Saturday, July 19, 2014

Death Merchant #11: Manhattan Wipeout

Manhattan Wipeout is a sequel of sorts to the previous Joseph Rosenberger volume, The Mainline Plot. After busting up Joey Pineapples' mob and destroying $300 million in heroin, Richard Camellion - the infamous Death Merchant - stays in New York and goes after another of the city's mobsters: Salvatore Giordano, perhaps the most dangerous gangster in the U.S.

This book is one of the weaker volumes in the series so far. While Rosenberger's action scenes are as lengthy and gory as usual, there is very little resolution after the mad shootout at the meeting of the various mob heads on Long Island. Camellion indulges in all sorts of murderous mayhem, killing mobsters and their bodyguards, but he makes his escape before he can kill Girodano, after hearing approaching police sirens. And then the book ends. But apparently, the secret recordings Camellion was able to make of the meetings is enough for the feds to move against some of the surviving mobsters, so the Merchant of Death will earn his standard $100,000 fee.

While the action scenes in these books are clearly not meant to be believed - and I'm fine with that - the way that Rosenberger handled the secret recordings really bugged me (pun intended). One device hidden at Krantz, Koonze, Rosenthal & Lebokowski (Giordano's attorneys) picks up "every word uttered in the offices of the high-powered law firm". How is this possible? The firm is likely using multiple floors of a large Manhattan office building. But this is how Camellion finds out about the big meeting Giordano is planning. And then when Camellion stakes out the meeting house on Long Island, he ends up shooting about a dozen dart-bugs outside various windows. Once again, I had serious doubts about how well these mics would pick up sounds within the walls of the house (there is also the howling mid-February winds along the water to consider).

However, you don't expect realism when you read about the "incredible adventures" of the Death Merchant. What you do expect - and what you get, over and over again - are hilarious turns of phrase, some godawful writing, and a bit of casual racism.

One hood is describes as being "uglier than a week old pastrami sandwich", while another one "looked like a man who would use Janitor in a Drum for a cologne". After the Death Merchant fires a few slugs into one bad guy, he acts "like he had a wasp in his underwear, he jumped, jerked, and died." And in seemingly every book of the series, at some point Rosenberger describes someone's shot-up head by referring to smashed fruit. This time: "The back of his head resembled a burst pomegranate ..."

The violence is, as usual, minutely described, with Rosenberger outlining exactly what the DM's many slugs do to the human body:
Two slugs missed Provanzano. Two didn't. One hit him in the left shoulder and tore off his arm. The second hollow-point struck him in the left side, flattened out, and tore all the way through him, taking chips of rib bone with it. ...
Al Ponzi tried to escape through the kitchen door, going through it in a dive. Half of him made it; the rest of him caught a .357 slug that tore off his left foot, and four 9mm pieces of steel which hacked through his stomach, his liver, and his gall bladder. Ponzi died in midair.
Elsewhere, Rosenberger describes Camellion firing his submachine gun ("the chatterbox"): "a whining symphony" of slugs, "the hot hornets of ricocheting steel". Rosenberger even teaches us a little bit about Italian food: "... fresh fettucini, boiled al dente European style, twice as tasty and chewy as al dente American style".

Rosenberg's racism is usually so over-the-top that it makes you shake your head in amazement rather than anger. In this book, he refers to Harlem as "coconut-land" and "apeland" and mentions "a coconut dishwasher" working in a restaurant's kitchen. While describing the events of the previous book, Rosenberger recalls the "slant-eyed monkeys from North Korea". He also describes the "spic areas" of Manhattan and refers to Italians as "garlic-snappers".

Other References?: Rosenberger refers to the Chicago mob as "the Outfit", which could be a nod to Richard Stark and his superb series of Parker novels. Elsewhere, someone is called Hardin, which is the last name of another crime fighter in another series: Mark Hardin, The Penetrator (so named because he was an expert at penetrating enemy lines in Vietnam, not due to any sexual prowess (though his last name might hint otherwise)).

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