Friday, July 25, 2014

Death Merchant #12: The KGB Frame

In a summary of the Death Merchant series, the writer of Spy Guys And Gals, notes: "Extremely little is recorded about the man nicknamed the Death Merchant. His early years are a total mystery as are the means he used to acquire his awesome killing abilities. For a series with 70 different adventures, this is remarkable."

All we know (through the first 11 books) is that Richard Camellion used to be a high school history teacher in St. Louis. We have a basic physical description: "a lean almost-handsome face - straight nose, firm, determined jaw, eyes as blue as polar ice. Brown hair clipped in a two-inch crew cut."

But we get a lot of circumstantial information about Camellion in the early pages of The KGB Frame (published in July 1975). First of all, the Death Merchant has owned an 81-acre ranch seven miles south of Votaw, Texas (an actual small town roughly 75 miles northeast of Houston), for at least six years. The ranch is named Memento Mori ("Remember Death"). Jesus Sontoya, a trusted friend of the DM, lives on the ranch.

Camellion also has four "safe houses" in the United States, each with a sizeable hidden cache of weapons, disguises, etc.: (1) one in Alhambra, a suburb of Los Angeles, (2) a four-room brick house in Arlington Heights, north of Chicago, (3) "a neat cottage" in Sioux Falls, Iowa, and (4) an apartment on Vermilyea Avenue in upper Manhattan. Unfortunately, Camellion ends up having to destroy (by planted explosives) the New York apartment house, which he owned under the name Corliss Durbenten.

Also, it is revealed that Camellion knows (or can speak) 11 languages!

In The KGB Frame, the Russians want to get rid of the Death Merchant, so they create a recording of him supposedly admitting to being a double agent for the Soviets. When the CIA hears the tape - and its experts determine that the recording is genuine - they send several assassins to kill the traitorous Death Merchant. After figuring out that he has been "netted" by the KGB, Camellion travels to both New York and Mexico City in an effort to clear his name. (The final shootout is among the ruins of the Pyramid of the Sun outside of Mexico City.)

Rosenberger engages in some American exceptionalism:
[Belov] like [sic] the country and he liked Americans. In the two years that he had been stationed at the Soviet embassy in Washington, D.C., he had come to learn that Americans are the happiest, the best fed, the best-dressed people in the world.

Belov thought of the large apartment near the embassy that he and Elana rented. Every single piece of furniture was American and fifty times better than similar items manufactured in the Soviet Union. The refrigerator was a General Electric, the vacuum cleaner a Hoover, the color television set an RCA, the stereo a Philips. Why, even the shower head had come from Sears & Roebuck! Then there were those little everyday things that Americans took for granted, like American cigarettes, ballpoint pens, hot dogs, cola drinks and - Nescafe!
But not all of the United States is super-amazing. For example, New York City is referred to as "the land of freaks and ripoffs, with more kooks per square mile than even L.A.!" Camellion later muses: "If God existed and ever wanted to give the world an enema, New York City is where he'd stick the nozzle!"

One aspect of some men's adventure paperbacks is what is described as "gun porn", in which the author describes - at length - the various weapons used, the caliber of the shells, and how the various guns work. So far, Rosenberger is more apt to over-describe the gore than the specific firearms. Nevertheless, no one in these paperbacks simply fires a gun. It's a "9mm Spanish Astra Condor pistol equipped with a Bennim-Molig silencer" or a "9-MM Tula Tokarev TT pistol". In addition to his trusty shoulder-holstered .357 Magnums, Camellion uses an Ingram M10 .45 ACP caliber submachine gun with a Sonics silencer, and a silenced 9-millimeter Hi-Power Browning. At various points in the book, he carries SIG 7.65-millimeter pistols, a Colt AR-18 rifle (5.56MM slugs), a Remington 870 Wingmaster shotgun, and two .45 Mexican Obregon automatics.

Rosenberger continues his use of racial slurs. During a shootout at a Mexican whorehouse, Camellion refers to gunning down some "chili peppers" and "hot tamales". He also refers to the Russians as both "Ivans" and "pig farmers". The latter insult - which, perhaps in ignorance, I really don't understand - will be used throughout the entire series.

And this volume's food/fruit metaphors: "Dyudin's head exploded from the impact of the Super-Vel .357 slug that split open his skull like a watermelon kicked by an angry mule." ... A gunshot victim's legs give out from under him like "soggy breadsticks".

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