Monday, July 14, 2014

Death Merchant #10: The Mainline Plot

Communists in North Korea have created a super-potent, super-addictive strain of heroin called Peacock-4. It only takes one shot to become an addict for life. The North Koreans intend to introduce the heroin into the U.S. and enslave a generation of young adults. As The Mainline Plot's back cover states: "Wreck the youth of a nation and you wreck its future."

So the North Koreans forge a three-way alliance with the Corsican mob in France and the Pinappello mob family in the New York area, to transport 1,000 kilograms of heroin halfway across the world. It's Richard Camellion's job - as the infamous Death Merchant - to bust up the deal and recover the drugs. (This was the fourth Death Merchant book to be published in 1974. Rosenberger was really cranking them out.)

Camellion begins the book in Seoul where he is being followed in his car by Wan Kwo-Do, North Korea's counterintelligence group. He ditches the car at a farmers' market and runs into a teahouse. After gunning down a team of eight assassins, Camellion is off to France to meet with CIA agents and undercover agents of the US Narcotics Bureau.

This time, a seven-man murder squad is waiting in his hotel room. Camellion, tipped off to the instrusion by his E.I.D. device, comes into the hotel room via the fire escape, surprising the goons. He kills all seven and high-tails it out of the building before the cops arrive.

We then get a couple of chapters of exposition, as we go to the House of Fouche, a small winery run by Roger Fouche, the most powerful syndicate boss in southern France. He and four other men are talking about the operation. He is meeting with two North Korea agents and two Mafioso from New York. It is during this meeting that Fouche gets the bad news that the DM waxed seven of his finest assassins in the hotel room. (At one point, Rosenberger actually writes that the North Koreans "remained silent, their almond features inscrutable".)

More information is given - including the six stages of preparing heroin (it's practically a how-to guide) and background on the New York mobsters - as Camellion visits an apartment in Marseille where the undercover US agents are working. The DM sees Fouche as the link and so he proposes to go to the winery and get some information.

After a couple of shootouts, Camellion captures Fouche and gets him to spill the beans on the heroin deal, how it was arranged, and how it will be shipped. He tells the DM the drugs will be hidden in the gas tanks of Renaults in the hold of a certain vessel, but this turns out to be a lie. (The drugs are moved several times from a seaplane to a cabin cruiser to other vessels before being delivered safely to Joey Pineapples' Jersey City estate.)

Camellion arranges a massive ambush on the Pineapples estate and the drugs, hidden under the floorboards in the stables, are destroyed in a fire. The mission is a success, but the Death Merchant realizes that there are four more powerful Mafia families in the New York area ("he had only begun"). And so it looks like that will be the DM's next target: "There's going to be a Manhattan wipeout!"

Joseph Rosenberger has devoted far more pages in this book to fight scenes and shootouts than in the previous volumes. At every stop Camellion makes, he has to blast his way out. (The Death Merchant actually gets shot in this book, but he is wearing a vest, so he survives.) At one point, Camellion is using something called The Blaster, a submachine gun developed by the CIA with a whopping 3,117 (!) cartridges in the magazine! As Rosenberger describes the damage that the dozens of slugs do, he showcases his unique style of writing:
The tornado of Blaster bullets did more than wreck inanimate objects; it found three of the troops. One man, to the side of a small sofa, simply fell back dead, his face a bloody pulp, his brains smeared all over the Persian rug. The second man cried in pain, jumped a foot, rolled over, and wondered if there could be life after death. He found out a few seconds later. The third man also had a very important question: could a man live without his stomach, with half his insides scattered all over the floor? Then he passed out and found out that a man could not ...

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