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.

February 19, 2016

Death Merchant #65: Mission Deadly Snow

The Cuban Connection

Somewhere under the rich canopy of the Colombian jungle is the nerve center of the world's largest drug operation. And right now twenty thousand kilos of cocaine are being processed for shipment to Havana -- to be used as a weapon of subversion against the U.S.

Determined to put a stop to the plan, the CIA has established a base in Peru. But Richard Camellion isn't satisfied with that. For behind the cocaine, backed by the whole might of the KGB, stands a man whose name is whispered in fear, a shadowy legend. And the chance to seek out and destroy his archenemy El Cobra is more than a challenge. For the Death Merchant it's a sacred mission ...


In late 1985, Pinnacle - which had published the previous 64 Death Merchant books (dating back to 1971) - went out of business. Joseph Rosenberger retained the rights to his character and took his business to Dell, which published #65 (originally titled Operation Snow Job) as Mission Deadly Snow. The cover image of Richard Camellion looks far more like Rambo than the non-buff guy pictured on any of the last 64 books. In addition to making Camellion look more like a typical mid-80s mercenary, Dell also re-wrote (updated) the back-cover introduction to the character:
Volume #65 in the nonstop, high-voltage adventures of Richard Camellion. Totally fearless, a warrior-for-hire at the services of America's most secret security operations, he operates internationally with savage ease. Weapons and martial-arts expert supreme, he executes missions with stone-cold cunning. His enemies can do no right. His friends can do no wrong. A lone master of lethality, destruction, and disguise, he'll go anywhere, stop at nothing to get the dirty work done, to earn the name you know him by: The Death Merchant.
The back cover copy actually does a good job of relating the plot. From a secret US base in Peru, the Death Merchant plans an attack on La Niebla, the Colombian headquarters of the Partners' drug smuggling operation. Fidel Castro (with the backing of the Russians and the KGB) has ordered 20,000 kilos of "snow" from the Partners with the expressed intent of introducing it into the US, thus "wreck[ing] the morals of American society". Camellion's two-part mission: destroy La Niebla and kill "Adrian Mirocco", aka the Cobra, who is arranging the deal for Castro.

After Camellion's initial attempt to get close to the Partners by posing as a drug-buyer fails in the opening chapter, the Death Merchant resorts to more traditional means. While using Nightwalker, a series of interconnected caves in the Sangre Mountains of Peru, as a base of operations, Camellion learns that the Partners are set to receive thousands of pounds of both ether and acetone, products necessary to process Castro's cocaine. They attempt to thwart this delivery off the Pacific coast, but are unsuccessful. Then Camellion and his men have to defend Nightwalker as the powerful Cobra bribes officials high in the Colombia Air Force to fly across the border into Peru and attack the American base. After surviving that attack, the only thing left to do is invade Colombia and destroy La Niebla, where the cocaine is being processed.

Rosenberger is all business in this volume, offering relatively few of his usual political, social, and/or mystical digressions. Also, for the first time in years, he includes no footnotes. (There are a couple of brief scenes of a sexual nature, though neither of them involve the Death Merchant. I wonder if Dell's editors requested their inclusion to spice up the usual asexual DM adventures.)

Rosenberger also spends more time than usual describing the various slugs the men are using in their weapons:
Galen Shuck was also proving that one American is worth far more than two greasers south of the Texas border. In a stance that was a half-crouch, he coolly fired his Star M-30 PK pistols, putting three 9-millimeter hollow points into Eduardo Simón Yglesias as Wayne Augustine, a prematurely bald Alpha Force commando with a Bob Hope ski nose, fired a Smith and Wesson .38 Police Special. He was too busy to be afraid and too angry to even think of death.

The best loads for a .38 Police + S revolver are 95- and 110-grain hollow points. Augustine, however, was using 110-grain .38 Hydra-Shok HP Copperheads in the revolver. In less time than it takes to say ¡Madre de Dios! Augustine had pulled the trigger and had blown away Gilberto Lersundi, the .38 Hydro-Shok projectile going all the way through the Tiger commando's stomach and hitting his spine, breaking his back and cutting the cord.
During the gun battle, Rosenberger actually halts the action completely to provide information on Camellion's Arcane slugs:
It was also all over for Rafael Gonzalez, who had triggered the FAL, and for Tuñón Estrada, who had tried to use the Uru SMG. Both had been hit by Camellion's .357 Arcane projectiles.

A magnum bullet is bad enough. A .357 mag projectile that is also an Arcane bullet is awesome. Arcane comes from the Latin arcanus and means "mysterious." However, there isn't anything mysterious about the deadly Arcane bullet that was invented by the Germans during World War Two. The Nazis produced the Arcane in 9-millimeter to be used in their Schmeisser SMGs, wanting a round that could penetrate the side armor of American half-tracks. Fortunately for the Allies, the war ended before German Arcanes could roll off the production lines.

The Krauts had intended to use solid zinc tips. It is far different with modern Arcane ammo: made of pure copper, each bullet is a full-metal slug that is sharply angled and has a straight slope and a sharp point, all of it resembling a tiny pyramid. Arcane bullets do not have a soft metal outer coating, nor is there any other type of metal in the center of the slug. Lighter than most bullets of the same caliber, an Arcane slug is different from ordinary ammo, different not only because of its shape, but also because it combines the most desirable effects of both hollow point and armor-piercing ammunition.

For these reasons Estrada and Gonzalez looked as if they had been hit in the chest by blasts from a double-barreled shotgun at close range.
And later:
It was these ten [Colombian] mercs who were first spotted by Alpha Force recon scouts, two of whom were killed in a short firefight that followed in the forest that was turned into a free-fire zone, but not for any length of time. Firing Valmet M-76 and SIG PE-57 assault rifles, Bombaro's men peppered the area with 7.62 (X 51 NATO) and 7.5 X 55-millimeter projectiles, the storm of steel-cored slugs effectively pinning down both White and Blue companies, until three 91-millimeter warheads from AT-4 launchers exploded and turned the ten mercs into chunks of bloody flesh that ended up decorating the trees, the kappa grass, and scores of earthstar and lilac puffballs. This area of southern Colombia was similar in flora and fauna to northern Peru.
In the end, the processing plant and the cocaine are destroyed, but the Cobra escapes into the jungle. The series' next volume - The Cobra Chase - will be the second half of this adventure.


Slurs used to describe people in Colombia and Peru: spics, spic-heads, chili-peppers, chili creeps, rice-and-chili eaters, pepper-and-garlic snappers, chili-bean boobs, taco-heads.

"The Death Merchant's HP 9-millimeter slug hit him in the abdomen, bored through his colon and stirred up the steak he had had for dinner."

Vernon Cole, hiking through the verdant Colombian jungle: "Shit, this is like being at the bottom of a bowlful of salad."

"A thin individual with a long face and sad hazel eyes, he made one think of a punch-drunk caboose that had gotten lost and missed the gravy train of life."

Cole: "Fuck the United Nations! The UN is nothing but a group of nigger nations and commie lovers who do nothing but run down the United States. If Washington had the sense of a retarded ape, it would tell all those American haters to get their asses to Moscow. They'd soon learn what communism really is."

"A realist, Cole said exactly what he thought and when he felt like saying it. By normal standards, he was an oddball, a nonconformist who considered the entire human race an obscenity. A complex individual, the only thing he hated worse than a conformist was another nonconformist who didn't conform to the prevailing standards of nonconformity."

It turns out that The Cobra shares Cole's (and Camellion's and every other character's!) opinion that the United States has a foolish belief in the equality of the races. "Only the Americans had the naivete of children in regard to the world picture, to the geopolitics of power. They were so obsessed with making the races of the world 'equal' that they were not only destroying their own country but permitting the Soviet Union to strangle them with amazing rapidity. The childish Americans were even supplying the rope!"

"Silvers was as calm as a drugged clam."

"The Death Merchant also spotted the man not far from Bombaro and wondered how the lard-butt had become a mercenary in the first place. The balloon belly had to weigh three hundred pounds—And all of it fat! That blubber gut will die yelling for a waiter! Muttering, "Rest in pizza!" Camellion raised the Desert Eagle and pulled the trigger. Lard-Butt's head exploded, brain and bone, flesh and blood, soaring outward in one complete mess."

February 12, 2016

Death Merchant #64: The Atlantean Horror

Ice Cold Hell

Veliki - a Russian missile base. Loosely translated its name means friendship. To America it could mean World War III.

Now an amazing energy converter is being studied by top American scientists. Its origin and composition, a mystery. Its power for destruction, awesome. Underlying its dread presence in the world is a prediction of nuclear holocaust that dates back to the ancient, lost city of Atlantis. The Russians will stop at nothing to get their hands on it.

But America's got another weapon of destruction that gives it a cold, hard, deadly edge: Richard Camellion, the Death Merchant. He will lead an assassination squad on a blood-soaked mission into frozen Antarctica that will leave America's enemies wishing they had never been born - or lived long enough to face the Death Merchant!


As The Atlantean Horror begins, Richard Camellion is spying on Veliki, the largest Soviet Union base in Antarctica. Three cargo ships are being unloaded nearby and when the Death Merchant sees 16 armored cars, he knows that can mean only one thing: an attack is being planned! The nearest U.S. base (Star-1) is only nine miles away. When Camellion is discovered lurking around, he has to shoot his way to safety. And although (as author Joseph Rosenberger puts it) "his chances of coming out of this mess alive were less than the possibility of dunking a doughnut in a thimbleful of hot coffee", the Death Merchant scratches ten Russians and makes a getaway through the swirling snow.

The reason for the activity in Antarctica is that the Americans have uncovered an "energy converter" that was built and buried by the highly-developed ancient civilization of Atlantis 70,000 years ago. The machine can "convert the rays of the sun into pure energy" and be used as a "death ray" to wipe out entire cities. This information, as well as the exact coordinates of the buried machine, came from a spirit entity known as "Baris", who communicated with Dr. Cecil Montrose (See DM #62, The Soul Search Project). In that book, Montrose developed an extraordinary machine that enabled him to communicate with the spirit world. Baris - a high-ranking scientist in Atlantis - has an awful lot to say about his people's vast knowledge and their ultimate demise in a nuclear holocaust, but more importantly, he wants the U.S. to have the energy device because they are "trying to maintain peace in the world" unlike those unrepentantly evil Russians.

If you're wondering how an artifact from Atlantis got so close to the South Pole, Rosenberger spends a lot of time explaining about pole shifts occurring every 19,000 years (or 32,000 years; it varies in his telling) and how what was once tropical is now frozen wasteland. Rosenberger also notes that another "shifting of the poles" (and "the end of civilization") is coming in the next 14 years (i.e., before the year 2000, since this book was published in late 1985).

The Russians know about the "cosmic generator" (although it's not explained how they learned of its existence) and they plan to attack the U.S. base known as Andromeda. When that is successful, the Sunburst-1 base - where the generator is being excavated - will be isolated and vulnerable. For making sure the U.S. secures the Atlantean device, the Death Merchant is being paid five times his usual $100,000 fee.

The plot follows the usual pattern. After extensive planning and discussing every possible scenario, the action begins. The Russians attack Andromeda - and are defeated. Camellion and about 10 other men then travel over the ice to Sunburst to examine the device. It's an eight-day trek over 1,100 miles in weather that is 100 degrees below zero Fahrenheit, but Rosenberger doesn't devote any pages to the journey. Camellion, through his vast knowledge of the Russian mind and military tactics, has figured out the "pig farmers'" next move - to attack Sunburst. When that also fails, Camellion cranks up the crazy by deciding to launch a surprise attack on the Russian base Vostok-II. The DM and his fighting force are victorious and, although he gets no official word, Camellion learns that the Atlantean energy device is now safe and secure at an ultrasecret base in Colorado.

What steals the show in The Atlantean Horror is the sci-fi stuff that "Baris" revealed to Montrose.
"We Atlanteans were not native to your planet. We resembled modern man and we were air breathers, but we came from a world—slightly larger than your Earth—whose star was dying. That star was in a galaxy that your astronomers call NGC3245. It is in one of your local supercluster of galaxies." ...

Baris had explained that several thousand Atlanteans had survived the [pole-shifting] catastrophe by leaving the planet in spaceships powered by ion drives. Previously, the Atlanteans had explored the solar system and had not found any intelligent life on any of the planets and its moons.

"Our people who left the planet went to that which you call Mars. Conditions on that planet were very harsh and the survivors returned to earth fourteen thousand years ago, while the planet was still in the grip of one of its ice ages. It was their return and the buildings they erected that helped renew the legend. However, the main reason why Atlantis remained in the racial memory of your species is that this planet has never seen a civilization such as we of Alt possessed."

Bans had revealed that when Atlantis was at its peak, the members of the human species were little more than intelligent apes—until Atlantean scientists speeded up evolution with genetic engineering.

"We turned the apes into men, crude by your present standards, but there was a limit to how far we could progress in this direction. We gave man reason and memory and taught him to live in a civilized manner. But the shifting of the poles that followed over the thousands of years always destroyed his civilization and made him revert to a savage state. Always he overcame his difficulties and rebuilt—amazingly so. This is especially true after the poles reversed sixty-two thousands years ago. Within eight thousand years after the reversal, he had built a scientific civilization and had discovered the power contained within the atom. But man destroyed his civilization in a nuclear war. After this worldwide slaughter, he regressed almost to the level of beasts. There were genetic mutations caused by radiation, and the faint memory of Atlantis, of the god, was forgotten. Instead, there were stories about the god who had made war—truth taken from reality and turned into that which many of your leading scientists consider fables. Yet there are very ancient books that tell of this global conflict. These stories can be found especially in ancient books of India.

"When the descendants of the Atlanteans who had fled to Mars returned to Earth, they continued genetic operations that turned what were now brutes into true man. You call that species Homo sapiens. But it was a slow process. The Atlanteans found the brutal Neanderthal. Genetic manipulations changed him into that which your modern world has designated Cro-Magnon. To many of these Cro-Magnons did the Atlanteans from Mars tell of our wonderful civilization, of our continent that had vanished beneath the waters; and they related to them how we had constructed our buildings. The great pyramid of Egypt is a good example. . . ."
Rosenberger claims that evidence of Atlantis' destruction by atomic warfare was revealed in the Mahabharata and by Nostradamus!
Baris had been correct about many things. He had been right about ancient manuscripts5 of India. Most of the references to atomic warfare came from the Mahabharata, which had been translated from Sanskrit to English in 1843. The Mahabharata had originally been written in 1500 B.C. from legends dating 6,000 years before that.
The part of the Mahabharata that the Death Merchant recalled was:
[It was] a single projectile
Charged with all the power of the Universe.
It burst—as bright as ten thousand Suns.
. . . An unknown weapon which reduced to ashes
The entire race of the Vrishnis and Andhakas.
The corpses were so burned
As to be unrecognizable.
Their hair and nails fell out;
Pottery broke without apparent cause,
And the birds turned white.
After a few hours
All foodstuffs were infected.
. . . To escape this fire
The soldiers threw themselves into streams,
To wash themselves and their equipment
And watch in fear the death cloud climb the sky.
What better description than the explosion of an atom bomb? ...

Camellion had to admit that Baris' prediction checked with the prophecies of Nostradamus. Four of Nostradamus' quatrains are pretty clear—and they sure don't add up to peace and happiness!
You will see a great transformation at the turn of the century.
Extreme horror, a judgment upon the wicked.
The moon inclined at another angle.
The sun will appear higher in its orbit.

A swift and severe rain
Will abruptly halt two armies,
Celestial hail and descending fires will cover the sea with pumice.
Death on seven continents and seas sudden.

After there is great trouble among mankind, a greater one is prepared.
The Great Mover of the Universe will renew time,
Rain, blood, thirst, famine, steel weapons, and disease,
In the heavens a fire is seen, lengthening into shooting sparks.

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 finished and ended.
Footnote 5: Other than the Mahabharata, there is the Ramayana and the Mahavira Charita. It was only after the first atom bomb explosion in 1945 that the real meaning of the texts became clear. For example, this brief passage from the Mahavira Charita: "Many of the warriors vanished (vaporized). Others were burnt to ashes. Many more died from the strange sickness the winds blew from the rising cloud of death [radiation sickness)."
Dr. Oppenheimer was once asked if the bomb exploded at Alamogordo during the Manhattan Project was the first ever to be detonated.
Dr. Oppenheimer replied, "Well—yes. In modern times. of course."
Those alleged quotes from the Mahabharata provided by Rosenberger are not authentic.

Camellion wonders about Baris's motive for giving the U.S. the energy converter:
It was the possible hidden motive of Boris that bothered Richard Camellion, who for all of his adult life had studied certain arts and sciences. The "dead" were never dead, and often they were restless. Camellion knew that the material world interlocked with the world of spirit and that the only difference between the two was that the former was always in a process of change, while permanence was the order of the latter. It was time that contained the physical world, our "world of effects," just as eternity contained the realities and the causes of the spiritual, or higher, world.

Time is but the application of the principles of the world of spirit, of the world of eternity.

This was the reason why only a part of reality is manifest in time and space at any given moment or place; and so man dwelt with one foot in Eternity and one foot in Time. In this present, ever-changing time continuum, we experience our existence only partially.

But who gives a damn?
Well, presumably, Rosenberger cares about all this stuff - a lot. If not, why would he include it in so many of his books?

After a debate about the origin of the name "Moses" - the Death Merchant believes "that mose, the Egyptian word for 'child,' is a much more plausible etymology than the Hebrew mosheh" - Camellion thinks to himself:
Yes, I could tell them what the Vatican, the U.S. government, and the inner circle of the Soviet Union have known since 1974: that there are powers and forces that have always been an essential part of our immediate environment, things that coexist with us but are a part of another time frame, things that, operating outside the laws and limits of our space-time continuum, have the ability to act in our own three-dimensional reality.

They are transmogrifications of energy that are of a superspectrum of EM and are under firm control of some vast extradimensional intelligence. This intelligence controls important events in the world by manipulating certain human beings in various fields and in various forms of activity. Man does not know it, but all his religions are based on humanity's vague awareness of this power, this intelligence, and man's struggle to reduce it to terms and laws and divine truths acceptable to man's very limited intellect. ...

The scrolls in the Vatican? Millions of people would go mad or commit suicide if they knew the contents of those books. The Vatican and those scrolls will be the first to go in the World War Three. The Vatican is the number-one target of—The Kingdom. . . .
Elsewhere, Rosenberger writes: "[D]id Professor Montrose make contact with the Powers of the Kingdom?" ... WTF is The Kingdom? Is it connected to the oft-mentioned Cosmic Lord of Death? Perhaps Rosenberger will explain in a future volume (although there are only seven books left in the series). Fudge!

Random stream-of-consciousness Camellion thoughts (with similarly random italicising):
It makes sense and I don't think Baris lied. He said the magi were descendants of the Atlanteans. Let's see . . . it was Herodotus who wrote in the fifth century that the Magi were a tribe. Possibly. Magu is the old Persian form of the word. It renders into Greek as Magos, which could be the same as the Vedic magha that means "rich" or "gifts." The magi were prophets, philosophers, and astronomers. And according to Baris, Jesus Christ did exist. Hmmmmmmm.
And here's some useless gun porn, in two separate footnotes:
The Colt CAR-15 is a short-barreled version of the Colt AR-15/M-16 that is sometimes called the "Matty Mattel Special." During the early years of the AR-15, Colt Firearms designed a highly specialized version of the AR-15. This new weapon was the Colt CAR-15—"CAR," meaning Colt Automatic Rifle. Officially, the CAR-15 is the XM-177E2. From the CAR-15 came a further improvement called the Colt Commando submachine gun, with the Army and the Air Force using their own designations: XM177 for the Army and GAU-5 for the Air Force. GAU means "Gun All Utility." All these weapons fire the 5.56 by 45mm cartridge, or the .223 Remington. ...

A product of Steyr engineers and the Austrian army, the AUG has revolutionized arms design around the world. It is a tactical-support assault rifle that incorporates all the advanced military requirements. The efficient "bull-pup" design permits a short overall length—only 31 inches long—and it can be quickly stripped down into six modular parts in only a few minutes. It also has a 30-round box magazine. For field mobility, accuracy, design simplicity, and functional reliability, the AUG is the weapon of the future. The civilian version can be bought from Interarms, 1 Prince Street, Alexandria, Virginia 22313.

Rosenberger dedicated this book to "JJA—the real 'Courtland Grojean'". Rosenberger must be referring to James Jesus Angleton, who was the CIA's Associate Deputy Director of Operations for Counterintelligence from 1954-1975.

Veliki means "friendship". Camellion is disgusted: "So typical of the Russians and their word and phrase usage. Invasions were always 'liberations.' Mass murder and exterminations were always 'actions against enemies of the state.'"

"Richard Camellion had been at death's door so many times that he had worn holes in the welcome mat ..."

"More disgusted than a moonshiner who knew the BATF was closing in on him, Camellion got to his feet."

"It was the way he looked at you with those blue eyes of his, as though something incredibly alien were measuring you for some sort of sacrifice."

"One sensed in his presence a kind of barrier, a psychological reserve that separated him from other men. There was something almost alien about him. Sometimes it was the way he talked and the things he said. ... Dr. Ainsley had said that in her opinion, death was merely the termination of an accidental physical existence. Camellion had replied by saying, 'Death is a problem that can be understood only in the way we intentionally live through our physical existence with others.' Now, what kind of an answer was that!"

"Dingo dung!"

"The flames had died down but smoke was still rising from the entire base, a black, sooty mephitis, the telltale vapor of the Cosmic Lord of Death."

Twice the Death Merchant (in his own mind) corrects someone's grammar:
"You mean who hits whom first—objective case!"
"'Lay in the snow!' He should have said 'lie'."

Rosenberger mentions a drink called "trucker's penicillin": "coffee, brandy, lemon juice".

February 1, 2016

Death Merchant #63: The Pakistan Mission

Kill or Be Killed

The Russian Spetnaz - even the CIA feared them. The Spetnaz were nothing less than special assassin-commandoes trained in terror; marauders skilled in sabotage.

Now US Intelligence has discovered a seething Spetnaz base secreted in the rugged mountains of occupied Afghanistan. Poised to ravage unsuspecting Pakistan, only thirty miles to the south, the Spetnaz will spearhead a brutal Russian drive to isolate the crucial oil fields of Saudi Arabia, and bring the oil-dependant West to its knees!

Only a miracle can strangle the impending invasion - or a master of mayhem named Richard Camellion, the Death Merchant. He must rouse the troubled Pathan tribe of Pakistan to dare the impossible: a furtive thrust through the death-drenched Afghan frontier to surprise the Soviets and raze the savage Spetnaz base to the ground!


The Death Merchant and "Mad Mike" Quinlan are in Pakistan, helping a Pathan tribe led by Mujibur Ali Mirza-Khan forestall a Russian invasion from Afghanistan through the Khyber Pass. To that end, they plan on attacking and destroying a Soviet military base near Narang that houses roughly 1,800 Spetsnaz troops.

Author Joseph Rosenberger offers a ton of background information on the political and tribal situations in Afghanistan and Pakistan and way too much information on geo-politics. It's more Rosenberger offering his opinions on the region than anything needed to move the narrative forward.

Camellion, Quinlan, and two members of Quinlan's group Thunderbolt Unit: Omega are meeting with Mizra-Khan in the village of Gubukil, in the Ismail Khan mountains. The appearance of low-flying Russian planes suggests to Camellion that the village has been pinpointed and an attack is forthcoming. Camellion urges the Pathans to abandon the village and hide out in some nearby caves. Sure enough, Soviet helicopters soon destroy the village from the air and Spetnaz troops come out to inspect the damage. However, they discover that the only things they killed were goats - and so they begin to charge up the hill to the caves. When the Russians are close to the top, the Pathans open fire. Camellion uses two Bren Ten autopistols (having apparently retired his beloved Auto Mags several books ago). The battle - "eyeball to eyeball", both sides firing at point-blank range - is over "faster than rain pouring down a gopher hole" and the Russians are defeated. The death toll: 96 Pathans and 164 Russians.
It was the last 10mm round in the`right Bren Ten [of the Death Merchant] that caught the young Russian while he was still in midair, the big bullet boring into the pit of his stomach and half doubling him over before he started to crash to the stone floor of the cave. Faster than the Cosmic Lord of Death could give a fatal coronary to a businessman, Camellion dropped the Bren Ten, stuck out his left foot, and, before the dying pig farmer could fall all the way to the floor, grabbed the AKS-74 from the man's hands, spun the weapon around and impaled another Spetsnazki leaping from the parapet of corpses in the mouth of the wide cave, the momentum of the Russian's body driving the blade as far as its muzzle. The man gave a loud gurgle. Blood poured form his mouth and his eyes jumped out as if attached to invisible stalks. Don't feel bad, pig man! Dying of cancer could be worse! ...

"Du kannst mir ma! an den Sack fassen!" snarled Bruckner, who stepped aside, let the blade slip by, jerked the assault rifle from Pripolhodov's hands, backhanded the stunned Russian, then picked him up the way a wrestler would pick up an opponent in preparation for a back body slam. Only Bruckner, holding the squirming man at waist level, shoved his back into the bayonet with which Vladilen Raina was trying to tickle Mike Quinlan's colon. Bruckner's shove had been so powerful that an inch of the bayonet protruded from Pripolhodov's stomach, much to the rage and astonishment of Raina, who, in a flash, thought of a giant worm squirming on a giant pin. Pripolhodov's weight forced Raina to lower the AKS assault rifle, yet he didn't have time to pull the weapon and its bloody bayonet from Pripolhodov's body. It wouldn't have made any difference. The Peppermint Kid, using a British Frogman's diving knife, stabbed Raina in the left side, just below the waist. Almost all in the same motion, he let another Russian have a TNT side kick in the back of the head. Under ordinary circumstances, such a kick would have snapped the victim's neck, but the Kid had been an inch off. All the blow did was rattle Galilik Alferin's brain and knock him toward Mike Quinlan, who promptly smashed in his left temple with a steel spring kosh.
(One of the Omega mercs is James O'Malley, aka The Peppermint Kid. He is British and the way Rosenberger lets you know that is by having O'Malley start most of his sentences with "I say ...". He is always referring to the others as "chaps" and he sometimes drops the "h" at the start of words, so he can 'ave a British accent, of sorts.)

After their victory, Mizra-Khan and the remaining Pathans head to Sirzihil, a village 19 miles away, while Camellion, Quinlan and two members of Thunderbolt Unit: Omega (and four guides) journey through the mountains to check out the Soviet Spetnaz military base in preparation for the attack (which Mirza-Khan now supports, thanks to a shitload of weapons airdropped to his village by the CIA). They trek for several days. At the end of one day ...
The conversation became philosophical after supper, Willy Bruckner maintaining that wars caused by differences in religious beliefs had killed more human beings than Hitler and Stalin combined.

"India is a good example," he said gruffly. "For centuries, the Hindus and the Moslems have been killing each other. Or the war between Iran and Iraq. More than half a million have already died. That crazy son of a bitch Khomeini is sending ten-year-old children into battle. The little fools go into battle thinking that they'll go straight to heaven when they're shot down—with Khomeini's permission! It does prove how stupid Moslems are. At least Jews and Christians have more common sense."

The Death Merchant said, "One has to go back in history to see why Christian belief conquered the ancient world. Christianity spread from the Middle East because it offered something that the Jewish and Roman and Greek religions didn't have: eternal life. Poor, deluded people still believe it. Life might be a hell on earth, but after death—provided one is a good little 'slave' and has more faith than reason—one can have a king's palace. This formula—promise of 'glory in the sky' still works and expresses itself through nationalism. That's one of the reasons why good old Ron Wilson Reagan acts like a celestial chairman who has the backing of God."

"Reagan may believe he's right, but he sure as hell is not keeping within Jeffersonian principles, is he?" Quinlan said with a lighthearted reflectiveness. He had brought a quart of Scotch along on the journey and now, carefully—his back to the Pathans—poured some of the liquor into his small, stainless-steel cup. "But what the hell! The world has never learned anything from history. It never will. Religious wars are still a part of our so-called civilization. Willy said it right. Look at Iran and Iraq."

"The war between Iran and Iraq is identical to the Forty Years War following the Reformation in Europe," Camellion said with a big sigh. "Identical in every way." ...

"I 'ave the feeling that the end of our civilization is shaping up in the Middle East," O'Malley said, "and that when it's all over with only the cockroaches will inherit the earth. Something 'as to give. There's more medicine than ever in the world, yet more sickness. More religion, yet more evil. All the talk about universal brotherhood, yet 'alf the population of the world is hungry." He uttered a small laugh. "It must be Mirza-Khan's Iblis! He's the bloody blighter responsible for all the misery in this world, all the pain and suffering this world 'as."

The Peppermint Kid had intended his remark about Iblis to be a joke. He hadn't expected Mad Mike to comment. He had expected die-hard atheist Willy to grin and Willy had. But he was surprised when Camellion didn't so much as smile. He was almost shocked when Camellion said, "Iblis, Ahriman, Set, Loki, Mahadeva, or Satan—whatever one wishes to call the supreme spirit of evil, it's only a human term. Another thing is that the idea might not be as superstitious as we might think. Truth is often implausible. Forty years ago, many scientists laughed at the atomic theory. They are no longer laughing. Today we have proof that the entire external world is made up of electrical charges, or points of energy which in themselves have no color or taste or smell or shape. Everything, including our own bodies, is merely the mind's interpretation of electrical excitement. What then is reality? For that matter, who are we, what are we?"
One night the guides try to sneak up on the Death Merchant, planning to murder all four men, but Camellion, alert to the slightest sound, wakes up and (in "4.099 seconds") kills the guides.
Medicine tries to postpone it. Religion tries to soften it. But in the end. the Cosmic Lord of Death drums his bony fingers on all of us. Hah hah. hah! That silent conspiracy of Nature that prevents terrified humans from knowing Reality!
They continue on and spend only about ten minutes spying on the Soviet base. Then they leave, with the knowledge that it's heavily guarded. (Like Camellion wouldn't have expected that!) They hear copters from the base land nearby as they are leaving the area. They end up circling around and stealing one of the copters (after killing a bunch of "pig farmers" first).

Back at the Sirzihil village, Camellion believes he'll need about 500-600 men to attack the Spetsnaz base. Even with ground-to-air and ground-to-ground missiles, the mission is "going to be trickier than a coon dog tiptoeing away from a skunk." Camellion radios Grojean and he okays an airdrop of 15 tons of cargo, weapons, and random supplies. The planes use the infamous Gf mechanism so they are rendered invisible to both radar and the naked eye. It takes 17 days to open all of the crates and prepare the weapons. At one point, Camellion notes that he can see the "auras" of some of the men: "Bright green auras radiated from Kuuls and Chaudhriy's faces. Slowly the green changed to a dark brown, then to black. I'm looking at dead men!"

Hundreds of Pathans are able to sneak up on the base without being noticed - and they start firing 82mm HE shells into the base, destroying buildings, fuel tanks, and planes. When other planes take off, they shoot them down with missiles. The Pathans storm the base. The Death Merchant surmises that 80% of the Russians' resistance is coming from three buildings, so he concocts a plan to drive a huge truck past two buildings (where he will toss out blocks of RDX explosives) and into the main building, causing it to collapse. In the ensuing battle, Rosenberger rises to the challenge with some excellent play-by-play.
Vlad Zhikin and Georgi Guchin, the last two Spetsnaz alive, had made the always fatal mistake of attacking the Death Merchant and Willy Bruckner. Doing his best to thrust the muzzle of his AKR into Camellion's stomach, Zhikin was confident that he would make short work of the enemy with the strange device over his face. Suddenly, he found Camellion expertly blocking the thrust with his Galil and shoving the AKR to one side. The Russian didn't have time to become worried. The Death Merchant let him have a lightning-fast snap kick in the scrotum. A world of pain and hurt exploded in Zhikin, his shriek automatic. Total blackness was dropping over his consciousness as Camellion put three Galil projectiles into his body.

Georgi Guchin was next to get a surprise. Bruckner did not attempt to push away the Russian's assault rifle with his Galil. He merely let it fall from his hands, sticking out his left foot to break its fall, grabbed Guchin's AKR with both hands and jerked the weapon from the now-worried Russian who tried to knee him in the groin. He failed. Bruckner sidestepped, slammed him across the jaw with the butt of the weapon, then jabbed him in the solar plexus with the barrel. Even more contemptuous of the Russians than the Death Merchant, Bruckner didn't intend to waste ammunition on the Schweinerei. As the tormented Russian gagged and doubled over from the blow to his solar plexus, Bruckner tripped him, slammed him in the right kidney with a left elbow stab and knocked the pig farmer to the ground, the dazed man falling on his face. Moving very fast, Bruckner didn't give him time to even partially recover his senses. He jumped on Guchin's back with both feet, all 240 pounds of him, his heels crashing into the lower part of the man's spine. There was a snapping sound, as though a twig had been broken. Guchin shuddered and lay still. He was dead, his back broken, the spinal cord severed.
Finally, in several footnotes, Rosenberger offers a bit of what some readers refer to as "gun porn", excessive detail about the various weapons:
Suppressor and "silencer" are one and the same. Silencer is actually a British term—the blokes called automobile mufflers "silencers" in Britain. it's the Americans who came up with "Suppressor." Silencers work because of metal baffels and "wipes." round rubber or plastic material. Silencers do wear out. Rubber wipes are good for only 50 to 250 rounds. Aluminum baffels are subject to erosion, a problem that is rapidly being solved by the use of stainless-steel. Suppressors/silencers are never totally silent. although a lab-built special assassination weapon—for example the AWC Ruger RST-4—can be made so quiet that the shot cannot be heard in the next room with the door closed or. if the door is open. during conversation. Factory-built military silencers will erase only half the report. ...

The inventor of the Glock-17 9mm autopistol, Gaston Glock, would not permit his military pistol to be entered in the 1984 XM9 Personal Defense Weapon trials. Used by the Austrian army, the Glock-17 has a plastic frame, with four steel rails integrated into the molding to accommodate the slide. The staggered box-type magazine, also made of plastic, holds seventeen rounds. Some experts rate the Glock-17 as the finest military pistol in the world today.
After the battle, Camellion thinks to himself:
Anyhow, it would all even out in the end, no matter what the CIA or the GRU and the KGB might do. What none of the people in government realized—in both the United States and the Soviet Union—was that their respective nations were a part of a plan, of a cosmic scheme that mortal man was not meant to comprehend. The paradox was that if man could comprehend such power and even manage to get the barest glimpse of the hidden force motivating people and orchestrating world events, he would not be man! He would not stand on his crooked little legs and scream at the stars that I am a special creation in this universe, I and I alone.

Pathetic. If man were not man, he would realize that all he really had to lose was his ridiculous pride. He would realize that of all the creatures on the planet, he was the most cruel and the most immoral. He would also know that he was responsible for the world's mess because he had lost all sense of good and evil.

The Death Merchant was a realist. What is to come will be. Italy will drop out of NATO after a severe economic crisis. Before that happens many problems will close in on the Vatican. The pope will reveal the third secret of Fatima, and even the "good people" will refuse to believe him. Much worse will be the decline of U.S. prestige in the world and the political and military pressure that the Soviet Union will exert upon Europe. The USSR will become more of an open partner of the Arabs in their hatred of Israel, and this alliance will lead to a further deterioration of East-West relations. He will be assassinated and the world will be astonished. Some will be happy. Many will be sad and accuse the wrong people. . . .

At the beginning of the book, Rosenberger quotes Thomas Hardy: "While much is too strange to be believed, nothing is too strange to have happened."

First sentence: "Modern Pakistan is a cesspool of confusion, barbarism and backwardness ..."

"The Death Merchant was uneasy. Even if he and Quinlan killed every pig farmer in Afghanistan, the Soviet Union would remain intact and, eventually, slaughter all the dreams of mankind and turn the world into a planet of pallbearers."

"Why do I get myself into these messes? To watch that Swiss bank account grow, that's why!"

Quinlan "let out a stream of purple prose that would have horrified an Algers prostitute". (However, the only curses we hear Mad Mike yell are: "Buffalo balls!", "Croc crap!", "Possum poop!", and "Burn my butt on a broken broomstick".)

Conversation with CIA chief Courtland Grojean:
"Don't call me the Death Merchant!"
"Sorry, Camellion. It's just that the tag the KGB gave you, years ago, seems to fit."

"With his shoulderbone cracked, he was out of action, his right arm as useless as sunglasses on an oyster."

"In his early twenties, Shamspir was slightly cross-eyed, with a face that was one big mess of ugly. Looking at him made Camellion think that Shamspir's mother had conceived him during a nightmare and had lived in a state of constant terror all the time she had carried him."

"The pig farmers had a lot in common with high blood pressure: what you didn't know about it could kill you."

"The peculiar blend of roasted flesh* and burning rubber drifted to Camellion." (Footnote: "Smells like pork roast, but sweeter.")