May 10, 2020

Arizona Republic, 1981: "Cranking Out Volumes Of Violence"

In January 1981, the Arizona Republic published a feature on Joseph Rosenberger.

Cranking Out Volumes Of Violence
A Mesa Author Finishes A New Series Book Every Other Month, Using A Formula That Has Sold Five Million Copies
By Robert Barrett
Joseph Rosenberger sat back, sipped his coffee and said, "When I kill people I make charts. The minute a guy is dead I get out my pencil and write dead on his name so I don't kill him twice."

Rosenberger does all of his killing on paper. He is the author of the Death Merchant series. The paperbacks, published by Pinnacle, have sold more than five million copies. Rosenberger is working on the 44th Death Merchant book. [DM #44, Island Of The Damned, was published in April 1981]

"One time I killed off a KGB agent in chapter two and there he is again with blazing machine pistols in chapter ten and I had to kill him all over again," Rosenberger said, laughing. "I didn't catch it, the editors didn't catch it and one fellow wrote and said, 'I enjoy your books and buy every one of them, but don't you think you should be more careful?' Well, when I get a letter I answer them all because I don't get that many. I wrote and said, 'Yeah, I pulled a boo-boo. Thank you for bringing it to my attention, I appreciate it.'

"So now the minute a guy's dead, I get out my pencil and write DEAD so I don't kill him twice."

The pencil gets a good workout because large numbers of characters die in each book. The books are a spy series with Richard Camillion, the Death Merchant, as the hero. The shooting usually begins in the first chapter and continues until the end of the book, about 190 pages later.

"The Death Merchant takes on jobs only of the highest major importance, they have to be earth shaking," Rosenberger said. "Like one time the Russian KGB was going to plant a bomb between Florida and Cuba and cause an earthquake."

As with many series books, critics don't even consider the Death Merchant. They say the plots are predictable. They are formula books. The formula label doesn't bother Rosenberger.

Rosenberger, who lives in Mesa, said, "The formula book, the reader knows what to expect. I've tried to change the Death Merchant, give it more character, but no. It would be unwise to do so. But what happens with a series? A certain amount of readers will buy it, they're hooked, they like it. Others will look at it, the first book, and think it stinks. It happens to any writer.

"A formula book is what is predictable and it has to be successful in sales. It's the same with television or in movies. People say there's nothing on television, it stinks. Those people are wrong, they're a small minority. What sells on television is what people like, that's why it's there.

"It's the same with books. Publishers publish, it's a business. The name of the game is money, like any other business. Publishers give readers what sells. So a formula book is any series book where the basic concept succeeds."

Pinnacle is the largest publisher of action-adventure series and the series books are popular. Aside from the Death Merchant, most paperback racks offer other series: the Destroyer, the Executioner, the Penetrator or Blade, to name a few. But when Rosenberger wrote the first Death Merchant in 1971, he didn't intend for it to be a series.

"I wrote it as a single-shot deal," he said. "I got a call from the president of Bee-line books (now Pinnacle), David Zentner. They needed some action-adventure, would I send some? That more or less gave me the impetus to do it. They said they'd give me two grand (as an advance against royalties) and I said good enough. Now the money is far greater. But the first book went in, it went over and I've been doing it ever since."

Rosenberger does it to the tune of a book every other month, six books a year. It is a demanding schedule that keeps him working seven days a week. He said he doesn't mind; it's easier now than it has been in the past.

Rosenberger was born in Du Quoin, Illinois, in 1925. It's a small town about 90 miles southeast of St. Louis. He said he was a good student but hated school. His father died when he was 15, so he never finished high school.

"I took a job answering a phone in a cab stand," Rosenberger said. "Remember, this was quite a few years ago and everything was wide open. They had gambling and prostitution. It was a small town and they had two solid blocks of prostitutes. They didn't walk the streets, they stayed in their section of town. They weren't allowed on Main Street on Sunday mornings so the good people that patronized them didn't have to see them on their way to church.

"I quit the cab stand and became a stick man in dice games. I also had punch boards. You have a board so high," he said, holding his hands about a foot apart, "and for twenty-five cents you take a punch. You can win up to fifty bucks. I made a good living."

Rosenberger gave up the dice games and moved to St. Louis. He got a job as a security guard at the Century Electric Company. He also started writing.

"I knew a photographer and he liked a poet by the name of Edgar Guest," Rosenberger said. "I thought Edgar Guest smelled to high heaven. I said, if I couldn't do better than that, I'd quit. He told me to try it if I was so good, and I did and I got two dollars for the poem."

He laughed. "This is way back, I'm almost fifty-six now. Back then if you got five dollars a day it would be like twenty-five or thirty dollars a day now. I sold it to a little religious magazine, the St. Anthony Messenger. I sent in another one and got two dollars. So I'm sending them in and I get two dollars here, two dollars there, five dollars from there. So I sent out a hundred poems more and nothing but rejection slips." He shook his head. "I said, man, there's something going on here. I started buying books on writing, the actual merchandise, and started learning them."

That led to his first big sale of an article called Agnosticism Versus Science to the St. Anthony Messenger. It paid him $75. For the next nine years, Rosenberger sent out stories and articles to different publications.

"The guard job gave me time to write," Rosenberger said. "I'd make a round, it takes an hour. There were four formulas for confession stories. A girl from the country goes to the city, she does wrong, she pays for it. A girl from the city falls for another man, she honestly loves him but it's not right, she has to pay for it." He paused and smiled. "I forget the other two. But I'd grind this stuff out. I was making a hundred thirty-five a week as a guard and some weeks, I'd make more money from the confession stories."

It was the heyday of the men's magazines, too, and he also wrote for True, Argosy, Stag, Saga, For Men Only and many others. He also wrote for occult magazines such as Fate.

"I sold an article, 'What Happened to Oliver Lurch' to Fate," he said. "I made it all up in ten minutes. I got sixty dollars for it. Here's Oliver Lurch and it's Christmas Eve. I decided it was eighteen ninety-five and poor Oliver goes out to get a bucket of water. Inside, they hear a scream. 'It's got me, it's got me, it's pulling me up into the sky.' That gives the impression of UFOs. They go out there and there's footprints but no Oliver Lurch.

"They keep reprinting that thing," he said and laughed. "So help me, I still get letters from all over the country wanting to know more about Oliver Lurch. Finally Fate asked me about it and I said I made it up. They wanted another story and said they'd give me two hundred dollars for it.

So I made up an article about how the world could flip-flop due to ice at the polar caps, which is a lot of crap."

In the 1960s, Rosenberger quit his guard job and worked full time doing stories for the magazines. "The men's magazines paid you to travel hack then, I don't know about now," he said. "Everything's gone to pot since then. I worked through an agent in New York City. He formed up the deals for me.

"I remember one time I was sent to Mississippi during the peace marches and I got off the train and there's two guys built like this," he spread his hands wide, "and as tall as this," he almost touched the ceiling. "This guy says, 'Y'all from the north? Y'all a reporter?' I said I was and he said, 'Y'all better get back on that train or y'all might be found stomped to death.' Well, I-all got back on that train and then I got mad. I got off in the next town, gave the cab driver twenty dollars, went back, did the interview with somebody there and got the hell out of there. That was really the beginning of my going on the road."

He spent the next eight or nine years traveling for the magazines, doing stories for them until Penthouse came onto the scene and everyone turned to sex to sell magazines.

"That wasn't my style," Rosenberger said. He turned to writing action paper-hacks and did fairly well for a few years. He created the Kung fu series after the TV show was popular. (It had no connection with the TV series; the characters were different.) The series died. He also created the Murder Master, another series. This was a black man patterned after the Executioner series. It, too, failed to catch on. Then he created the Death Merchant.

"It's an odd thing," Rosenberger said. "I work seven days a week and I don't work seven days a week. I'm a night person. Until I've had a cup of coffee and two cigarettes and it's noon, I'm in some kind of limbo. I start getting with it about four, then I'll eat at six and then around nine I go back and keep going until maybe three in the morning. It all depends, but I produce about six to ten pages a day. It depends on the scene. Action scenes go fast, scenes with dialogue take longer. But I'll tell you something else. Writing is a two-way street. Good editors help. When you have to turn out a book every other month, you get so close to it you miss the obvious."

Many writers feel they haven't succeeded until they've sold a book to a hardcover publisher. John D. MacDonald, who writes the Travis McGee series, published in paperback for many years but it wasn't until he began to publish hardbound that he received critical attention.

"I've thought of trying hardbound but I don't have the time," Rosenberger said. "Hardcover books, some of them aren't worth a hoot as far as sales are concerned. But the hardcover books that do sell, ah, here comes the paperback rights. Then you're talking about a lot of money.

"But Pinnacle is a very good company. Years ago I gave Pinnacle my word that I would continue to write the Death Merchant until it was no longer profitable. I said I wouldn't try to take it (Death Merchant) to another company. In fact, I couldn't. There's an iron-clad option there that if I refuse to do it or can't do it, they're allowed to bring in another writer. But the series is successful. Wait a minute."

Rosenberger went into the back of the house and came out a few moments later with a stack of books. They were copies of the Death Merchant printed in Greek, Swedish and Spanish.

"I'm not going to stop that," he said. "You see, I love to write and writing, to me, is a business, but I haven't lost track of it as an art form. There's no such thing as a writer who can say I know all there is about writing. That's stupidity. Once you think you know all there is to know about how to write, you're on your way down. There's no iron-clad rules how to do it. To me, it's the most fascinating thing in the world. I mean it, if I couldn't write, I would just as soon drop dead."

Rosenberger went back to his den to start his work. His typewriter is surrounded by bookshelves crammed with books. Most of them are reference books about weapons and radios. He takes pride that his books are accurate when it comes to hardware used by the characters.

"I don't know how long I'll do the Death Merchant series," he said as he sat down. "I'll do it as long as it is profitable. The way things look now it might go on for years and years or it could stop next year. I could write other things. I have an agent and he has turned down nine different series for me. He says he can sell them, but I just don't have the time."

He looked down at the half-finished page in the typewriter. He had left the Death Merchant in the middle of a gun battle with the Russians.

"Only one thing really worries me," Rosenberger said and grinned. "Those damned old dirty Russians. They're the bad guys. If we ever make peace with them I'll go broke."
This article offers a gold mine of quotes from Rosenberger about writing and the early years of his career. (Several years ago, Joe Kenney posted information on Rosenberger (and a photo) at Glorious Trash (here, here, here).)

From what I know, he appears to be telling the truth throughout, unlike in other articles in which he claims to have been a private detective or taught karate, etc.

It's true that Rosenberger did not finish high school. During the 1960s, he was called to testify in an obscenity trial concerning an "adult book" he had written. He told the court the Ph.D. after his name on the book's cover was bullshit and that he had dropped out after the eighth grade.

I believe he did work as a security guard. I have seen very little evidence of his years as a magazine writer, but it's logical he would have been in that field at that time and perhaps the evidence is simply not online. (If anyone has any old men's magazines with his by-line (or a similar last name such as Rosenfeld, let me know.)

Rosenberger worked at a grueling pace for a long time, publishing either five or six books a year for seven consecutive years (1976-1982), before scaling back to four titles per year. In 1974, a whopping 10 books, in three series, were published: Four Death Merchants (7-10), four Kung Fu: Maces (2-5, and two Murder Masters (2-3)!

November 21, 2019

JRR Letter To The Editor, December 5, 1975: "He Criticizes Catholic Church's View Of World"

Joseph Rosenberger lit a firestorm of controversy with a short letter to the editor, published in the Chicago Daily Herald on December 5, 1975:
He Criticizes Catholic Church's View Of World

The fact that 74 per cent of the pregnant teen-agers counseled at Crossroads Clinic, in Palatine, come from Roman Catholic homes (as reported by The Herald) in which "they had little or no sex education, including discussion on emotions and morals," should surprise no one even vaguely familiar with history.

Sex, common sense and progress have always been big no-nos to the church. After Columbus discovered America and thereby proved that the earth was round, universities in Europe were still forced to teach that the planet was flat. The earth remained "flat" for almost 300 years. How could the Popes be wrong?

The same stupid and backward attitude prevails today. The Roman Catholic stand on abortion is only one example, with Catholic pressure being applied on lawmakers to pass laws that would forbid any woman in the United States to decide what to do with the baby growing in her own body! In short, Roman Catholics are dong their damndest to legislate their religious beliefs into the Constitution of the United States! How long must intelligent people tolerate this superstitious cancer eating at the body of American society?

Joe Rosenberger
Buffalo Grove

One week later, ten letters were published in response, with eight of them opposing Rosenberger. I can imagine JRR enjoyed stirring up a lot of anger. Another letter in opposition was published three days later. Some highlights:
Rosenberger Letter Stirs Response

Where does Mr. Joseph Rosenberger get the audacity to think that a woman can do what she wants with the "baby growing in her womb"? She did not create that baby. Only God can create. Women just have the privilege of procreating. ...

Mrs. Jane O'Reilly
Arlington Heights


The church has existed for all these centuries in spite of the human weaknesses of its members and will continue to exist long after Mr. Rosenberger is gone and forgotten. ...

Phyllis Mack
Buffalo Grove


Joe Rosenberger's attack on the Catholic Church is both frightening and pathetic. To call Catholics "superstitious" because they believe that every person has a right to life shows not only ignorance of biology, but also an attitude reminiscent of Hitler's death camps.

Joan Anderson
Arlington Heights


After reading Mr. Rosenberger's interpretation on how a group of teenagers became pregnant I feel a responsibility to take issue less some unwitting soul read and believe such a fatuous and illogical explanation. ...

Amazing conclusions have been reached through the manipulation of arithmetic but Mr. Rosenberger's suppositions lack an intelligent basis and to the contrary reflect a bigoted attitude toward the Catholic Church. ...

Mr. Rosenberger, this is still a free country and from the content of your article it is immediately apparent that you lack the objectivity to publicly air your opinion on the material contained in your letter quoted in The Herald.

Earl K. McDonald
Arlington Heights


If you are even vaguely familiar with history, Mr. Rosenberger, you will clearly realize that many great men in the history of the world have had their ideas and inventions rejected, including Edison, the Wright brothers and Fulton, to name just a few. The Pope had nothing to do with the rejection of their inventions. In short, we found your letter very hostile toward Catholics for no discernibly good reason. Shame, shame Mr. Rosenberger, your prejudice is showing.

Judette Tummillo
Jackie Flynn
Elk Grove Village


Mankind has always been plagued. Sometimes by drought, sometimes by floods, sometimes by pestilence. But every couple of years that part of mankind known as Roman Catholics have Rosenberger of Buffalo Grove crawl out from under his rock. ...

[T]oo bad your mother didn't share your views when you "were the baby growing in her own body!" Rosenberger, it is you who are the "cancer eating at the body of American society."

I've learned from my own personal experience when anyone constantly condemns and chews at something he personally hates (in your case, Hitler, the Roman Catholic Church), it is just a case of jealousy, pure and simple. Merry Christmas, Rosenberger, under whichever rock you are.

Alice Willes
Arlington Heights


The letter by one Joe Rosenberger of Buffalo Grove is rather infuriating. I only wonder if a newspaper should print such a bigoted letter. It reeks with half-truths. If this man were anti-semitic or a racist, his letter would either be "filed" or ignored. Why was this man allowed to take all those "cheap shots" in his obviously anti-Catholic letter. ...

Sex, common sense and progress are areas where the church admits backward ideas, but in the past 10 years the church has come a long way and maybe even has a long way to go, but it is aimed in the right direction. ...

Frank Vito


I was not aware that God was living in Buffalo Grove. After living in Prospect Heights for 20 years I have been enlightened by the "words of wisdom" from Joe Rosenberg. Such statements, as made by him in the Fencepost on Dec. 5. are food for war — the Catholic Church has not professed common sense, has never spoken on sex, nor made any progress since its inception? Where have you been Mr. Rosenberger? I would like to respond to the issues you brought to the readers of The Herald.

Did you not know that Catholic priests are among the finest sex counselors in the world? Has not the Catholic Church demonstrated sound, ordinary sense and progress in the changes and strides they have made over the past century? You sincerely believe that the Catholic Church's stand on abortion is stupid and backward? ...

It is people like you who breed contempt, not the Catholic Church, and it is people like you that will destroy the body of the American society!

Marilyn J. Schneider, R.N.
Prospect Heights
Manager, Surgery and Recovery Room
Holy Family Hospital
Des Plaines


It was refreshing to read Mr. Rosenberger's recent letter criticizing the Catholic Church's 15th century philosophies.

If enlightened-thinking, open-minded Catholics would stop and think about it, their goals are similar to those who devote time and effort to controlling our runaway population problems.

Both parties might violently disagree on abortion, but both should agree that the best possible solution would be to have no unwanted pregnancies.

Taking the next logical step, how could this be accomplished? Obviously by instituting meaningful, explicit sex and contraceptive education courses in our schools.

Yet those same people (Right-to-Life, etc.) who profess such concern over mother-with-child after-the-fact situations are the ones who yell the loudest when meaningful sex education courses are considered for local school curriculums.

Taking this a few steps further in one jump, those Americans who are not religious had better begin speaking up and asserting their views.

Those who do not believe in religious mumbo-jumbo (and recent statistics show 112.3 million Americans currently do not attend church at all) are going to have to decide whether they want to continue supporting churches.

That's right, even if you don't attend, you're still paying for it.

ITEM: U.S. churches' total real estate (tax-exempt) wealth is estimated between $80 billion and $103 billion — this exceeds combined assets of the nation's 10 largest industrial corporations.

ITEM: U.S. churches' gross (non-taxable) revenue is greater than the combined income, after taxes, of General Motors, AT&T, Standard Oil, Ford, Texaco and Sears.

ITEM: Roman Catholic assets and real estate holdings in the United States exceed the combined assets and holdings of Standard Oil, AT&T and U.S. Steel.

ITEM: Churches commonly use an ingenious (but not illegal) scheme known as leaseback to share their tax-exempt status with private enterprise business.

Guess what? All the monies that are not collected on church properties, church leaseback schemes with businesses and other goodies like church-owned retirement homes come out of your pocket. You pay these uncollected monies. Think about it.

Jim Peterson
Hoffman Estates

June 17, 2019

Kung Fu (Mace) #2: The Year of the Snake


The grip of terror was so widespread that the family Tongs asked Mace, the Master of Kung Fu, for help.

Mace landed smack in the middle of a protection racket battle and became the new target. He had to teach the kids that street violence was no match for Kung Fu.

But the chain of command went much higher than uneducated youth gangs and it look a lot of savvy to find out how far up the devious smokescreen for control went. . . .

* * * * *

Joseph Rosenberger's second book in the Kung Fu series (written under the name Lee Chang) was published in February 1974, one of 10 books Rosenberger published that year. It hit paperback racks one month after Death Merchant #7 and one month before Murder Master #2.

The Year of the Snake opens with Victor Mace, the "Kung Fu Monk Master", in the middle of a brawl against six members of the Lan Kwai Association. A week earlier, Mace had been asked to come from San Francisco to Manhattan by Wu Chih-p'u, the leader of the Mong Ti Ko Tong, to rid Chinatown of the Lan Wai, a gang of 200 hoodlums (also known as the Blue Devils) engaging in extortion and murder. Mace ends up demolishing 13 men in about five minutes - while also flashbacking on his training as a young boy, which he did about six (increasingly) annoying times in the first book.

After a very thin plot for the first book in this series, Rosenberger employs the exact same blueprint he had been using for his Death Merchant books: He starts with some action, pulls back to set the scene, the hero has three or four more encounters with the bad guys where he kicks total ass, there are a handful of chapters from the point of view of the bad guys, then everything comes together for the big, violent finale (with the carnage described in the most minute detail you can imagine).

P'eng Yi-po (described as "an animated tub of lard"; he's 5-7, 357 pounds) is the secret owner of The House of Kee, a Queens whorehouse staffed by young hostesses, each "mattress-tester" with "a shape that would have shaken the libido of a blind methuselah". John Dong Kee is the front man who runs The House of Kee for Yi-po and Chinese mobster Jan Lee Kumling, the head of the Lan Kwai, reports to Kee.

Harrison "Wild Bill" Hickok operates Fun World in Queens and he has ambitious plans to kill Wu Chih-p'u and make Yi-Po the new head of the big tong and, through him, take over Chinatown.

A few days later, Mace interrupts five of Kumling's Blue Devils in a laundry, while they are making their rounds collecting extortion money. Mace uses some ridiculous voice trick, so that when he screams, the sound impacts the Blue Devils' ears with the "force of a super-charged hand grenade" and kills them instantly. Mace then leaps out a broken window to take on the other 10 Devils in the street. Watching the choreographed mayhem, complete with Mace leaping six feet in the air and somersaulting backwards over the heads of the goons and landing 10 feet behind then, someone named Mike Three-Ducks realizes "any attempt to beat Mace to the ground with bare hands would be as ridiculous as trying to explain the movie Deep Throat and do it in good taste!"

Yi-po meets with Hickok and they decide to hire two karate experts to kill the Ching brothers, with whom Mace is staying, and frame Mace for the murders. It seems to work, as Mace is arrested for the crimes. The room in which Mace is held has "the sweet stink of tragedy, with the special sourness of finality ... after the Computer of Fate has spit out the card of Death".

Mace has no alibi, since when the Chings were murdered, Mace was busy killing a dozen Blue Devils. But he uses "Ch'i" to snap the cuffs (as he did in Book #1) and then he attacks the cops, at one point diving head first down a flight of stairs and executing a back-spring in mid-air and landing on his feet!

Hickok and his partner Efrem Kartlis fear that Yi-po will blab to Mace and then it is only a matter of time before Mace comes for them. Kartlis admits that "the thought of meeting that creep gives me triple chills", so they hire six "non-wop shooters", professionals "who can bow the ass of a flea if they have to".

Mace knows he has to prove who killed the Ching brothers to clear his name. He goes to Yi-po's restaurant supply factory to force him to confess to ordering the murders and reveal who did the killing. But Yi-po was "not the type of man to permit his fear to anesthetize him into a lethargy of inactivity", and he heads off with two bodyguards to Fun World. Mace attacks and we get a play-by-play even though the point of the ambush no longer exists - Mace offs one hood so fast that he "rocketed into Hell so fast the Demon of Reservations was caught unprepared".

Mace and a couple of others head to Queens, scouting out Fun Word from a nearby cemetery. The park looked empty, "as devoid of people as a derelict's funeral". They knock out three watchmen and cut through the wire fence and slip inside. However, Hickok has armed men hiding throughout the park, and a big battle eventually ensues. (Mace's greatest trick may be employing the "principle of gentleness" while also being "a machine of killing".)

Mace methodically goes through waves of goons, stopping at times to insult them, referring to their mothers as "diseased prostitutes who could copulate only with filthy apes". He actually pulls one guy's heart out of his chest! Mace's spear-hand to the chest landed "with all the force of a sharp ax, the hand actually slicing through clothes, skin, and bones, the long fingers closing around the man's throbbing heart, and when Mace jerked back his hand, the bloody beating muscle came with it!" later on, he kills another goon in a similar way. "It was as though his hand has smashed through an over-ripe melon and he was reaching for the clusters of seeds. Only when the hand withdrew, the fingers were wrapped around several gray-white ropes of intestines!"

Locating Hickok and Kartlis, he ended up tossing them out the window and forcing Yi-po to write a full confession, which Mace pockets just as the police arrive.


Rosenberger ends seven consecutive sentences on page 83 with exclamation marks!

"The Kung Fu Master wasn't worried, knowing he could exercise his option of retreating to the inside of the China Farm. He could, but knew he would not. For that matter, he couldn't."

"a dome as bald as the dirty snow piled along the curb"

"He wondered what it felt like to be dead. A few minutes later he found out."

"Kee's frigid stare would have melted an Eskimo!"

"Mace's death-dealing Nukite had all the final force of a decapitating guillotine blade, his fingers making instant apple juice (unsweetened!) of two Adam's apples!"

"This guy's so stupid he probably thinks an aircraft carrier is a stewardess with V.D.!"

"He barged through the door of the J.D.K. grill faster than a theologian rewriting mythology ..."

"We've got you dead to right!"

"An eerie feeling raced down Kee's spine, little fingers of fear clutching at his brain!"

"Tiny-Boy had the mind of a retarded ant and the strength of an ox dosed with Spanish Fly!"

"The .38 revolver dropped, and so did Buster, as dead as the hope for honest government."

"The john had her squeezed up against the wall and was bread-doughing her boobs! Getting in his feelies for free!"

"Shit fire and save matches! He was as crazy as Mace!"

"Long-dead days that weren't worth a box of new rubbers"

"Well, twist my neck and call me screwy."

"get his pipes blowed for half a bill"

"The apparent 'luck' of the past is nothing more than an oil spread by time, just as adversity causes some men to break and others to break records."

"Okay, man! I didn't mean to put pepper on your balls."

"[Tom & Joey, who] looked as mournful as once-favorite nephews who had recently learned they had been cut out of Uncle's will!"

Ignots "with his beard and long hair, resembled a biblical prophet, with the exception of his clothes. Biblical big-mouths hadn't worn pink jumpsuits and a gold ring in one ear!"

"Such a three-way combination of attack could have been Butcher's day for an ordinary karate exspert, but to a Kung Fu Monk Master, karate was only the first grade in a career that ended with a Ph.D. in mass mayhem!"

"The man might as well have been hit by the United Nations Building!"

"The freak suddenly got the feeling he was about to die! He was! "UGGGGGgggggggg" shot from his throat ... ending his bike-riding days forever!"

"He dropped faster than a wino grabbing a bottle of Muscatel in a supermarket, dribbling blood and brains all over the gear-controls of an automatic screw machine."

"Don't make any mistakes or this deal will turn out to be worse than eating cold spaghetti!"

"Mace always wore the same inscrutable expression, his face as devoid of emotion as the Sphinx ..."

"Yi-Po felt proud of his cleverness. Ah so ..."

"It was obvious to the six Blues that they didn't have a chance - unless they ran like hell. That's what they did!"

"Fuck a duck and cornhole an alligator! Who is that motherfucker?"

January 19, 2019

Le Marchand De Mort: French Translations Of The Death Merchant

Here are six Death Merchant paperbacks, published under Gerard de Villiers's French imprint in the 1980s.

The voluptuous, negligee-wearing, cigar-smoking babes on the covers are the very definition of false advertising. Having a woman like this appear in a Death Merchant adventure is about as likely as Richard Camellion delivering a six-page endorsement of socialism.

December 26, 2018

JRR Letter To The Editor, March 12, 1974: "Anti-Abortion Stand 'Twisted Logic'"

The Wheeling Herald, March 12, 1974:
Anti-Abortion Stand 'Twisted Logic'

Regarding Thomas H. Dittmer's letter regarding the evils of abortion, I have only one comment: here again we have the results of stupid, bigoted thinking, of half-truths and twisted logic, the worst of which is a comparison of the U.S. Supreme Court decision to the tactics of Adolf Hitler.

Unlike Hitler, the U.S. Supreme Court has not ordered anyone eliminated. The U.S. Supreme Court did decide that a woman has a legal right to decide for herself whether or not she wants an abortion. This decision also meant that no individual (take note, Mr. Dittmer), nor church, nor organization, has the right to try to cram its belief down the public throat.

Mr. Dittmer, you wrote that "The right to life is the supreme right of God to give or to take away."

Have you talked to God lately, Mr. Dittmer? Did he tell you that? How do you know what God wants, other than what you have been taught by previous know-it-alls? In the Old Testament we read how God told the murderous Jews to treat their captives – "save the virgins" but kill the soldiers, plow 'em like fertilizer.

This sort of makes God sound like a sort of cosmic Hitler to me! Of course, God didn't say any such thing, but it was a helluva slick trick on the part of the Jewish leaders who could make their people believe anything – and they're still waiting for their Messiah!

You write, Mr. Dittmer, of "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness!" I suggest you practice what you preach and permit others to pursue this philosophy without telling them how to do it, without deciding for them what is right and what is wrong in the mind of "God!"

Personally, I find it odd how bigoted fanatics are always convinced how "God" is on their side and/or just "know" what "God" wants!

When you, Mr. Dittmer, and your know-it-all kind are willing to take care of the thousands of unwanted children (that would be born into the world if you had your way), when you're willing to put out hard cash for the cost of their birth, for their food, clothing, medicine and schooling, when you're willing to put your money where your big mouth is – you still will not have earned the right to tell other people how to live.

I would also suggest you keep the facts straight and quit twisting the truth to suit your own hell-fire-religion purposes. Tell it like it really is: that the United States Supreme Court is not forcing abortion on any woman: the decision only permits the individual woman to decide for herself. And don't give us the claptrap what the "American people" want, because poll after poll has revealed that the vast majority of Americans – and this includes Roman Catholics – approve of this decision, in spite of the lies screamed by the Right To Life minority, which isn't fooling Congress the least bit.

Congressmen, realizing how votes are buttered, aren't about to "amend" this decision, they know that eventually all crackpots turn to other noble causes.


Joe Rosenberger
Buffalo Grove, Illinois
Rosenberger's letter prompted at least six letters in opposition. One of them, from Patricia Nichols of Mount Prospect, included this admonition (April 8):
I am tired of your name calling. In every letter you write you must resort to childish name calling. Your last letter had such adolescent words as "stupid, twisted logic, bigoted fanatics, crackpots." I wish you could state your ideas in an adult-like manner.
Jim Peterson of Hoffman Estates offered support for Rosenberger (April 22):
... I thoroughly enjoyed and concur with Mr. Rosenberger's letter.

On second thought, I disagree when he refers to some anti-abortion views as twisted logic. I see no logic at all in their arguments, twisted or otherwise. ...

Now let me get down to the point which really frosts me. Since it is unlikely that [two previous letter writers] are going to shop around for an abortion, why must you insert your collective noses into other people's business when they wish to obtain a legal abortion?

If you are so concerned about lives, and children's lives in particular, there is no end to the need for your services.

Two thirds of the people in the world (two-plus billion) are malnourished (don't get a proper diet, usually protein deficient) and one third of the people alive in the world today (one-plus billion) are undernourished (don't get enough of any kind of food).

Furthermore, since 40 per cent of the population of the underdeveloped world is made up of people under 15 years old, these children are usually the ones who comprise the bulk of the 3½ million people who die of starvation each year (3½ million is a conservative estimate).

Granted, it would be more convenient for you to help these people if they lived next door in Mount Prospect, but I'm sure you'll understand they haven't been able to scrape together the air fare yet.

October 3, 2018

Kung Fu (Mace) #1: The Year Of The Tiger

A Big Score of "H" on the High Seas –

but the San Francisco Mafia needed a respectable boat to make the transfer. Ho Li Wing and his fishing vessel Dragonwind were picked. Too bad they didn't realize Wing had a visitor from Hong Kong – his Eurasian nephew, Mace, who was a Kung Fu Master.

When the goons strong-armed Wing, Mace warned them. When they came on strong with Mace, he pulverized them and sent them limping away with a second warning.

Then they came up with an idea they thought couldn't miss! They kidnapped Wing's wife and daughter.

Too bad they didn't understand Kung Fu . . .

Joseph Rosenberger had published six Death Merchant books when The Year of the Tiger appeared in September 1973, under the name "Lee Chang". Rosenberger also debuted another series that year, as Murder Master, hit paperback racks in November.

There are eight books in the Kung Fu series, but Rosenberger wrote only the first five. Len Levinson wrote #6 (also as Lee Chang) and Bruce Cassidy wrote #s 7 and 8 (as C.K. Fong).

Rosenberger uses a similar template to his Death Merchant books. We begin with an action scene before stepping back to lay out the plot of the book (such as it is). There are several more fight scenes before the grand finale. Similar to the DM books, our hero (Victor Mace) has super-human abilities when it comes to fighting and each battle is described in the most intricate detail.

And yet even by those flimsy standards, The Year of the Tiger barely qualifies as a narrative. It's somewhat like a boxing match, with the lengthy fight scenes interrupted by the characters going back to their respective corners and not doing much of anything until the bell rings for the next round.

The San Francisco Mafia is attempting to convince Ho Le Wing, an honest local fisherman, to let them use his boat to make a deal for $2 million in pure heroin (often referred to as simply "H") in international waters. Wing's nephew Victor Mace is visiting from Hong Kong when the goons make their first move. Mace kicks their asses. The Mafia tries another tactic a little later. Mace kicks their asses. The stubborn Mafia tries yet again. Mace kicks their asses. Apparently, Wing is the only man above suspicion with a decent-sized boat in the Bay Area.

Throughout the book, Mace recalls his youth in Hong Kong, and his years of instruction with his master, En Sheng. There are far too many of these flashbacks and they eat up a lot of pages (one even includes a six-page fight scene!).

This is early in Rosenberger's action-adventure writing career, so his sense of humour (intentional and otherwise) is everywhere in this book, in his bizarre descriptions, off-beat analogies, and graphic depictions of violence. He also throws exclamation points around like confetti on New Year's. You might think he was getting paid by the exclamation point! They are everywhere! Even on short, boring sentences! Like this one!

There is not much in the way of social and political rants, but there is some criticism of the United States' gun culture and its simultaneous exploitation of and prudishness about sexuality:
[Mace] stood there thinking of how savage and barbaric the United States was, a truly wild country in which almost any man could purchase a firearm. Such a pity that the United States was still a pioneer nation, a violent nation, a nation still living in brutality, such as existed in its days of the Old West. ...

[A fascination with brute force] seemed to be a large part of American culture and one that frankly puzzled Mace. Most nations honored their intellectuals, their poets and artists, their philosophers and scientists, according them positions of reverence and respect. Not so in the United States, a paradoxical nation where people were honored not for the quality of their minds but for their ability to throw, or kick, or bounce a ball! A childish and immature nation, always preoccupied with the sexual function in a deranged sort of way: while men and women were prominently displayed stark naked in magazines and in motion pictures, "morals squads" still spied and snooped hi public rest rooms to ensure prim and proper sexual behavior!

Poor repressed Americans ... immature and untutored in the virtues of a sane and sensible life .. . not to realize that shame is but nature's hasty conscience ...
At one point, Mace recalls En Sheng telling him that the idea of turning the other cheek is "an unnatural credo put forth by the Western Christians, who have never comprehended the nature of man."

In "An Insider's View to the Death Merchant" that ran in the back pages of some of Pinnacle's other series (The Executioner, The Penetrator), Rosenberger claimed to have "originated the first kung fu fiction books" and to have worked as "an instructor in 'Korean karate'".

Joe Kenney reviewed this book in June 2010 when his Glorious Trash blog was not even three weeks old! He stated that Manor Books was "capitalizing ... on the then-popular Kung-Fu TV series starring David Carradine". Based on the scant information online and my own research, Rosenberger treated the truth as highly elastic when it came to his own background. He almost certainly did not teach "Korean karate".

In a short interview printed in a 1981 fanzine, Rosenberger says he wrote under the name Lee Chang. He may have outed himself as Chang at that time, but I find it next-to-impossible that anyone who was familiar with the Death Merchant series would not immediately recognize Rosenberger's rather unique style.

Early in the book, Joseph Rupert Rosenberger writes that one of the Mafia goons "had the unlikely name of Rupert Rosenbacker!" He did something similar in The Devil's Trashcan (DM #43), when one of Richard Camellion's buddies makes a passing comment about "a joker I know" named Rupt Rosenberger. ... I don't know what to make of this.


"Mace was a man who'd hit himself over the head with a sledge hammer just to keep in practice."

"Both men might as well have tried to stop a rhinoceros with toothpicks!"

"He had all the chance of a crippled turtle trying to outrun a bolt of lightning!"

"... making suki yaki of his face, egg foo yung of his ribs and chop suey of his guts"

"as slick as a puppy's nut"

"... stalked by something gigantic, venomous and incredibly malevolent. Blackness!"

"Uncle will be surprised that we've come to the dock to see him and Jimmy leave. Then again, he might not."

"Confusion is the little brother of misery and the twin of uncertainty; yet all confusion dies before the sword of facts."

"... two moving engines of destruction, two juggernauts of pure King Fu"

"They're dangerous! They're like two cans of nitro!"

"The man went down, gurgling like a waterfall, his brain a pounding kettledrum of approaching death."

"You're so damned bright that you think Sherlock Holmes is a housing development."

"... falling the remaining 15 feet with the speed of a meteor"

Big John Jenessio could barely walk "and when he did shuffle along his battered balls became a tubful of misery".

"... the ultimate aim of Kung Fu ... is to aspire to the high grades where one's understanding and practice of the art provide the entrance to the philosophical plane where the principles of the physical practice are applied to life."

Mace: "They didn't harm you in any way ...?"
Sue: "That man Vance. He even made us a pitcher of lemonade."

"I'll get those killers if it's the last thing I do!"

"There was a quietness about the two vessels that wasn't natural, a kind of waiting malignancy that seemed to be building to an unexpected spring ... waiting ..."

"A nagging fear kept growing in Ho Li's mind, spreading with all the rapidity of a cancer."

"Mace exploded over him with all the ferocity of a spreading cancer!"

"The Pacific Ocean was a friend to no man ..."

"... his malevolent mind trying to sponge up current events"

"... hideous shock ... his think machine did what it had to do! It died!"

"... his lungs wondering where all the air had gone! They stopped wondering a few seconds later."

"The savage burst blasted the body wide open, with all the razor-sharp efficiency of a knife slicing open a hot dog! Bone, blood and grayish ropes of bowel splattered like a spring shower all over the interior of the wheelhouse. The corpse dropped to the floor. It was one helluva way to perform an autopsy!"

"The certainty of what he had to go bloomed in Mace's mind like a large flower, each petal fragrant with honor and justice."

"... multiple-finger thrusts that were constant ripsaws of justice with hatred or retribution without malice"

"... the rugged hole gaped like some metal vagina, a long slit surrounded by curled and buckled plates"

"Their only mistake was that they didn't know the depth of Mace's training! How could they possibly have known that a Kung Fu Master, while whirling and dancing and throwing, is practically superhuman, the Nage seeming to travel along unfamiliar lines of space-time. Such a man becomes pure art, moving easily in the midst of ferocious blows and flying tackles, not by opposing but by joining. He deals with the strongest attack by Nukishomen-uchi, by embracing the attack, by drawing it instantly into a wide circle of concord, which joins him with the essential unity and harmony of the universe."

"... a feeling of sadness turning the turnstiles of his mind"

"Jimmy Wing, his eyes as big and round as two small saucers ..."

Rupe was "as big as a small house"

The ship shuddered "like a sick old man who wanted to be with Jesus, but didn't want to die"

"His left ear, having been half-bitten off in a fight, appeared deformed, and it was."

"Mace's years of training now served him well, his reflexes releasing themselves with a speed that could only be explained, to an average man, as an abstraction beyond infinity."