Friday, January 23, 2015

Death Merchant #36: The Cosmic Reality Kill

Is Hannibal Nigel Frimm, the founder and leader of a religious cult called The Church of the Cosmic Reality, responsible for the murder of Everett Padden, a "deprogrammer" of young people who have managed to break away from the cult?

Padden was a close friend of Richard Camellion, so the Death Merchant is going to do everything he can to find out the answer to that question. And it should come as no surprise that the Church of the Cosmic Reality will soon have a rendez-vous with the Cosmic Lord of Death!

The 58-year-old Frimm - referred to as "His Oneness and His Onlyness" - lives in a modest frame house in the New Earth Community, at the church's national headquarters outside of Colorado Springs. His Cosmic Truth magazine has more than one million subscribers, due in part to his unstinting patriotism and the fact that many Americans agree with his views: "Namely, that the morals of the United States were more debased than those of Ancient Rome. Obscene books, motion pictures, and especially televisions were corrupting the minds of millions of American children!" Frimm tells his followers (known as "Frimmies") there is only one country on earth more morally evil that the U.S., and that is the Soviet Union (of course!), diseased by Satan with "the moral cancer of communism".

Camellion cases the Haven of Truth camp in Colorado Springs, one of roughly 70 communities established by Frimm throughout the United States, because it was the specific camp targeted by Padden. Camellion's initial attempt to infiltrate the camp goes awry and he ends up killing 8-10 guards during his escape. For the next three weeks, Camellion chills at the nearby Warm Rest Trailer Park waiting for a CIA contact. But Frimm's goons have somehow located him and they attempt to run him off the road while Camellion is driving his car. Although he has no weapons, the Death Merchant manages to survive the attack (while several of the goons perish). The local cops are highly suspicious of this event, but Camellion insists it must have been a case of mistaken identity.

Eventually, Camellion - relaxing in a "white gabardine jumpsuit" - meets up with CIA man Russell Linders and his girlfriend, an ex-cop named Janet Minnick. (Janet is very attractive, as Rosenberger writes: "Just looking at her was distracting, making [Camellion] think of creating life instead of destroying it." !!) Linders has a motorhome and they agree to take a tour of the New Earth compound, with Camellion in disguise, posing as Linders's elderly father.

Camellion stays behind after the day's final tour, hiding in a bathroom closet. At 3 AM, he goes into action, but is captured and questioned by Frimm himself. Camellion jabbers a lot of nonsense and makes a bunch of strange noises - causing Frimm believe he is possessed by Satan! Locked in a basement cell, the Death Merchant then uses some explosives and blasting caps hidden in the heel of his shoe. He blows the cell door, rushes out and surprises the guard, stealing his gun. Camellion shoots some Frimmies, steals a jeep, blows a hole in the fence, and drives away.

The overall mission seems to be a bust, but the Death Merchant has more more plan up his sleeve. (Janet: "Camellion's plan is so fantastic and ridiculous, it might work!") The plan is certainly ridiculous, as it involves projecting holographs of a UFO and a giant fly in the sky above the compound. This is meant to terrify Frimm and his armed followers. (We are told that Beelzebub is often portrayed as a fly.)

After the theatrics, the helicopters drop the DM and 13 fighters into the compound and the final battle is on. During the raid, Camellion dumps LSD into the compound's water supply, but not much is made of this tactic, though afterwards, we hear that hundreds of Frimmies were hospitalized after suffering mass hallucinations. (I guess this rendered them unable to fight.) In the end, Camellion learns that Padden was indeed killed by the cult and his body destroyed by being thrown into a pond of acid. (However, in the early pages of the book, Padden's body was found by the authorities, which was what got the Death Merchant involved in the first place.)

The Cosmic Realty Kill began as Camellion avenging a murder, then evolved into putting the Frimm cult out of business. Either way, the reasons for the mission are pretty thin. But the subject matter gives Rosenberger the opportunity to have Camellion discourse on the nature of reality, the past, present, and future, and the idea of good and bad being only illusions.
"Standards of moral conduct are all relative, like time and space. The Inquisition, or the systematic pursuit of heresy, was not only 'moral' and 'ethical' in the 15th century, it was considered the 'will of God.'"
When Camellion is hiding in the closet, waiting for the Frimm camp to empty out, he has plenty of time to think about "man's illusion of time":
Nature does not advance in a line - it happens simultaneously, everywhere-at-once. And because nature does not proceed in a line, it does not proceed in time, but has the whole of its existence simultaneously, and that is the nature of Eternity.

Actually, Camellion thought, the whole notion of succession, of one "thing" succeeding another "thing" in time, depends entirely and directly upon our precesses of memory, for it is quite obvious that without memory we would have absolutely no idea of time, either of the past or of the future. Okay. The question, then, is whether memory represents a real phenomenon which we call time, or whether memory creates an illusion of time. Yet in remembering any "past event", we are not really aware of the actual past at all. I remember what I ate in the tent hours ago, but this memory won't let me see the meal, or touch it, or taste it. The truth is, we are never aware of any actual past at all, but rather only dim mental images of the past, and those pictures exist only as present experience.

The same holds for the "future" as well, for any thought of tomorrow is nonetheless a present thought. Inescapably, we know the "past" and "future" only in the present and as part of the present. The only time we are ever aware of is now. Mind is always now. There is really no before and no after for the mind. There is only a now, this instant. The past is literally nothing but a memory and the future nothing but an expectation, with both memory and expectation being a present fact. Think of the past - that is a present act. Anticipate the future - also a present act. All done with the mind - a state of ever-present non-dual awareness wherein the observer is the observed! The mind and the now-moment, the only true reality for man. ...
Although Rosenberger has never shown Camellion smoking dope at his Texas ranch, I have to believe the Death Merchant does inhale.

There is an amusing typo concerning Frimm's prophecy about the end of the world. On page 3, Rosenberger writes: "The end of all Time, of all Matter and Space, would occur the first second of the year 2000 A.D." Nothing wrong with that; many stories envisioned the end of the world coming as the calendar clicked over to 2000. But then, two pages later, Rosenberger pinpoints the time of destruction as "a microsecond after midnight of January 31, 1999"!

"Richard J. Camellion" contributes a two-page introduction to the book in which he defines a cult and explains how they differ from more established religions. "Cults are nothing more than big business, enriching their founders and making saps out of thousands of men and women who should know better, but haven't the guts to stand on their own two feet and fight the battle of life."

Rosenberger's story is only 167 pages. It is followed by an eight-page readers' survey.
Now that you've finished reading this volume in The Death Merchant series, we'd like to find out what you liked, or didn't like, about this story. We'll share your opinions with the author and discuss them as we plan future books. This will result in books that you will find more to your liking. ...
Some of the 40+ questions: Are you glad you bought this book, and did it live up to your expectations? ... What seems to be the major factor that persuades you to buy a certain book? ... What do you do with your paperbacks after you've read them?

Respondents are asked if they have read (or watched on TV) Taylor Caldwell's Captains and the Kings, John Jakes' The Bastard, James Michener's Centennial, or Irwin Shaw's Rich Man, Poor Man.

They are also asked to rate the "sexuality" and "romance" portions of the Death Merchant books - Excellent / Okay / Poor - which is amusing, since, outside of a stray sentence like the one quoted above, those portions don't apply to Camellion at all. ... I also wonder how "A sense of reality" fared in the survey.

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