Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Dylan: Tangled Up In Blue, Rolling Thunder 1976

This is my new favourite song: Bob Dylan and his Rolling Thunder Revue unleashing a seriously rocking nine-minute version of Tangled Up In Blue.

This was played at the rain-drenched, tour-ending show at Fort Collins in Colorado in May 1976. The show was taped and an hour was broadcast on NBC. It featured a Shelter From The Storm that is firmly in my Dylan Top 10 and an incendiary Idiot Wind.

Whenever I want to hear some RTR, I instinctively go to the fall of 1975. The spring tour in 1976 had a somewhat different sound and, considering my love for the Fort Collins performance, I should explore it more.

Tangled Up In Blue (not broadcast - and apparently no footage of it circulates) just flat-out smokes, especially when the band kicks back in at about 4:10. Download and listen here.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Death Merchant #23: The Budapest Action

The United States Defense Intelligence Agency has learned that Russian scientists, working in Hungary, have developed a new chemical weapon (Nusocynikamine Hithoalide-4):

"NK-hk-4, an hallucinatory gas that didn't kill, but kept its victims deranged for as long as two weeks, reducing them to the level of idiots. Colorless, tasteless, and odorless, NK-hk-4's value lay in its power and its worth as a weapon of war. One liter (1.06 quarts) would suffice to immobilize a city the size of New York. The possibilities were more than fantastic: they were mind-boggling. An aircraft could spray the gas over the city. Within a few hours at the most, millions of people would be staggering around like drunks, unable to think, slobbering, crawling on their hands and knees, having lost even their individual identities. The second terrible potential of NK-hk-4 was that it wouldn't damage the hardware of the city attacked. Not a single building would be affected."

The DIA has asked Richard Camellion, the infamous Death Merchant, to obtain the NK-hk-4 formula and destroy the laboratory of Dr. Imre Meleter at Karolyi Castle.

Camellion enters Hungary with a West German passport as Brother Helmut Krim, of the Catholic monastic order of Benedictines. According to his cover story, he has traveled from Cologne and is making the pilgrimage to Shrine of Our Lady of Bakony. The Death Merchant is working with the Society of the Double Cross, an underground outfit in Hungary. The plan is to smuggle various weapons in their vehicles and blend in with the thousands of other people making the pilgrimage. When they get close enough to the castle, they will attack.

With Camellion impersonating a priest, I was all set for a ton of anti-religion comments, but I was disappointed. The Death Merchant keeps his opinions to himself for the most part in this book, although he does discuss good and evil, faith, and miracles with the men of the cloth. Camellion notes: "All men have faith in something ... his field of endeavor is his own personal kingdom of faith."

When Father Csoki says that he is "convinced that demons walk this earth, that Communism is but the prelude to the coming of the Antichrist, to the end of the world", Camellion replies "with his usual perceptiveness" (and sounding like a jumbled encyclopedia entry):
The Jews refer to this figure as Armilus, that is, he's an eschatological figure found in the literature of the Gaonic Period. Other sources - Midrash Va-Yosha, Nistarot de-Rabbi Shimon ben Yohai - call Armulis the successor of Gog and depict him as a monstrosity, who claims to be the Messiah or even God, and is accepted as such by the sons of Esau, but is rejected by the Jews. In the ensuing struggle the Ephraimite Messiah and a million Jews are killed, but Armulis is destroyed by God or the Davidic Messiah. The composite Armulis legend appears to have been influenced by older concepts such as Ezekiel's Gog and Magog, the Persian Ahura-Mazda, and Ahriman. It all forms part of the eschatological aggadah that visualizes the messianic era as the ultimate victory of the forces of good, represented by the Messiah, over the power of evil.
Then he starts talking about how the Antichrist "just might be the weather". According to Camellion, "wars, revolutions, economic depressions, even tastes in art and musical expression" can be predicted by five-hundred year weather cycles throughout history. There will be "a heat climax" around 2040 after which "glaciers will begin to advance again" until a cold climax is reached around 2500.

Elsewhere, Camellion restates his thoughts on life and death, telling one priest:
Father, the entire purpose of life is to reach death. As a man of God, you should know that birth and death and joined together by life, by a short period of time. So the only reason for our existence must be to prove that time exists. One might say that the only positive thing we discover in life is that time is eternal. The irony is, though, that in eternity time doesn't exist. It's all the forever now.
As always, there are plenty of Rosenberger's unique turns of phrase:
"looked as startled as a snake with a sudden backache"

"appeared to be twice as surprised as a subversive termite trapped in the beam of a searchlight"

"as tricky as playing baseball with a blowtorch in a fireworks factory"

Saturday, November 08, 2014

Death Merchant #22: The Kondrashev Chase

If this is the third book in the trilogy that includes Hell in Hindu Land and The Pole Star Secret, Joseph Rosenberger has dropped the alien subplot completely. In #22, he has Richard "Death Merchant" Camellion travelling to (or being smuggled into) East Berlin and Czechoslovakia to locate a missing Russian colonel who had been a double agent, feeding information to the CIA.

Colonel Vladimir Boris Kondrashev disappeared with a lot of valuable information: the names of KGB agents and their contacts in Europe, the U.S. and South America. He is trying to get to the West, but many governments in Europe would love to get their hands on him (and his info). It's up to Camellion to find Kondrashev and then ferry him safely to the U.S.

Camellion teams up with a group of ex-SS members called Silent Help, a group supported by the CIA. This story is pretty dull, with a minimum of action. Rosenberger spends far too much time with descriptions of towns, extended conversations about what to do, and details of how Camellion and the Silent Help people get from place to place. There are a few shootouts, including a climatic scene in which Camellion, Kondrashev, and two others hijack a Russian T-62 tank at the famed border crossing known as "Checkpoint Charlie" and, after blowing away scores of Germans, head across the bridge to safety.

With the bare limit of shootouts, Rosenberger's gift for describing each bullet's trajectory and the damage done is seriously curtailed. And instead of simply using the word "slug" all the time, he's now often using "projectile", which doesn't work as well, especially in the middle of a tense shootout.  Plus, "slug" sounds exactly like what it is.

The Kondrashev Chase is dedicated to "the Cosmic Lord of Death", who is also mentioned several times in the text by the Death Merchant. The book begins with a epigraph from none other than R.J. Camellion:
Tyranny often establishes itself by choosing first an unpopular victim or by pleading that massive invasion of privacy is necessary. No matter the form of government. Call it a republic. Refer to it as a democracy. Call it socialism or communism. But make no mistake about it, Victim: the name of the game is power ...
At one point, the Death Merchant is hiding out in the basement of an East German church. One of the priests mentions his joy at being able to "strike a blow for God against the Satanic forces of atheistic Communism". Camellion is "too tired to argue with the hypocritical priest" and merely nods ... and then Rosenberger continues with half a page of what Camellion would have said had he bothered to reply to the priest!
Over the centuries, organized religion had done its diabolical work in stealing the wills of the weak-minded and in making moral slaves of millions by threats of eternal damnation. In the Western world, where the Church was supreme, there was always oppression for the "moral good" of the people. For example, there was no divorce in Spain. The sale of contraceptives was also forbidden in Spain, as well as in Italy and in Ireland. Ireland was also afflicted with the disease of censorship of the press: anything that Church authorities disapproved of could not be printed, spoken over the air or put on television. All of it was nothing more than a dictatorship of the priesthood - And why not? The citizens of the Pope's kingdom are morons who believe in a man-made god!
Camellion's ill-timed love of fruit juice makes a strong comeback! In many of the early volumes, during a shootout or when Camellion is otherwise pinned down, he often would express a desire for a cold glass of fruit or vegetable juice. In this book, he wishes for pineapple juice twice and grape juice once.

Kondrashev mentions that Russia's Special Services Two has a "very thick" file on Camellion. In some of the previous DM books, Rosenberger has had various KGB agents and officers express confusion and ignorance about who Camellion is and/or who the "mysterious" Death Merchant is. It's as if Rosenberger cannot decide if Camellion is widely known throughout the world's spy network/underground or is more of an enigma.

As usual, Rosenberger sneaks in his political opinions, or rather - since he does it without any subtlety whatsoever - dumps his beliefs in the middle of the room. One character details how the United States has assisted (and refused to deport) certain German war criminals. And it falls to Knodrashev to voice this book's indictment of the U.S. as a nation that benefits only the rich:
In America, it is the tax loopholes who protect the rich. It's the working man who pays the taxes. Do you realize that since the end of World War II, your government has paid out about two hundred and twenty-one billion dollars in foreign aid; yet there are hungry people in the United States. In many respects, Death Merchant, your people in Washington are no better than mine in the Kremlin.
And Camellion delivers a mini-rant against religion (with a strange twist):
If a Christian god existed, we wouldn't have world hunger and daytime television. Religion is nothing more than the invention of the people of the future for the control of humanity's present. The Dark Ages represent a thousand years of religious repression of inquiry, a period that was forced on us by malicious time travelers, who have been with us even before Biblical times.

Friday, November 07, 2014

Death Merchant #21: The Pole Star Secret

A few months after his adventure in India, Richard Camellion is headed to the North Pole, in search of a second complex built by the Sandorians, a race of aliens that arrived on Earth more than 10,000 years ago.

The Pole Star Secret is the dull continuation of the story begun in DM #20: Hell in Hindu Land. Two scientists have been kidnapped from a Russian weather station near the North Pole and are now being questioned aboard the Halsey, a U.S. nuclear submarine. They claim there is a miles-long undersea tunnel that opens up into a hollow area 100 square miles in diameter under the polar ice caps. A small artificial sun makes it possible for a rain forest climate to flourish. And there exists a domed building that was apparently built by the aliens.

The CIA men are incredulous, but Camellion, because of his mission in India in which he saw the bodies of more than a dozen aliens, knows the Russians are likely telling the truth. (Fashion Alert: When we first see the Death Merchant, he is "dressed in a scarlet jumpsuit, black Wellington boots, and ... eating raisins"!) Camellion asks if the artificial sun shines with a blue light and he is told, from one of the surprised scientists, that it does. He realizes the light is similar to the one he saw glowing in the secret room at the monastery in India. So with the help of the Russian scientists, the Halsey locates the tunnel, travels through it, and come out in what the Russians have dubbed Thulelandia.

The Death Merchant and 14 others leave the sub and travel in rafts to the shore and start exploring the "island". The air is normal and the temperature is a constant 74 degrees, with no wind. There is a "ceiling" 3,000 feet above them, dotted with giant stalactites. (It's never stated whether the aliens created Thulelandia or whether it was some natural phenomenon that they discovered and exploited/expanded.)

Suddenly, Camellion spies a lone Russian soldier on the trail ahead and quickly shoots him. This kicks off a battle between the DM et al. and roughly two dozen Russians. Camellion and the others wipe out the "pig farmers" (of course), but he feels there is a larger Russian force somewhere on the island, probably at the dome. And so one Halsey crew member climbs a tree, spies the dome in the distance, and off they go. At the dome, there is a very long fight sequence (14 pages) that includes a lot of hand-to-hand combat. Rosenberger describes it all in painstaking detail, and in his unique style. Various "boobs", "half-wits" and "Siberian stupids" are unceremoniously "kicked into Deathland". Rosenberger refers to one dead Russian as "the ding-dong from vodkaville".

After killing all of the Russians, Camellion and the others approach the domed building. But there is some kind of force field around it. They toss a hand grenade at the building and as it nears one of the sides, it simply vanishes! At this point, Rosenberger totally cops out and has Camellion simply decide to turn around, contact the Halsey, and leave Thulelandia. He says, "I think we had better get out of here ... [It's] too much for us." Camellion would rather go back and attack the Russian weather station because there might be some information there the U.S. can use. So, without even a perfunctory attempt to enter the domed building, that's the end of the aliens subplot!

While Camellion and his group are attacking the weather station, the Halsey goes back, sinks a second Russian sub, and then uses 11 torpedoes to seal off the tunnel to Thulelandia forever with millions of tons of rock. They burst in with maximum firepower, slaughter a bunch of Russians, grab a few hostages, and head back through the freezing cold and snow ("colder than the bare ass of a Canadian well digger") to the waiting sub. Rosenberger never mentions Camellion getting any papers or information of any kind from the weather station.

Throughout the book, and especially in the beginning, Rosenberger offers way too much information on the operation of a nuclear submarine, the various jobs to be done, how crew members communicate, what missiles are on board, etc. He also includes a lot about deep-sea diving, including too much talk of what clothing needs to be worn. And Rosenberger's obsession with Lee Jurras continues. The book is dedicated to him and he is mentioned several times throughout the story, including a two-page conversation (!) Camellion has with a submarine crew member about Jurras's various amazing firearm inventions.

Here and there, Camellion gets deep and profound.
"The purpose of life is to reach death. Birth and death are joined together by life, a period of time. So the only reason for our existence must be to prove that time exists. But the only positive thing man discovers in life is that time is eternal. It's like the logics of mathematics. The irony is, though, that in eternity there is no time."

"Death is the ultimate of all experience - or the birth of one into eternity, depending on what brand of metaphysics one believes in."

"Too many symbols can and do cloud the face of reality, just as too many saints can cause sanctity to fall into disrepute!"
Camellion, musing to himself about prayer:
How foolish were the bipeds crawling around on the speck of a planet called Earth. Since Cro-Magnon days a divinity of some sort, either perceived by mankind's sapience, deliberately created in his own image, or inspired by respect for what he cannot comprehend, has been man's primordial and primary object of special prayers. But for most people a divine auditor is essential to psychological self-confidence - Just as little children need Santa Claus. And so throughout the relatively brief period of recorded time, prayer has become an approach to suprahuman deity in word or thought, and this custom has been reinforced by centuries of tradition. Yet I and others know better, don't we, old buddy Death?
In the book's intro, a quote from Camellion mentions a "partnership with Azrael", who is (according to Wikipedia) the Archangel of Death (or retribution) in some traditions and folklore. ... Camellion also comments on his nickname: "I dislike that term. It would imply that one could sell death, which is impossible."

Rosenberger also has members of the Halsey blurt out political/social comments completely out of the blue:
Slipping on a camouflaged head net, Earl Wolfe muttered as if talking to himself, "Come to think of it, I don't know why we're down here risking our butts for Washington. Those shit-ass politicians aren't much better than the dudes in the Kremlin. Bullshit to all the propaganda jazz about the 'land of opportunity'! Even a moron can see that the U.S. is a rich man's nation. The rich get richer, the little guy keeps paying higher and higher taxes, and the poor keep getting hungrier! Screw 'em all!"
No one comments on this outburst, not even Camellion. The scene simply continues as though he had said nothing. Then, thirty pages later, there is this exchange:
"I hope the brass in Washington will appreciate what we've accomplished here today," [Colwin Storms] said, "especially our Fearless Leader in the White House. Naturally he won't. That would be expecting too much of the half-wit. He's so damned stupid he actually thinks the Soviet Union will keep its agreements."

"Yeah, it's a great country," Earl Wolfe laughed. "While senators retire on fifty-thousand-dollar-a-year pensions, millions of old people have to eat on a buck a day! But hell, it's still the land of opportunity. In what other nation can a dumb slut shack up with a U.S. senator and then become a celebrity by bragging to the public how often she rolled in the sheets with the dirty old fart?"
(I have no idea to what specific event Wolfe could be referring; the book was published in March 1977.)

And 18 pages after that:
Colonel Hurdbetter burst out laughing. "Claffin, you should be president of the United States! You're an absolute genius at being out of touch with reality. The idiot in the White House makes speeches about prosperity while conveniently ignoring the fact that twenty million Americans haven't enough to eat."
Rosenberger even has the Russians get into it, with one of the soldiers guarding the dome against the approaching Americans thinking:
Damned Amerikanski pigs! But what could one expect of a nation who didn't take care of its poor but discriminated against its white population in favor of black storskyi! Christian hypocrites! They professed to pray but never practiced those prayers. Stupid God lovers. Savages with dollar signs in their eyes!
The idea of blacks getting everything handed to them for free while whites are discriminated against has been expressed in several previous Death Merchant volumes. It seems like a core Rosenberger belief.

Saturday, November 01, 2014

Death Merchant #20: Hell In Hindu Land

Hell in Hindu Land begins a trilogy that concerns a bunch of alien beings who visited the Earth approximately 10,000 years ago. These Other World Creatures constructed three bases on Earth - one in India, one at the North Pole, and one off the U.S. coast in the general area of the Bermuda Triangle. (With any luck, this is the beginning of author Joseph Rosenberger's high weirdness.)

The CIA has learned through a spy in the KGB that the Russians are planning an expedition to a Buddhist monastery in the mountains of Rajmahal, in northeast India. Supposedly, in this centuries-old monastery is a secret room, "a vault that contain[s] the corpses of a dozen alien astronauts, each body in a glass casket". The room also contains "many scientific secrets" known to the aliens, some of which could be used to create deadly weapons. So the CIA wants to send a expedition to the monastery, get there before the Russians do, and claim the alien secrets for the U.S.

The Death Merchant is tasked with heading up a 15-man expedition party. In addition to possibly having to battle the Russians if the two groups meet, the DM et al. will have to trek through the territories of two murderous jungle tribes: the Sauria Paharias and the Thugs. Also, the monks at the extremely private monastery practice a deadly form of martial arts called "Zen-Kisba". As Rosenberger puts it, the Death Merchant should be prepared for "the unexpected impossible".

Hell in Hindu Land was a bit more complex (everything being relative, of course) than the last few books in the series. Besides being escapist entertainment, Rosenberger's goofiness is a big reason why these adventures are so much fun to read. When the Death Merchant's group meet up with the first group of savages, the natives are overmatched by the expedition's firepower and stand less chance of survival than "a midget trying to drink beer at the wrong end of a bowling alley". I have absolutely no idea what that means. Someone else is shot and looks "as surprised as a man who has just discovered that someone had stolen a Twinkie from his lunch box". Other gems: "as dead as the British Empire", "faster than an Israeli going through Damascus on a pogo stick", "wearing the expression of a man who had just seen a dinosaur", and "This is worse than going to church with dirty socks!"

Each day when the expedition makes camp for the night, Camellion lays out an acoustic radar system (similar to his EID devices), so he will be alerted if anyone approaches the campsite during the night. One night, he is awakened by the noise of the radar and realizes that one member of the expedition is sending a signal of their location, likely to the Russians.

After the Death Merchant's group is ambushed by a group of Russians but comes out on top, we switch perspective over to the group of Russians. It turns out that the "pig farmers" know Camellion is leading the group but they believe he is merely a rancher from Texas and a friend of anthropologist Dr. Gopi Randuhabaya. This makes little sense. Considering the many battles Camellion has fought against the Russians and how many "pig farmers" he has killed, how could any Russian KGB agent or an agency higher-up not know his identity and reputation? It's nuts.

The Death Merchant's party eventually gets to the monastery and battles it out with the monks to reach the secret room. The tales are true: there are 14 aliens in glass caskets. But Camellion and the others don't make much of a fuss about it. In the climatic shoot-out with the Russian group, Camellion is the sole survivor. He takes with him a pale-green book of cuneiform-like writing - a history of the aliens (known as the Sandorians) and why they came to Earth thousands of years ago. Perhaps this book, or its information, makes an appearance in #21, The Pole Star Secret (in which Camellion travels to the aliens' second base at the North Pole).

Rosenberger has had a three-book (and counting) obsession with a gun designer named Lee E. Jurras, who I discovered is a real person and is still alive. Hell in Hindu Land opens with Camellion walking through the airport in Calcutta and spotting Jurras, who was on a hunting expedition. They talk mostly about guns for about four pages.

DM #18: Nightmare in Algeria:
... two twin Auto Mag pistols, M200/International models. Along with the weapons were boxes of .357 AMP Magnum cartridges and specially designed shoulder holsters to accommodate the seven-shot automatics, which had a 12.5" barrel length. Designed by Lee E. Jurras, the notes ballistician, international handgun hunter, and author, the Auto Mag, which was also manufactured in .41 and .44 calibers, was the most powerful autoloading pistol in the world. (pages 19-20)

Hidden under the burnous, in special shoulder holsters designed by Lee E. Jurras, the Death Merchant carried two Auto Mag autoloading pistols, the long weapons, with their 12.5" barrels, reaching to his hips. (36)

"You'd better believe it!" Camellion shot back. "A good friend of mine, Lee Jurras, the designer of those weapons, gave them to me." (115)
DM #19: Armageddon, USA!:
Camellion moved back six feet, pulled one of the .41 JMP Auto Mags from its special Jurras-designed shoulder holster ..." (30)

Unfamiliar with firearms, Griffiths had no way of knowing that he was staring into the muzzle of a .41 JMP custom-built Auto Mag pistol designed by L.E. Jurras, the famed ordnance specialist." (71)

Seeing McAulay's intense interest, the Death Merchant explained that while the "Backpacker" Auto Mags had been designed by L.E. Jurras for those individuals who preferred a smaller version of the A-M system, there were various other kinds of the famed and fabled Auto Mag. (146-47)
DM #20: Hell in Hindu Land:
As Camellion hurried through the terminal to pick up his baggage, he spotted Lee E. Jurras sitting in one of the lounges - the very same man who had designed and developed his line of Auto Mag Pistols. Almost at the same time, the noted ballistician, pistolsmith, and international handgun hunter looked up and saw Camellion, a look of surprise and pleasure crossing his tanned face. (2)

A moment later the bandit didn't exist; the Death Merchant having put a .41 Jurras Magnum Pistol slug through his stomach ... (48)

Camellion adjusted the focusing knob of the binoculars and recalled what Lee Jurras had said about going into deep brush after a dangerous animal that had been wounded - "believe me, it can be a living nightmare." Richard believed Jurras. It was the same when hunting the most dangerous game of all - MAN! (106)
And - looking ahead - the dedication page to DM #21 (The Pole Star Secret) reads: "Dedicated to Lee E. Jurras - whose Auto Mags have saved my life scores of times. R.J.C."

So a fictional character is providing the dedication for his creator's book? Or is this a meta situation where Camellion is a real person, but is writing the books in the third person under the name Joseph Rosenberger? I've read that Rosenberger envisioned the Death Merchant as a fantasy version of himself - Camellion's middle name is Joseph - so perhaps the lines between author and character are blurring a bit.

I have become more than a little fascinated with Rosenberger after reading all of these books, but there is next-to-nothing about him online.

Friday, October 31, 2014

"The Basement Tapes Complete" To Be Released November 4

Next Tuesday, Columbia will release the 11th volume of its Bob Dylan Bootleg Series: The Basement Tapes Complete. Six CDs - 139 songs! - of music from Dylan and The Band at Big Pink in West Saugerties, New York, during the summer of 1967, presented in as close to chronological order as is known. (A two-CD set of 38 songs will also be available.)

The Basement Tapes, a double album of songs released in 1975, purported to be from those informal sessions, but many of the songs featured overdubs added years later, and there were eight songs recorded at a later date by The Band without Dylan.

There have been collections of these songs available as bootlegs for decades, most notably on the superb A Tree With Roots. However, this new 6-CD set includes thirty uncirculating tracks.

A number of songs have been posted online as pre-release teasers. Here they are:

Odds And Ends (Alternate Version)

Dress It Up, Better Have It All

Don't Ya Tell Henry

Lo and Behold (Take 1)

Yea! Heavy And A Bottle Of Bread

Tupelo

Ain't No More Cane (Take 2)

900 Miles From My Home

I Shall Be Released

NPR is streaming 12 tracks:
Edge Of The Ocean (Disc 1, Track 1)
You Ain't Goin' Nowhere (Take 1) (Disc 3, Track 17)
I Shall Be Released (Take 1) (Disc 3, Track 19)
Quinn The Eskimo (Take 1) (Disc 4, Track 4)
This Wheel's On Fire (Disc 3, Track 21)
Johnny Todd (Disc 2, Track 1)
Don't Ya Tell Henry (Disc 4, Track 21)
I Don't Hurt Anymore (Disc 2, Track 19)
Silent Weekend (Disc 5, Track 12)
Crash On The Levee (Take 1) (Disc 3, Track 10)
One Too Many Mornings (Disc 5, Track 2)
I'm Your Teenage Prayer (Disc 2, Track 8)
And, finally, Pono has 30-second samples of all the songs on the six discs.

For more on the Basement tapes, check out Greil Marcus's Invisible Republic (later retitled The Old, Weird America) and Sid Griffin's Million Dollar Bash: Bob Dylan, The Band, and The Basement Tapes. Griffin wrote the liner notes to the upcoming Columbia box.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Death Merchant #7: The Castro File

In Death Merchant #7, Richard Camellion - supreme master of disguise, deception, and death - is sent to Cuba to prevent the assassination of Fidel Castro. The Russians want Castro to assist them in overthrowing existing governments in South America, but Castro, feeling the need to throw off Soviet influence, is unwilling. So the Russians plan to assassinate him and substitute a lookalike in his place, and gain complete control of Cuba.

Camellion travels to Cuba with a Canadian passport in the name of Milton F. Sessions, a left-wing sympathizer who works for The Voice of the People, a radical newspaper operated by the CIA in Toronto (!). We learn a bit more about the mysterious man known as the Death Merchant. He is described as "ruggedly handsome" and is an "agnostic". He hates bugs and has an "absolute horror" about rats. His love of raisins is mentioned twice.

Rosenbegrer describes Camellion as "a man with a computer for a mind .. a man with nerves of pure ice who killed more efficiently than most men could spit on the sidewalk." He is a "dealer in instant oblivion", a "one-man circus of Death and Destruction", and a "vendor of mayhem and violence".

Camellion is ambushed on his fourth day in Havana, and realizes there is probably a spy within the Cuban Revolutionary Council who outed him to the government. He kills all eight of the Army intelligence agents sent to capture him and escapes to a safe house. But the spy has also tipped off the DIER agents about the safe house and so there is a big shootout, with Camellion escaping through a tunnel in the floor of a back room.

He ends up high in the Sancti Spiritus Mountains, where the CRC has its headquarters. A plan is hatched to kidnap two Russian officers who frequent a Havana whorehouse. Under threat of torture, the officers reveal that the Castro double is due to arrive by ship in a few days. The Death Merchant and CIA agent Vallie West attack the cargo ship - Camellion disguises himself as a Russian military officer to gain access to the ship - and grab the double, thus foiling the Russians' plan. They end up hijacking an armoured car outside of an arena where Castro is speaking, then drive straight into the arena and dump the drugged double's body near Castro's box.

At one point, Rosenberger has Castro reflect on the differences between Cuba and the U.S.:
He was very proud of what he had accomplished. Unemployment was nonexistent in Cuba. Illiteracy had practically vanished. Schools and medical care were free, and rents were fixed at no more than a tenth of one's income. Hunger had been vanquished, and children with bloated bellies were now impossible to find.

Castro's jaw knotted in determination. Let the Yankee imperialists call him a brute! Let the wealthy pigs call him a communist! The world still defined his achievements by the schools, roads, housing projects and hospitals that had already established Cuba's preeminence in Latin America for mass delivery of social services. That's more than the Yankee imperialists could say for the United States, where five million were unemployed, eighteen million were on welfare, and the average worker couldn't afford to be sick!
When the mission has been completed, someone thanks Camellion and the U.S. government for its help. This gives the Death Merchant a chance to rant about
the idiots who occupy very high places in Washington ... peanut-minded men who should be running filling stations. Instead, they're governing the United States. This explains why Billy Graham leads the White House in prayer to a 'God' who applauds napalm, and why Washington leads us in worship of a corporate self whose body we do not perceive!"
When told he sounds bitter and is asked "don't you love your country?", he replies:
If I didn't, I wouldn't give a damn! I wouldn't criticize Washington's crazy politics! But I don't like living in a blind tribe led by Lilliputians who stupidly mistake power for greatness and mechanical aptitude for holiness!