Saturday, January 03, 2015

Death Merchant #33: Alaska Conspiracy

Richard Camellion is at the Prudhoe Bay Operations Complex - along the north-central Alaskan coast, 200 miles north of the Arctic Circle - only two days when an attempt is made on his life. (Five men attack; he kills three and knocks out the other two.)

The Death Merchant has been sent to look over security operations at several points along the 800-mile Alaskan pipeline, because it has been attacked six or seven times in recent months. If the pipeline becomes inoperable, the U.S. will be more dependent upon foreign oil - which would please OPEC.

In talking to people in charge of keeping the pipeline running smoothly, Camellion feels it is likely that disgruntled local trappers (as opposed to "environmentals and other kooks") are being hired to dynamite sections of the pipeline, but the big question is: Who is the puppet-master that is funding and directing the trappers?

There is more action in Alaska Conspiracy than in the last few DM books. Shortly after Camellion arrives at his second stop, Atigun Camp, the camp is invaded by armed gunmen. After exchanging rounds of gunfire, Camellion suggests to Alaska Fish & Game Department official Jasper Happenset that they go out, grab a snowmobile, and come around behind the attackers, trapping them in a cross-fire. The plan works. At the very end, instead of easily gunning down the final 5-7 attackers from a safe distance, Camellion wants to question one or two of them, so he sneaks in extremely close, shooting a few at near point blank range and knocking out two others. He learns from them that Virgil Spain, a bartender at the New Frontier in Fairbanks, ordered the attack on Atigun to make sure they eliminated "some man named Camellion".

Camellion is then at a camp on the outskirts of Fairbanks, letting the Feds know that he (and he alone) is in charge of the operation. As he is getting some information on Spain and the other men involved in the New Frontier, they hear a large helicopter land nearby. It's yet another attack! Camellion and about 11 others wipe out the attacking force of 40-50 in roughly 15 minutes. Plus, they learn from the leader of this invasion - again, luckily spared until the end of the firing so he can give valuable info - that Spain was behind it and that bar owner Marion Westerhouse and the bar's gambling boss Duane Rhemus are also somehow involved.

A few days later, Camellion decides that he should pay a visit to the New Frontier. The ensuing battle lasts 33 pages - three chapters! The scene begins in near-identical fashion to a scene in Nipponese Nightmare (#28) - with Camellion using the same stink-bombs-detonated-in-the-men's-room-to-create-confusion-while-he-rushes-upstairs-to-where-the-bad-guys-are trick. This time, the stink bomb fizzles and Camellion (in disguise) quickly gets fingered as the guy trying to destroy the place and he is forced to swing into action earlier than planned. Much mayhem ensues and the bar is destroyed by fire, but the Death Merchant never finds Westerhouse and Rhemus. They escape with a sack of dough down the back fire escape. The over-long scene rivals the book's final battle for detail and body count, but since it ends up being a bust for the Death Merchant, it's questionable whether it needs to be in the book at all, let alone at this length.

Around the same time, a missile is launched into the Prudhoe complex, destroying 15 oil wells. This turns out to be a test run for a huge upcoming attack for a conglomerate of European companies known as the Council of Six. They plan to launch another ten missiles from a cargo ship and utterly destroy both the complex and pipeline. Camellion learns about the plot only two days before it is set to occur. He hastily assembles a fighting force and announces: "We attack at dawn ..."

The Council of Six has a base at an abandoned mine in the Wrangell Mountains. The DM and his men parachute out of a plane to points both north and south of the mine. (We learn that Camellion is terrified about leaping out of planes: it "tied his stomach in knots and flooded the corridors of his mind with tidal waves of fear". (Funny how Rosenberger never mentioned that before previous jumps.) Camellion once again eschews quick-killing the last few goons and instead uses some hand-to-hand combat so some of them can remain alive to give up the name and location of the missile-laden ship.

Alaska Conspiracy includes pointless gun info, though Rosenberger confines it to his footnotes:
Both men carried U.S. Army surplus M14* rifles ...
*: A selective-fire weapon, the M14 7.62mm NATO rifle was produced at Harrington & Richardson Arms Co. Production of the M14 ceased in 1964 at which time 1,380,353 rifles had been produced.

[Camellion] shoved a fresh magazine into the left Hi-Power Browning* ...
*: Although the 9mm browning Hi-Power autoloader does not have the punch of a .45 or a Magnum of any caliber, it is one of the finest weapons in the world for close-in combat, primarily because its magazine holds thirteen rounds.

... the Death Merchant was certain that the terrorists were using Israeli Galil G3 automatic rifles*.
*: This weapon was designed by Uziel Gal, who also designed the famous Uzi submachine gun in 1949. The Galil Rifle is assembled in Tel Aviv at Israeli Military Industries from parts imported from the U.S., Belgium, and Finland. The Galil uses the U.S. M16 30-round magazine, as well as a special 50-round magazine manufactured in Israel.
Camellion's knowledge of weaponry knows no limit. At one point, he hears a machine gun chattering in the distance and he immediately identifies it as a "West German Rheinmettal MG 42/49".

Rosenberger footnotes the term "Lower 48", explaining that it's the term Alaskans use for the continental United States. I thought - from taking a wonderful vacation in Alaska in 1996 - the local term was "Outside". Rosenberger actually has a character use "Outside" thirty pages earlier, though he doesn't bother with a footnote.

Part of Happenset's back story is that he was among a group of men who endured a Mount McKinley "wind chill factor the equivalent of a staggering 162° F". (I'm assuming Rosenberger meant -162°! ... The internet tells me that a wind chill factor of -191° was recorded in Vostok, Antarctica, on August 24, 2005. The coldest temperature recorded on Earth (-128.6° F) was also at Vostok, on July 21, 1983.)

The Death Merchant's enemies are rarely attractive: "He had a face that only a blind mother could look at with any kind of affection. ... The third joker had the build of a dump truck and the face of a broken chair."

The Death Merchant kills two jokers, with one slug ripping out a guy's tongue: "Camellion's second soft-lead slug had taken away Corbin's ability to lick stamps. ... Never again would Spain get constipated or have to worry about a sore throat."

More lines: "Happenset looked more serious than a funeral director faced with the problem of how to cram a seven-foot corpse into a six-foot casket." ... "All the while he studied the Death Merchant as if Camellion were the most important clause in a life insurance policy." ... "He would have had more luck going over Niagara Falls on a handkerchief." ... "Whoever this Camellion is, he must eat death on soda crackers!" ... "Sanity is nothing more than sharing the hallucinations of your neighbors."

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