the Death Merchant and his group are set upon by the KGB. Cue the high-velocity projectiles and subsequent gore.

They eventually make their way to the coast where they are supposed to meet some Navy SEALs before swimming out to a waiting submarine. On the beach, they encounter - not Navy SEALs - but "Mad Mike" Quinlan and about thirty of his Thunderbolt Unit Omega mercenaries. Quinlan says his group has been hired by the CIA because they are "expendable". Soon enough, nearly ten armored KGB cars are converging on the beach. Rosenberger is once again at his best in describing the in-close gunfighting and hand-to-hand combat. In the finale to this volume, he gives us about 10 pages of meticulously described action.

Some trademark Rosenberger gore:
Five .45 THV copper projectiles had shot through the engine, turning two of the cylinders into junk. The other sixteen THVs had not increased the longevity of the three members of the militia and the KGB officer. The copper-points had poked through the door and the driver as easily as if the metal and cloth and flesh and bone had been soggy tissue paper. ... Neither man had time to cry out or even think of his mother.

Neither did the two men in the rear, three slugs hitting the man on the left and four striking Paul Raske, who was on the right. When the Death Merchant had triggered the Ingram, Raske had been bending over to pick up an AKR submachine gun. Three of the slugs that ripped through his seatmate bored through Raske's left side. A fourth projectile smacked him in the side of the head with such force that his skull exploded. There was a loud pop that no one heard, and pieces of ripped flesh and bits of bone and bloody brain were suddenly all over the floor, the rear of the front seat, and the right side of the dead dummy to the left. ...

Phyyyt. The first .22-caliber hollow point caught the KGB boob with the flashlight in the mouth and blew out the back of his neck. He dropped the lantern and was falling backward when Camellion fired four more times, the silenced Ruger pistol whispering. The second Russian went down with an exploded heart and a slug that had angled through his right lung and rested against the innerside of the scapula. The third guard took the last fall of his life with slugs that had cut through the thin zygomatic bone of his face and had tickled the pons, the brain stem. He, too, had become as useful as a parachute on an ocean liner. ...

On the left side of the cab, Alexey Perchany was rolling under the rig as slugs from the chattering Ingram chopped into the six troopers and the three KGB agents. Byhairin's head seem to jump six inches from his neck. It had. Three .45 THV slugs had almost decapitated him. He fell with his head held by only a strand of flesh and flopping like a football, bouncing back and forth between his shoulder blades. The blood spurting from the stub of his neck splashed all over Lieutenants Norvorzhev and Josef Perikiriv. Both men were stone dead, their upper chests having been ripped open by the axelike Tres Haute Vitesse projectiles. ...

Mad Mike Quinlan was having a slight problem of his own at the moment, in the form of a big Russian coming at him with an AKR assault rifle with a bayonet attached.
"You stupid son of a bitch!" Mike taunted Branko Voukelich. "I'm going to take that frog sticker away from you and use it to pin your ass to the sand!"
Enraged, Voukelich made a quick thrust at Mike's stomach, and instantly received his Big Shock of the day. Quinlan side-stepped and with lightning speed used the palm of his right hand to parry the thrust, shoving against the side of the barrel and the handle of the bayonet. At the same time he stepped to his right oblique. He was now in a position facing the bayonet, with his groin area protected by his right leg. Before the startled—and now a bit frightened—Voukelich could pull back and try for another thrust, Quinlan grabbed the upper portion of the assault rifle with his left hand and used a right sword-ridge hand to strike the inside of Voukelich's left elbow, the sharp slam causing the Russian trooper to let out a yell of pain and release his left hand from the forward underneath portion of the AKR assault rifle. Quinlan grabbed the AKR with both hands and, as he kicked Voukelich in the left kneecap with his left foot, twisted the assault rifle and its bayonet free. Just as quickly, Quinlan hooked the instep of his left foot in back of Voukelich's left ankle and jerked. Down went Voukelich, flat on his back. A quick reversal of the assault rifle by Mad Mike and an even faster downward thrust. Voukelich screamed a very short wail of agony as the blade of the bayonet cut through his colon and tickled his spine. His body jerked several times. His eyes rolled back and his mouth went slack. He was lucky. He would never suffer from cancer.
A well-hidden secret room at a church:
Only half listening to the conversation, the Death Merchant felt it was ironic that monks of the Russian Orthodox Church—dead for two hundred years—had saved his life. Their ingenuity in constructing the secret rooms beneath the Church of Our Savior deserved gold stars. A stone trapdoor in the floor behind the high altar could be opened by releasing a tiny catch concealed in one of the confessionals. Beneath the trapdoor was a square shaft, then down twenty-nine feet on a ladder to a low, narrow passage that stretched for sixty feet to the north. Twenty-three feet to the north was another trapdoor concealed in the floor; beneath it was the first occultated room. A cleverly hidden door in its south wall opened to another room. At the end of the sixty-foot passage was a door concealed in the stones of the north wall. The outer stones of the door were so finely cut that, when the door was closed, the edge of a razorblade couldn't be inserted. Beyond the door was a large crypt, behind its west wall a smaller catacomb containing the sealed sepulcher of four monks. In the north wall was still another hidden door, beyond it another vault filled with broken stones. The Soviet government knew about these five rooms. The KGB knew. What the KGB didn't know was that Yuri Gagarin had discovered two more tomblike rooms. In the floor of the rubble-filled chamber was a trapdoor that opened to a shaft. Ten feet below and at the end of the shaft was a large chamber. Beyond the south wall of this chamber was the last and final space. It was to this room that Gagarin brought the Death Merchant and Kirill Tarkovsky.
Camellion muses on some End of the World nonsense:
As silent as a shadow, the Death Merchant moved out and headed toward the east wall. There wasn't any need to linger. Either the guards in the towers would see him or they wouldn't. ... He moved south rapidly, thinking that success or failure really didn't matter. Both, like life and living, were illusory, as vaporous as Man's search for peace. In only a short time—on the scale of history, ten years is far less than a second—the world would be plunged into the darkness of death and destruction, of blood and violence and barbarism. The living would envy the dead, and the long night of horror would begin.
And the obligatory weapons porn:
A Slingshot APILAS—Armor-Piercing, Infantry, Light Arm System—was bulky and ungainly looking. The main body was a fifty-two-inch one-piece launch tube into which could be thrust a 108 mm missile with a shaped HE charge. The rocket engine of the missile was very fast burning and pushed the warhead along at better than 1,200 feet per second, to give a very short time of flight to its effective range of 300 yards. The warhead was so powerful it could dig right through 700 mm of armor or six feet of reinforced concrete. ...

Vito Rinletti turned and looked at Mike Quinlan, who was putting a cylinder into a CAWS (Close Assault Weapons System) Pancor Mk-3 Jackhammer shotgun, a weapon that looked like something out of the twenty-first century. For one thing, the magazine was a detachable cylinder that held ten rounds of twelve-gauge ammo. For another, the cylinder and all the shotgun's major subassemblies were injection-molded from a new high-strength synthetic material called Rynite SST. ...

Camellion aimed for the head, wanting instant kill-shots, his logic based on the fact that for most pistol calibers the maximum velocity of the bullet never exceeds 1,200 feet per second. At speeds between 400 and 1,200 fps, the bullet has a tendency to bore a hole through the body, creating a channel wound, with damage confined to the channel. At velocities over 1,200 fps, the bullet carries enough energy so that a more severe wound can result, but as a rule the bullet only passes through the body. It is only after the bullet has been accelerated above 2,400 fps that the high-velocity explosive wound comes into being, unless you're using special ammo—Arcane, THV, and so on. At the moment Camellion was using .45 caliber cartridges, and a .45 ACP projectile carries only enough energy to knock a man backward at a rate of about two inches per second. For this reason the Death Merchant wanted to be positive that the targets didn't have even a minimoment in which to fire—not even as they were going down.
They didn't. The .45 bullet from Camellion's left Gonez smacked the Russian with the assault rifle in the bridge of the nose. The slug zipped through the lower portion of his brain and blew out the back of his head. No human being could have died faster.

"Richard Camellion was as calm as a clam in a coma."

"Turkey turds ... Hopefully, they had an IQ higher than an onion!"

"A thousand feet ahead, the road turned rather sharply and moved past a thickly wooded area, the trees appearing to be almost to the edge of the concrete. Russians, pig farmers that they were, loved woods."

"Homo sovieticus is a special breed of moral coward."

"Get on that phone, spinach face."

"The Russians have as much chance against that sub as a jungle bunny in Harlem has of learning calculus!"

Camellion has "an absolute horror of urinating in front of a member of the opposite sex, even with his back turned. Better to face an entire division of KGB trash."

May 8, 2016

Death Merchant #66: The Cobra Chase

Red Fever

His code name is Cobra. Behind him lies a long, bloody trail of violence and assassination. Before him is a sinister rendezvous with the KGB. For the Russians have developed the ultimate weapon of subversion - a ferocious AIDS-like virus targeted at America's heartland.

But the CIA has a one-man antidote: Richard Camellion. Determined to stop his old nemesis, he will lead an international killing team on a break-neck, blood-soaked chase across Western Europe to deliver his own cure for commie terror: sudden, violent death!


Three months have passed since the end of the Death Merchant's last adventure, Mission Deadly Snow, in which Richard Camellion destroyed the Partners' huge cocaine processing factory in Colombia.

Now Camellion is working undercover in a Paris suburb - posing as an architect from Florida on vacation - hoping to find and kill the Cobra, who escaped from the "snow" factory before the big attack. The Death Merchant had refused outside help in tracking the Cobra (aka Adrian Mirocco) but he eventually ends up working with French intelligence. A raid on the apartment of a PLO terrorist (one of the Cobra's mistresses was also there) yields keys that fit lockers at RER Station. Three suitcases are found containing weapons, maps, various receipts, and photographs believed to be of the Cobra. The PLO terrorist and mistress are tortured, but they reveal no useful information.

The Death Merchant then gets word that a US General in the Air Force was murdered when his plane was shot down over Spangdahlem AFB in West Germany. A total of 32 people (in the plane and on the ground) were killed, but one person survived. That person overheard someone using Mirocco's nickname and something about being "safe in Istanbul". Convinced that the Cobra was behind the attack on the plane, the Death Merchant travels to Istanbul immediately. At an Istanbul safe house, an agent informs Camellion that the Cobra has been located "in a deserted han in the Beyoğlu district". In preparation for an attack, they actually drive past the building, but rather than storming it from the street, Camellion decides instead to walk through some underground rat-infested sewer pipes and come up into the cellar of the han. Sure enough, the Cobra and various Turkish revolutionaries are in the building and there is a massive shootout, complete with Camellion using CNB gas and thermit grenades. Somehow, the elusive Cobra escapes.

Camellion believes Mirocco has gone back to West Germany to get assistance from the KGB. So the Death Merchant's next move is to disguise himself as Mirocco and kidnap Alexandr Vensivik, a counsul general of the Soviet Union, at a performance of the Hamburg Symphony Orchestra. Camellion believes Vensivik will know where the Cobra is hiding. Vensivik does give the Death Merchant some information - after watching Camellion shoot his wife - but the reader is not privy to it.

The Cobra's previous plan to assassinate the Pope is put on hold because the Soviets want him to go to Sweden and take possession of a deadly virus (it gives victims symptoms similar to AIDS) and deliver it to a special KGB group in Wichita, Kansas. (Talking about the United States gives Rosenberger the opportunity to have Mirocco opine (as many of Rosenberger's characters do) that the US is "very stupid about its borders. They can't even keep out the trash from Mexico.") We learn that one of the KGB officials meeting with Mirocco told Vensivik, while tipsy, the details of this operation. This is likely the information that Vensivik told the Death Merchant. Mirocco also gets word that someone disguised as him pulled off a kidnapping. Mirocco realizes that only one person in the world could do this: "the mysterious Death Merchant"! He also wonders if the KGB is using him as bait to lure the Death Merchant to Sweden.

The handoff of the virus will be done in the ruins of Castle Vasa, off the shore near Härnösand on the east central coast of Sweden. A few days before the transfer, the Death Merchant and a small army of 14 others arrive at the castle. Rosenberger goes overboard describing the old castle as a "monstrous, silent sentinel enraged its privacy was being invaded". The structure is not attractive: "it looked as inviting as plague" and Camellion senses "a menacing perversion ... the Cosmic Lord of Death had many forms and shapes". In scouting out the many floors of the castle, they discover a secret room under the dungeon filled with Soviet weapons, as well as a stairway that leads down to the water. Camellion plants sound detectors and small packets of explosives all over the place and then it's time to sit and wait.

Once Camellion detects voices, he sneaks down to the lower level and tosses down some heavy stones to lure the Russians to investigate the first floor. When they do, the RDX packets are set off and the gun battle begins. Eventually, things come down to Camellion and Mirocco face-to-face. Camellion has the opportunity to "tweep" the Cobra, but he chooses not to. He wants the Cobra to know who is killing him, so they engage in hand-to-hand martial arts instead. "You're the reason birth control was invented", Camellion taunts him at one point. Of course, the Death Merchant wins the battle and blows the Cobra's head off. Success! (It is left unsaid whether some of the Russians in the underground chamber were able to retreat down the shaft and escape with the virus. Rosenberger drops the virus part of the storyline when the final battle begins and never returns to it.)


Right away, on page 9, we get some ammo porn to slow up the action:
The Death Merchant was using BAT cartridges, BAT being the acronym of Blitz-Action-Trauma. The BAT Safety bullet was a solid copper alloy, round-nosed projectile that did not contain any lead. The bullet was drilled all the way through with a stepped, two-diameter hole, thus leaving a cavity in the nose. This cavity was filled with a plastic-explosive plug that formed the round nose. A 9mm BAT bullet was deadly. Weighing 86 grains and having a muzzle velocity of 1,400 feet per second, the BAT slug could penetrate two car doors.
"The Cobra ... had only one religion. He was a fanatic who believed only in himself, only in Adrian Miroccoism!" [In an earlier book, Camellion says he follows only "Camellionism" and in a 1985 letter, author Joseph Rosenberger noted that his only religion was "Rosenbergerism".]

Camellion: "The only worthwhile pursuit that carries any reward is the avoidance of taxes."

"Working in the intelligence game, especially in the field, was always a carefully controlled nightmare, more often than not resembling a blind man's trying to walk on a tightrope that was never there in the first place."

Scherhorn, the eternal pessimist, was saying, "I don't care how well we've planned. There are so many unknown factors involved that it almost gives me diarrhea just to think about it".

"It's easy to be an angel when nobody ruffles your feathers. It is even easier to continue to avoid death when you've become a walking encyclopedia of dirty tricks and close-in combat tactics. But you had better have a very intimate knowledge of human nature and be familiar with how Evil thinks. Richard Camellion did have both."

"As far as Kröchen was concerned, the two Turks were as useless as pricks on priests."

"Adrian Mirocco was as puzzled as a man who has found Velveeta cheese in the gourmet section of a supermarket ..."

"Camellion, who would have dared to black-bag God, if the price for the job was right ..."

"If [the bald] Vensivik had been wearing a turtleneck sweater, he would have been able to pass for a giant tube of roll-on deodorant."

"As I see it, for us to even try to get to the castle can be equated with trying to take a bath in the middle of Yankee Stadium during the height of the baseball season."

"The Cobra knew he was doomed. Or, should be make a deal? Surrender? Do whales tap-dance?"

"And to think we're fighting men whose nation can't even manufacture a decent ballpoint pen!" Antoine Zegame muttered to no one in particular.