Friday, January 15, 2016

Death Merchant #61: The Bulgarian Termination

Educating Reds

The Bulgarian Secret Service is offering a unique foreign exchange program. Communists from all over the world can earn their Ph.D.'s in Assassination and Terrorism, courtesy of the KGB.

The US Secret Service is anxious to liquidate the assassin's academy before its graduates are unleashed upon an unsuspecting free world. They dispatch Richard Camellion, American ambassador of annihilation, the Death Merchant.

In a race against the clock, the Death Merchant must dig deep into his bag of deadly tricks to abort the burgeoning evil and destroy the Bulgarian hydra...permanently.


The Bulgarian Termination is another dull affair from Joseph Rosenberger (with a lame cover by Dean Cate, too; the Death Merchant doesn't look very tough). The plot - as outlined on the back cover text quoted above - is pretty slight, and as with the previous volume, there is far too much discussion and planning and not enough action.

Richard Camellion is working with members of the National Freedom Council (NFC), a group "determined to overthrow the legal Communist dictatorship governing Bulgaria". Camellion announces his grand plan to blow up the six-story building housing the Komitet Darzhavra Sigurnost, the state security apparatus, killing the targeted five Russian officials in the process. (Despite the back cover copy, there are no graduates of an "assassin's academy" in this book.) Just before three trucks filled with 10,000 pounds of ammonium nitrate slam into the building, however, the Death Merchant and his force will storm inside, try to grab some important files, kill anyone in their way, and escape from the roof by helicopter.

This multi-pronged attack is the big finale of the book. Unfortunately, Camellion presents his idea pretty early on (page 57), so Rosenberger ends up with close to 100 pages of the characters talking every angle of the attack to death. (Okay, it's more like 75 pages. There is a shootout at a hotel bar and subsequent getaway that takes up 25 pages in the middle of the book.) Things gets quite boring: a nine-page chapter is devoted to Camellion being driven to a safe house located inside a church. Nothing at all happens during the drive, so it could have been dispensed with in one sentence or not mentioned at all.
And all the while, off to one side in his mind, the Death Merchant couldn't help but feel that he was only going through the motions, that all this was unreal and that he was only one of the actors in the frames in the world picture show. And, according to the doctrine of elementary particles, I just might be! So is everyone else! Time is thinking! Time is consciousness! Time is a continuous now! All of it a vast illusion in this time continuum.4

FN4: The reality might be—according to elementary particle theorists—that Time and Space come in "bits" and "pieces"—called Kronons.
At the appointed time, the Death Merchant and nine other men drive up to the building's gate in a Soviet BTR-60PK armored personnel carrier. Things go wrong right away, because of the extra security measures for the visiting Russian officials. Mercy, mercy, Mother Percy! So Camellion orders the BTR driver to crash through the gate and drive straight through one of the building's windows! From there, it is a shootout in the lobby with the force trying to get to the stairs to the second floor.

During a break from the flying bullets, the men take the opportunity to trash the ACLU!
Winkler surveyed Camellion in slow speculation, his expression facetious. "One thing is certain. If we're caught, we won't have the good old ACLU to come to our aid in court. Now that is something to think about!"

The Death Merchant acknowledged with a twisted smile. Winkler could be the world's worst pest at times, but Camellion admired him for his cold-blooded realism—expressed in witty cynicisms—in the face of death. If Winkler had an abundance of any quality, it was sheer nerve. When he drops into hell, no doubt he will ask Lucifer who keeps his horns trimmed!

"This ACLU," said Tsola Nekliv. "Some kind of American freedom organization?"

Winkler's little laugh was lewd. "Oh yes, the ACLU is an organization that fights for freedom—of criminals! Should you rape half a dozen women and cut their throats, the ACLU will be by your side, fighting for 'justice'!"
There is also a quick rant against something called "Emotional Terrorists" (ETs):
Privately, the Death Merchant was in complete agreement with Carey Winkler. The people who prayed the most were always the ones least prepared. Man made his own miracles, fabricated his own impossibilities, and won his own earthly battles. In spite of the ET's who would surrender us to Soviet imperialism. The clerics who are "positive" what God wants! The well-intentioned but unrealistic morons who can't even manage their own children! The celebrity circus from Hollywood—that world capital of mediocrity—who are "experts" on peace! All babbling about "The Bomb." Yet not one word about Soviet military buildup. Nor do they ask why Soviet Embassies are never attacked, or why Soviet government officials are never kidnapped, held hostage, or assassinated. . . .
Yet all of them—the entire population of this planet—have only another sixteen years at the most.
Camellion and his men encounter heavy resistance on the fourth and sixth floors of the building and that's where Rosenberger is at his best, describing the carnage and letting us know the exact path of so many slugs and projectiles:
Fedor Rykov was having some slight problems. His short burst of 7.62mm. slugs had blown 'out the stomach and part of the spine of Aram Gvishini, the six projectiles zipping right through the Bulgarian and striking Vasily lkonov in the left side, tearing through the coat of his business suit and taking up residence in his lungs. Then Rykov's RKZ was but of ammo and he didn't have time to pull his holstered pistol, switch off the safety, and fire. Another DS officer was swinging his weapon toward him. A cursing, snarling Rykov quickly reversed the RKZ in his hands and, with his right hand, swung it viciously at Abez Alkhimov's head: The blow would have crushed the DS officer's skull if he had not-ducked, his quick motion making him lose his balance and fall backward, right into the path of Aleksei Izogyi, who carried a hunting knife in a leather sheath inside his lieutenant's uniform coat. He had jerked out the knife, wanting to save ammunition, and now he put the ten-inch gleaming blade to good use. Alkhimov, as he fell back, stumbled to within several feet of the long-faced Izogyi, who brought up the knife with an underhanded motion and buried the blade in Alkhimov's back, the razor-sharp steel slicing into the man's kidney. ...

A 7.62mm. slug struck the Vitmorkin machine pistol in Vordorbov's left hand. A second projectile struck him in the top of the left shoulder, shattering the knob of the humerus. A third slug cut off the tip of his nose, sliced through the end of his chin, and, zipping almost half the length of his body, bored high into the front of his left leg; and when he jerked violently in agony, the fourth bullet hit the top of his head, exploded his brain, and killed him.
The Death Merchant and his party make it to the roof and take off in a helicopter. The third tractor-trailer never made it and while the building was heavily damaged, it did not collapse. There was no chance to get any files, but the targeted pig farmers were killed. When it's all over, Camellion muses:
Man lived in an exquisite bedlam, a brutal asylum in which everything was tinged with death. A wise person learned to speak the language of reality and to see through the misty veil. He danced with the tango of life and enjoyed the tantalizing possibilities of the paradox, of the riddle of consciousness. The lover, the mystic, and the scientist discovered the very same things on different planes. The people's thirst for liberty and the martyrs' hymn of faith mingled in a madness of worthless solutions that lasted only for the moment. The world has always washed the corpses, wiped up the blood, and prayed over caskets about to be lowered into holes. . . . The world always would—but for only a very short time. . . .

In a footnote, Rosenberger tell us to watch for Death Merchant #69, Operation Nose-Candy, "to be published in the future". (There was no DM book published with that title. The series ended with #70.)

Another footnote: "The Russians may have been the first to put a man in space, but the best hotels in Moscow are still without rolled toilet paper. Instead, one finds small squares of rough paper, similar to American paper towels."

Carey Winkler, Camellion's partner, thinks the members of the NFC are a "bunch of yogurt yahoos".

Five curses: "Hell and great gobs of goose grease!" ... "Piss on a paper moon!" ... "Piss on a poltergeist!" ... "Piss on a pineapple!" ... "Donkey dung! Triple fudge and damn it!"

"Like a guitar picker running away from his past, the dead Liskovik fell to the right, his right leg doubled up underneath him."

"Those three goofs couldn't outdraw a crayon!"

"Zorkosobog's face and head exploded with all the force of a melon hit by a blast from a double-barrel shotgun, much of the blood and flesh, bone and gray brain matter splattering on the shoulders of two other DS agents."

"Elated at trapping the Russians and the chiefs of the DS, Izogyi placed his last three 7.62mm. slugs in Lavrenty Strokash, the last KGB bodyguard, the projectiles stabbing into the Russian's midsection and making him the only corpse in the building with four navels."

Camellion: Life is "nothing more than one long coffee break between two deaths".

During the final shootouts, Camellion refers to the DS agents as "chicken-brained biological disasters" and "leftovers from a genetic garbage dump".

"It could have been worse. The Death Merchant did have one consolation. We could have crashed an airplane into the tenth floor of a twenty-story building! Or I could be a citizen of Mexico!"

"I think we have more of a chance of converting Ronald Reagan to Communism than we have of getting out of this mess!"

"Camellion had only one other major ambition, one that took precedence even over his own life: to live long enough to see the entire Soviet Union, all of Red China, and the rest of the filth nations turned into a radioactive wasteland. I want to see three and a half billion ghosts on this little cinder of a planet. And I will—as one of the ghosts—in less than thirteen years..."

This book was published in late 1984, so I'm guessing this :ambition" is tied to Rosenberger's (apparent) belief in the end of civilization by the year 2000. Or perhaps he didn't believe that and it was simply one of Camellion's quirks. Either way, Rosenberger sure brought it up often - sometimes several times, like in this book.


Marty McKee said...

Please tell me you'll be doing all the Penetrators when you finish with the Death Merchant books.

allan said...

I have only a few Penetrators, and no real desire to acquire the series, so I might have to leave that job to Joe Kenney.

Rosenberger is a special guy, though. I'm fascinated by him and so I'll be doing the other series: Mace Kung Fu, Murder Master, COBRA, and Shadow Warrior.