Friday, January 09, 2015

Death Merchant #34: Operation Mind-Murder

After doing battle in northern Alaska in #33, it's more cold weather for the Death Merchant. Richard Camellion and three Chinese-Americans (including the awesomely-named Dionysius Woo) are sent on a re-con mission to Wrangel Island, a Russian island located a little north of Siberia. Camellion has been tasked with taking secret photographs and video of a Soviet installation in which the Russians conducted medical experiments on still-held prisoners of World War II.

In a footnote, author Joseph Rosenberger writes that the reports of Russian torture are "fact", and not invented for Operation Mind-Murder. He cites a February 20, 1978, article in The Spotlight, a far right-wing publication of the Liberty Lobby. (Through the wonder of Google, I found a copy of both the original article and a follow-up on February 27.)

The February 20, 1978, article begins:
An Alaskan island in the Arctic Ocean is the site of three super-secret Russian concentration camps where KGB agents carry out incredible human experiments on thousands of prisoners held captive there.

And the United States government has known about this gross violation of human rights on American territory since 1973 but continues to ignore the deplorable situation. ...

Thousands of prisoners of war - including high-ranking German, Spanish and Italian officers thought dead since World War II - have been secretly imprisoned on Wrangel Island. ...

Official government maps of Wrangel Island, made for the CIA from satellite photographs and which would confirm or deny the existence of the horror camps, have been classified "secret".
Rosenberger copies quotes from the article from Avraham Shifrin, a former Wrangel Island prisoner, into Operation Mind-Murder. In 1973, Shifrin testified before a U.S. Senate Internal Security Subcommittee that was investigating Soviet labor camps. Shifrin later interviewed hundreds of prisoners for his book, The First Guidebook to Prisons and Concentration Camps of the Soviet Union (Bantam, 1982).

Rosenberger writes at one point that the torture and other inhumane experiments are not the main reason for Washington's (and, thus, Camellion's) interest in Wrangel Island. The Russians are rumoured to be building an enormous complex, some sort of weather experimental base. And because the Ruskies cannot be trusted, the U.S. decrees that this complex must be destroyed. Later in the book, though, Rosenberger forgets about this subplot. It's never mentioned again. During the island invasion, all Camellion is concerned about is that the men take pictures of the Russians' documentation of the experiments.

There is a lot of action in Operation Mind-Murder. The book opens with the four men on the island. After Camellion and Woo photograph the Soviet buildings, they travel back to the beach where they have stashed their scuba gear. Woo stays with the equipment and Camellion heads back to their cave to get the other two men and the three of them return to the beach. Each bit of travel across some part of the island includes a run-in with some "pig farmers". And almost half the book (pp. 98-184) is taken up with the climatic invasion of Wrangel Island by Camellion and a 180-man force. It features the usual Rosenberger insanity, with some highly-detailed scenes of karate thrown in for good measure:
Gordon then resorted to a defense that was all karate. He employed a hiza ate knee lift to the groin of one man, ducked another KGB man's straight-in fist-punch, slammed out the fellow with a haito uchi sword-hand ridge-strike to the side of the neck and, with his left hand, stunned into partial unconsciousness an enemy by using a tettsui uchi hammer-hand blow that caught the Russian squarely on the end of the chin. The Russian that Gordon had struck in the side of the neck went down choking and gasping ...

The Death Merchant blocked Roshgin's closed-fist blow with a right hiji uke elbow block and the intended nukite stab with a left sukui uke scooping-hand sweep. ... The Death Merchant's hands and arms moved with such blinding speed that the Russian couldn't realize what was happening. Roshgin could only gag from the agony of Camellion's otoshi hiji ate downward elbow-strike that broke his nose and made blood spurt from both nostrils. Camellion's koko-i tiger-mouth kill-clutch to Roshgin's throat ended his life by crushing his voice box and the upper part of his windpipe. He was choking to death, velvet falling over his mind, by the time the Death Merchant turned and used a right-legged knee shift as a defense against Colonel Milovanov's left-foot stamp that was intended to shatter his knee cap; and a double ko uke arch block to wreck Milovanov's double-piercing-finger strike aimed at the side of his neck.

Milovanov was very fast and very good at sambo. His only flaw was that he wasn't good enough. He jerked back from Camellion, feigned a left foot kick to the groin and a right-handed fist-strike to the side of the neck. With his left hand he attempted the real McCoy, a vicious spear-hand thrust to the Death Merchant's solar plexus.
Camellion, who had fought far better men than Milovanov, wasn't fooled by such tactics. He blocked the spear hand by sweeping aside the Russian's arm. Simultaneously, he used an ippon ken single-knuckle punch to shatter Milovanov's front teeth. A very fast haito ridge-hand to the Russian's left cheek sent him staggering, his senses reeling ...
Rosenberger provides his usual allotment of gore (while tracing the destructive path of numerous slugs):
The LMG roared, but the stream of 7.62mm slugs passed a foot or more to Camellion's right. The Russian couldn't fire again. One of the .357 magnum bullets exploded in his neck, blew apart his throat, and sent his Adam's apple flying like a bloody golf ball. ...

Both KGB men had half executed the swing around when the Death Merchant fired both Auto Mags. One .357 magnum bullet, going in at a steep angle, hit Vilenski in the right chest, exploded, and sent up a tiny cloud of cloth, foam padding, bits of flesh, and pieces of rib bone. The expanded projectile came out the left side of his chest, then smacked Dashkov in the right forearm at the same time that the Death Merchant's second big bullet bored into Dashkov, just above the humerus of his right arm. The bullet exploded, tore the humerus from the scapula, or shoulder blade, then, travelling downward, shattered the end of the right clavicle, broke six ribs on both sides and finally left the Russian's body via his left side.

Camellion "knew that while the Cosmic Lord of Death rules the Universe - He does not rule alone!"

"Like Time, Death was relative and not at all important in the long scheme of one's total development."

"Telling Richard Camellion to be careful was as silly as telling a crocodile to beware of minnows."

"... sweating like an Israeli spy at a PLO meeting ..."

"The big show is getting hotter than the balls of a Gila monster in a New Mexico desert in August!"

"The only thing dumber than an average Russian is two average Russians."

"Although as grimy as two old-time chimney sweeps, the two commandos were as cheerful as two prostitutes who had the sole franchise at a salesman's convention."

After coming up empty in the last few books, Rosenberger gives us a fruit mention: "One of the Death Merchant's Auto Mags roared and the head of the KGB man exploded with the kind of sound a hammer makes when it hits a watermelon."

At the very end of the book, Camellion asks one of the captured Russian scientists about the wide road in the middle of the island. Dr. Agarev says that it leads to an underground installation, where there is a machine known as a "Cosmic Generator". We don't get much of a description of what this machine is or does, but I wonder - considering Camellion's mysterious connection to the Cosmic Lord of Death - if it will turn up in a future volume.

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