September 19, 2015

Death Merchant #54: Apocalypse U.S.A.!

VXB-2L6 - it's the most deadly nerve gas ever invented. In the hands of Colonel Muammar Qaddafi it could spell death for millions of Americans.

The mad Muslim strongman has sent a crack team of Libyan terrorists and East German spies to America to carry out his plan: the poisoning of the atmosphere above the east coast of the US. If the scheme succeeds there will be twenty-five million corpses - from New York to the nation's capitol - and the world will rock as World War III breaks out.

Only Richard Camellion stands to stop Qaddafi's lust for blood - but the Death Merchant's search and destroy mission is turning into a deadly game of cat and mouse with the terrorist team.


In Apocalypse, U.S.A.!, author Joseph Rosenberger once again makes Muammar Qaddafi the bad guy (see DM #s 49 and 50, in which Rosenberger referred to him as "Kaddafi"). This time, the Libyan dictator's weapon against the U.S. is nerve gas ... with a name like a Canadian postal code!

When we first see Richard "Death Merchant" Camellion at the CIA's "Black Station" near Keasbey, New Jersey, he is dressed in a "tan heather turtleneck, redwood corduroy slacks, and Padmore chukka boots", eating from a sack of carob-coated sunflower seeds. Camellion has teamed up with a variety of agents, including Hannibal Llewellyn "H.L." Kartz, who is a totally ruthless nihilist and "an ardent admirer of Adolf Hitler". (Rosenberger describes nihilists as people who "have no loyalties, no culture, no religious faith, and consider themselves a law unto themselves". Which sounds not unlike the Death Merchant.)

Naturally, Kartz is a guy who runs his mouth, so he gets to litter the narrative with his conservative rants, including one with broadsides against Billy Graham, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the "leftwing trash" who protest the U.S.'s nuclear arms build-up. And while Camellion "couldn't have cared less about the pinheads in the federal government ... much of what [Kartz] said was the truth".

The book is not 40 pages old before Kartz takes part in an epic argument about Israeli aggression towards the Palestinians. (It's been hard to determine Rosenberger's personal stance on this issue, since he seems to flip-flop when bringing it up in recent DM books. In this volume, he's clearly anti-Israel.)
Ever since the Sikorsky Sea Stallion had lifted off from the naval station, Kartz had been in a heated debate with Daren Givens over Israel, Kartz maintaining that the Israelis were ruthless assassins who murdered innocent Arabs, men, women, and children—that "There are many thoughtful Jews—in Israel and in the U.S.—who feel that the wrong damn bunch is running Israel these days, whipping up hatred for the Arabs that is more typical of the most primitive political systems of the Middle East and not at all characteristic of the hopes of the majority of Zionists who struggled to establish and build Israel."

Sergeant Givens, a young, husky blond who was pro-Israel, maintained stoutly that the Israelis—"They're three million surrounded by one hundred million"—had a moral right to defend themselves, that "What the hell do you think we Americans would do if the Mexes were firing at us from across the Texas border? You know what we'd do! We'd go into chili-land and make short work of the greasers!"

Neither Camellion nor Captain Glen W. Griffith, the commander of the ten SEAL Force 1 antiterrorist commandos, intervened. Why should they? Kartz and Givens were grown men. Besides, the loud discussion—with Kartz moving his arms like the blades of a windmill in a strong wind—within the partially soundproof chopper took the minds of the other men off the deadly danger into which they were flying.

"You don't seem to consider what Yasir Arafat and the PLO have sworn to do!" Givens yelled at Kartz, who was sitting across the aisle. "Push every Israeli into the sea. And that means kill every Israeli! It was the PLO that blew up a busfull of Israeli children. What the hell do you expect the Israelis to do, send the sonsabitches a thank-you note?"

"Don't worry! The Israelis got even," sneered Kartz. "Last summer when they invaded Lebanon, they killed ten thousand civilians and created more than half a million homeless refugees. They even used cluster bombs on civilians. This doesn't surprise anyone who knows Ariel Sharon, who led the Israeli force. He's a tyrant who intimidates even that little runt Begin!"

"I think Sharon is a damned good general," ground out Givens. "He sure beat the piss out of the PLO and the Syrians."

"He's also a sadist. He's the joker who ordered his troops to snuff twelve Arabs in retaliation for the murder of an Israeli woman and her two children. After twelve were gunned down, Sadist Sharon still wasn't satisfied, so he had forty-six Arab houses blown up while the Arabs were still inside. Sixty-nine Arabs were killed, most of them women and children.1 Need I say more about Israel's defense minister?"

"Make your point! Make your point!"

"I'm saying that what happened months ago in Lebanon can easily be understood when one realizes that Begin and Sharon believe that pure violence can destroy an idea and terrorize a people—in this case the Palestinians."

Sergeant Givens thought for a moment and hooked his thumbs over the pouched cartridge belt around his waist. Then he said, "I suppose you'll say next that the PLO hasn't been killing innocent Israelis! What about that?"

"I didn't say that," growled Kartz. "Hell yes the Arabs knock off Israelis—and that's murder. But they don't kill on the scale that the Israelis kill. Killing is Menachem Begin's trademark! His savage record goes all the way back to the 1940s, when a group of prominent American Jews wrote a letter protesting Begin's visit to the U.S. He was then the leader of some Jewish party in Palestine. I forget the magazine the letter appeared in.2 But it was Begin and his terrorist group that blew up the King David Hotel—almost a hundred: people were killed—and ordered terrorist assaults on Arab villages, including the massacre at Dar Yasin."3

All this time, Pini Hilleli had stayed out of the discussion between Kartz and Sergeant Givens. Now he said, unexpectedly, "As a former Israeli, sergeant, I can tell you that he's right about Begin. Only several years ago, Begin wrote in an Israeli magazine that the slaughter at Dar Yasin was not only justified but necessary, that without it there would never have been a state of Israel!"

"Exactly," Kartz said with satisfaction. "And now Begin and Sharon—his chief 'hit man'—are slaughtering thousands of Arab civilians to crush the Palestinian spirit, the same kind of spirit that fires up Zionists like them."

"Begin's logic is really fascinating," Hilleli said, grinning as if he were about to tell a joke. "If an Israeli shoots up Jerusalem's Dome of the Rock Mosque and kills Arabs—well, he's crazy. But no nation bombed Israel for it! On the other hand, if an Arab gunman kills an Israeli, then U.S. supplied Israeli bombers rain cluster-bomb death on Lebanon. No insult intended toward you men, but the biggest suckers are you Americans!"

Kartz's grin was from ear to ear.

Sergeant Givens made an angry face. "How do you figure that?"

"Look what Begin did right after his army finished with blowing hell out of Lebanon. He flew to Washington and demanded that the record 1980 two-and-a-half billion-dollar aid to Israel be upped to three billion. Begin makes you American taxpayers pay twice—first for Israel's brutal assault on Lebanon and then for the relief of Lebanon's suffering people. You should ask your Congress who runs this nation—Begin or the Reagan administration?"

1 True—this took place in 1953.

2 True. On December 4, 1948, the New York Times ran a letter signed by twenty-eight of America's most respected Jews, including Albert Einstein, Sidney Hook, and Rabbi Jessurun Cardozo. The letter protested the visit of Menachem Begin, then leader of the Herut party, described as "closely akin in its organization, methods, political philosophy and social appeal to the Nazi and Fascist parties." The signers were worried that Begin would collect money and support, thus creating the impression that "a large segment of America supports Fascist elements in Israel." The signers cited Begin's terrorist acts and espousal of "ultra-nationalism, religious mysticism and racial superiority." (Italics mine.)
[Rosenberger used italics on the three quotes]

3 True. The massacre occurred April 10, 1948. Dar Yasin was an Arab village whose residents lived on good terms with Jews. But Begin's Irgun terrorists wanted to occupy Dar Yasin for strategic purposes. The terrorists, led by Begin, attacked with rifles, machine guns, grenades, and even cutlasses—later seen dripping with blood. Some 241 men, women, and children were butchered. Twenty men were led off in chains and actually paraded like cattle through Jerusalem's Jewish sector, then lined up against a wall and shot. Begin later bragged that the horror at Dar Yasin caused seven hundred thousand Arabs to flee Palestine. British historian Arnold Toynbee had something else to say. He said the mass murders were "comparable to crimes committed against Jews by the Nazis."
In his attempt to kill millions of Americans with deadly nerve gas, Qaddafi has teamed up with the SSD, the East German Security Service - and three American businessmen. After weighing the pros and cons, Camellion decides to kidnap Keith Griesbeck, a wealthy Atlanta businessman who has "international connections". Camellion et al. hijack a tractor trailer delivering 23 tons of scrap metal to Big Benny Laczko's scrapyard, where Griesbeck (an old friend of Benny's) has lunch every Thursday at noon. The attempted kidnapping of Griesbeck is spread out over five chapters and the book is nearly half-over when the Death Merchant and his men lift off from the scrapyard in a helicopter with their prize.

When questioned, Griesbeck tells them he thought the Qaddafi deal was for neutron bomb secrets. He  mentions his contact - and so the Death Merchant decides to black-bag that guy. That leads to a shootout in a former brick-making factory in Brooklyn. Three East Germans are taken prisoner and they quickly blab about the Prinz Rupert, a ship that is carrying the nerve gas. It sets up a showdown with the Death Merchant and twenty SEAL commandos rappelling from two helicopters onto the enemy ship. They make their way through the vessel, killing everyone in their path. Why don't they simply sink the ship and send the nerve gas to the bottom of the ocean? Because Uncle Sam wants to grab the deadly gas and add it to its own chemical weapon stockpile!

Throughout the book, Rosenberger touches on his usual political and social topics. While there is no talk in this book of the Death Merchant being able to seeing human auras - and tell by their colours which people have been marked by the Cosmic Lord of Death - there is a small bit about the angels mentioned in the Book of Genesis as actually being extraterrestrials.

And, of course, Rosenberger has Camellion muse about the end of human civilization, which the author has mentioned many times will occur before the year 2000 (this volume was published in March 1983):
Camellion suddenly thought of another irony, this one involving the mighty of the world. In reality, their power was zero! Cosmic forces were in motion, forces that would utterly transform world society within the next seventeen years, in the form of a catastrophe never before seen by modern man—One that is impossible for the average man to even conceive. Men can never face up to what they think is total oblivion!

There would be a literal shifting of the axis of the earth, and the planet would be tilted at a new angle so that the sun and the moon would appear to move in different orbits in the sky—Unless Michel de Notredame is wrong! Well, he's been right on target for hundreds of years.10

The tilt of the earth would come during World War III—a nuclear holocaust—and usher in a new age, one of peace, one that would last for a thousand years, from A.D. 2000 to A.D. 3000, after which there would be a new horror, a new evil. Only this time man would not be fooled; he would be prepared, having developed a higher spiritual consciousness. At the end of the year A.D. 7000 there would be a universal conflagration in which earth would be destroyed. The planet would vanish in fire and smoke because its purpose will have been served, the material sphere no longer needed to support the physical body of man. By then, man will have left his material body and will have become pure spirit, as he was intended to be.

10 This is Nostradamus, the only truly accurate seer the world has ever known. Here is the actual quatrain in which he predicts the change of position of the sun and the moon. Only a tilting of the earth on its axis could effect such a change. The "twentieth year" is the year 2000.
The grand twentieth year ends, also the position of the moon.
It will hold a different monarchy in the sky for another 7,000 years.
Then the sun, too, will be tired of its place.
And at that time will my prophecies for the world be ended.
Late in the book, fighting for their lives aboard the Prinz Rupert, Camellion and his force engage in some "savage eyeball-to-eyeball combat"!
"Like Raid, it kills bugs dead!" [Camellion] snarled and pulled the trigger of the AMP. The Alaskan boomed and Erich Bamberger's face and head disappeared in a flash of bones, blood, and brain that tried to shoot to the sky but made it only to the ceiling. He let the empty MAC-10 SMG drop from his left hand and, at the same time he slammed Siegfried Feuermann across the face with the long barrel of the AMP, let Horst Erzkinner have a left-legged Shito-Ryu Mae Geri Kekomi front thrust kick, a grand slam that wrapped the German's stomach around his spine and crushed vital blood vessels and arteries in the abdominal region. There was never any redemption from such a kill kick. Looking as if his features had been frozen by a blast of liquid air, the dying Erzkinner fell back and started to sag, eyes wide, arms quivering.

Muttering oaths in German, Hans Fischer grabbed Camellion's right wrist with his left hand and tried a right-handed sword chop aimed at the left side of the Death Merchant's face. Concurrently, another SSD agent rushed in from behind Camellion, intending to turn the back of his head to mush with the barrel of an empty Czech Skorpion machine pistol. Instinct and the rush of air against his back warned Camellion of the attack coming at him from the rear. Camellion exploded into action. An Ushiro Keage Geri rear snap kick with his left leg caught Alfred Groner Heine five inches below where his last meal rested and made the SSD officer think his small intestine had collided with a buzz saw. Tasting the bile that jumped up in his throat, he tried to fight the waves of agony flowing throughout his body. Losing the battle, he found himself falling backward and vaguely sensed that someone was reaching out for him. Heine couldn't have fallen into worse hands.

"Stupid! You're breathing my air," snarled H.L. Kartz. His arms flashed out in the beginning of a commando neck-breaker. His left forearm went over Heine's throat, his fingers fastening to the top of his right arm. As his left arm tightened, his right hand went to the left side of Heine's head and pressed mightily to the right. Snap! Crackle! Pop! Heine's neck snapped a few seconds after the Death Merchant used a left-handed Ippon Nukite one-finger spear thrust that caught Hans Fischer in the right side of his neck, the intense agony forcing the East German to release his hold on the Death Merchant's right wrist. Camellion could then have easily put a bullet into Fischer. But why waste a bullet on a piece of slime?

"If brains were made of leather, you wouldn't have enough to saddle a flea," laughed Camellion, who then killed the SSD man by slamming the barrel of the AMP against his left temple. ...

A man who lived life in one long gleeful rage, H.L. Kartz was having one of the prime times of his life. Like Camellion, Kartz had eyes in the back of his head and a built-in sensor that could detect personal danger from all sides. A roundhouse kick to Edwin Hemholtz's lower chest wrecked the man's xiphoid process, the fingerlike tab of cartilage hanging off the lowermost edge of the sternum, or breast bone. This is the insertion of the rectus abdominus muscle on the sternum. Any severe blow that strikes the xiphoid process while traveling upward at an angle toward the heart causes severe bruising to the liver, stomach, and heart, resulting in unconsciousness and even death. In the case of Hemholtz, Kartz's expertly delivered kick caused instant unconsciousness. The German was still falling when Kartz killed him with a right Chungdan ap chagi middle front snap-kick to the side of the neck.
While the ending of Apocalypse, U.S.A.! has plenty of the intricate fighting scenes and exquisitely-described gore that we expect from Rosenberger, it's a weak finish because Camellion snuffs out the murderous plot before it really has a chance to get off the ground. And Rosenberger relegates the discovery of the nerve gas on board the Prinz Rupert to an aside in the "Aftermath".


"[Camellion] could shoot the balls off a bee at a hundred feet." (page 16)

"Camellion could have shot the butt off a bee at a hundred feet." (page 84)

The "hawk-eyed" Death Merchant, "who could have seen a flea fly in a foggy field".

"[T]he road was deserted, the glow of the streetlights falling only on ice and snow and loneliness."

"Go kiss a hair brush."

"The well-dressed Keith Griesbeck looked so confused that the Death Merchant assumed it would have taken him two hours to watch '60 Minutes'".

"'And especially to hold off the police,' finished the Death Merchant, speaking with the sharpness of a construction boss rebuking a steel riveter who complains he's afraid of heights."

"A thin, cold wind blew snow around their legs, and there was an uncanny suggestion of invisible pipes playing an evil tune, one that suggested the terrible sadness that could only come from a city of lonely corpses."

"'You know how it is,' Kartz growled. 'Cast your bread upon the waters and you'll get a soggy sandwich every time.'"

"'I'll be happy when we're on deck,' said another man. 'Getting down the ladder is going to be more difficult than a Sioux manhood ritual.'"

"Dimirrel weighed 194 pounds and was as strong as two young camels in their prime".

"There was another reason, the biggest of all: he immensely enjoyed what he was doing. He was not alone in his love of excitement. Kartz and Chatters, Hilleli and—to a certain extent—the SEAL commandos were the kind of men fascinated by death-dealing machinery. All very normal—for them. Normal because there are those men and women who love danger, who find violence and death fascinating. Some become professional mercenaries. Or stuntmen. Or drive racing cars. Always they live in the fast lane, skating barefoooted on the cutting edge of life's razor blade."

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