Thursday, May 26, 2016

Another Infinite Jest Reading Group: Poor Yoricks' Summer

In June 2009, Matthew Baldwin organized "Infinite Summer", an online group reading of Infinite Jest, the acclaimed novel by the late David Foster Wallace. I did not take part in IS, but the project inspired me a few months later to gather some of the Joy of Sox crowd and try an off-season read of the book. I called it "Infinite Winter" - and it (sadly) fizzled out at about page 400 (of 1,078). (A different and much more successful online reading experience entitled Infinite Winter wrapped up about one month ago.)

Now Philip Miletic, as part of his dissertation at the University of Waterloo, is organizing "Poor Yoricks' Summer", yet another online reading of Infinite Jest.
[Y]ou are all invited to join Poor Yoricks' Summer, an Infinite Jest reading group that is led by Canadians, from the West coast to the East coast (you will meet the guides in the first week of June). First time readers are more than welcome, as are second and third and fourth (and so on) time readers. ... This is not only a time to read a really big book together; it's also a time to share with others your thoughts and feelings about one of those really big books you like or have been hearing so much about. ...

You can use the hashtag #infsum (I prefer to continue the excellent conversations on #infsum rather than trying to jumpstart a new one). And we're over at twitter at @poor_summer.
Led by Canadians! How can I resist?

Miletic's reading schedule will be modelled on Infinite Winter, which covered approximately 75 pages per week. That is really a breakneck speed for this detailed novel, but I understand the need to move things along. You can't have the experience last a year or more and expect people to stick with it. Like the hosts of the previous reads, Miletic will have a group of "guides" posting their thoughts and observations.

I may also post stuff here.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Infinite Jest Audiobook On YouTube

Settle in. Parts 1 and 2 are each about 24 hours long.









Also:




Sunday, May 08, 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.)

Etc.:

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.

Monday, February 22, 2016

"My Father, The Pornographer (A Memoir)", By Chris Offutt

My Father, The Pornographer (A Memoir)
By Chris Offutt
(Simon & Schuster)


When Andrew Offutt died in April 2013, he left his eldest son Chris with a ton of pornography. I mean that literally. When Chris packed up and shipped the contents of his father's office to his own home in Mississippi, the books and letters and assorted papers weighed more than 1,800 pounds.

Offutt writes, in this fascinating memoir: "My father was a brilliant, man, a true iconoclast, fiercely self-reliant, a dark genius, cruel, selfish, and eternally optimistic. ... Dad had no hobbies, no distractive activities. He didn't do household chores, wash the car, mow the grass, go shopping, or fix anything. ... He didn't sleep much. He drank. He rarely left the house. Dad was an old-school pulp writer, a machine who never stopped."

Andrew Offutt wrote and published more than four hundred books under eighteen different names (male and female), including John Cleve (which he regarded more as another persona than merely a pseudonym) and Turk Winter. His novels included some science fiction and fantasy, but most of it was classified as pornography. Offutt notes that the commercial popularity of written porn in America peaked during the 1970s, which was also his father's most prolific and energetic period. Andrew Offutt's goal was a minimum of one book per month. In 1972, he published 18 novels.
Dad wrote pirate porn, ghost porn, science fiction porn, vampire porn, historical porn, time-travel porn, secret agent porn, thriller porn, zombie porn, and Atlantis porn. ... Dad claimed to have single-handedly raised the quality of U.S. pornography. According to his private papers, he believed future scholars would refer to him as "King of XX Century Written Pornography".
Offutt gives us a look at his father's process and discusses several of his books, but I would have liked more context for the work. Andrew Offutt was incredibly prolific, but was he truly that influential? I have no idea. A brief history of the genre, some information about other authors, and when and why the genre died out would have been welcome.



The heart of the book is Chris Offutt, in his mid-50s, coming to terms with the complex relationship he had with his father. While clearing out his recently deceased father's office - a room he was forbidden to enter (and was afraid of) as a child - he quickly understands that this excavation offers a chance to "separate the writer from the man", although succeeds only partially at that.
I wanted an opportunity to understand him further through his work. ... Clearing Dad's office felt like prospecting within his brain. As I sorted, like an archaeologist, backward through time, I saw a remarkable mind at work, a life lived on its own terms.
By any measure, Andrew Offutt was not an easy man to live with. Chris Offutt's memories of his childhood in rural Kentucky, shared throughout the book, are dark and depressing. While his father sometimes joked that he was mentally ill, Offutt also quotes his father as saying (seriously, it seems) that he would have been a serial killer if it was not for the release of his writing career.

Offutt offers the few details he knows about his father's background. Andrew Offutt, a shy, sensitive bookworm, was born in 1934, during the worst of the Great Depression. It was a youth that was "shrouded in pain and difficulty". His own father died when he was only 17 years old.

His father "had little tact and no sense of diplomacy. ... None of us knew whom we were dealing with at any given moment." On visiting his parents as an adult: "Dad never made us feel welcome and didn't care for the presence of grandchildren."

Through the 1960s, married with children, Offutt worked as an insurance salesman while writing at night and on weekends. He was profoundly unhappy.
At age thirty-five he'd achieved his goals - social status, big house, nice car, his own business. He also felt snared by his values. He didn't like children. He made it clear to the family that he'd fathered kids due to Catholicism and resented the Church for the burden. ...

Though highly successful as a businessman, Dad was frustrated and miserable. ... Since childhood, all he'd ever wanted to do was write. Now he had more ideas and less time, and he hated the life he'd dutifully built. He wanted a way out but wouldn't leave my mother. Instead, he spread his misery to the family.
Chris Offutt cites two significant events that occurred in the mid-60s.
My mother recalls Dad sitting in the living room reading a pornographic novel he'd bought through the mail. Dad hurled it across the room and said, "I can write better than this!" She suggested he do so. By 1969, he'd published five and had contracts for two more.
Problems with Chris's teeth prompted the other event.
He believed he could double his output with a full-time typist. If he quit his job to write, and Mom typed manuscripts for submission, they'd make enough money to fix my teeth.

My parents were not brave people. Nor were they particularly bold in any way ... They worked hard and played it safe. After a great deal of planning, my father made the most courageous decision of his life, the only risk he ever took - but it was enormous. At age thirty-six, with four kids, an uneducated wife, and a big mortgage, he decided to pursue his lifelong dream of being a professional writer.

My father's sudden presence in the house jarred the family in many ways. He went from being gone fifty hours a week to being in the house all the time. Home was now a place of business. He was working, which meant the house had to be quiet - no loud talking, laughing, or walking. We learned to move silently up and down the steps. Doors had to be eased shut or left open. The slightest sound startled Dad, who would yell.
The office was off limits and its occupant was not to be disturbed. "Dad regarded any intrusion as not merely a distraction but a form of disrespect and attack. ... He never struck us or our mother, but we feared his anger, his belittling comments and inflictions of guilt. ... Our punishments were more of a temporary emotional shunning." Offutt's sister once told him: "I was afraid of the whole house."

In subsequent years, when the entire family would attend sci-fi conventions in the early 70s, Andrew Offutt would assume the persona of John Cleve, one of his many pen names. "The minute we arrived at the hotel, Dad began operating in full John Cleve mode, refusing to acknowledge his children." The Offutt offspring were given their own room, on a different floor than their parents. "It was well understood that John Cleve had no children."
Despite lifelong difficulties with my father, I lived for his attention. The only behavior that earned it was writing, which I began at age seven ...
Offutt is the author of several books, including Kentucky Straight, a collection of short stories, and The Same River Twice, a memoir from 2003. (It appears that he had been working on a version of this book about ten years ago, but stopped at the request of his mother).

Throughout his life, and especially when pouring through the physical history of his father's writing life (some of which is extremely disturbing), Chris Offutt worried about becoming more like his father.
The essential DNA of my father lay arrayed on the pages before me. This undertaking hadn't brought me closer to him. If anything, it's a constant reminder that no matter who I think I am, I will always be my father's son. I don't know if I'm a writer because of him or in spite of him. If my life has been motivated by rebellion against my father, what have I gained through the liberty of his demise? ...

I don't miss my father, but without his shackles to strain against, the world is terrifying and vast. I have lost a kind of purpose, a reason to prove myself. ...

I became concerned that examining the minutiae of his work was turning me into him. I wrote ten hours a day. At night I read. I avoided leaving the house. I got mad at small things, yelled at inanimate objects. ...

Months of close proximity to my father's pattern of thought influenced me to think like him, then behave like him - distant, preoccupied, and critical.
While Offutt ends the book on an uplifting note, he has to venture outside of his family to find it. It is a recollection of roaming the Kentucky woods with a pack of boys from the surrounding area. "I don't recall particular events, only the sense of friendship and loyalty, laughter and acceptance. There were no boundaries. ... We could go anywhere and we did. Nothing could hurt us but the land itself."

[Note: I received an advance reading copy of this book from the publisher.]

Friday, 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.

Etc.:

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."

Friday, 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.
Etc.:

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".

Monday, February 01, 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. . . .
Etc.:

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.")