Sunday, December 13, 2015

Death Merchant #59: The Burma Probe

Brink of Disaster

Deep in the heart of Burma's thickest jungle lies the deadliest military secret of modern history. After generations of strategic planning, the Red Chinese have grasped the vital key to world power. In a desperate, zero-hour maneuver the Death Merchant is given the go-ahead. Infiltrate. Destroy!

Never before has Richard Camellion encountered such brilliant defense. No loopholes, no missing links. The Death Merchant is slam up against terror on a scale far beyond the imagination of the average citizen, locked into a global game he knows will have only one winner...


The Red Chinese are planning to launch 352 missiles filled with chemical weapons from the jungles of western Burma into Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia, killing millions and showing that the communist nation is a world force to be reckoned with.

As the Chinese prepare their attack, US satellites have detected activity in the Burmese jungles. A huge area has been cleared and buildings and an airstrip have been constructed. The CIA and Britian's SIS agree that a group of mercenaries should trek into the dangerous jungle and find out exactly what is going on. (For some reason, although the US satellite cameras are so powerful they can read car license plates from space, the US is not entirely sure of the location of the Chinese installation.) That means it's a job for Richard "Death Merchant" Camellion and "Mad Mike" Quinlan and Quinlan's Thunderbolt Unit: Omega team of mercs.

Camellion, Quinlan, and Krishan Darhangak head to Rangoon, posing as British film representatives, supposedly scouting locations for a film of the Japanese occupation during WWII. They are in Rangoon to meet up with Alfred Knowles, an agent who will take them to the local man who will lead them into the jungle. (Unbeknownst to them, however, Knowles has already been kidnapped.) While out walking one evening, the three men realize they are being followed by members of Chinese intelligence. Although they are unarmed, the three quickly turn and surprise the agents, killing six of the nine assailants. The local authorities are naturally suspicious, but eventually let the three men go, agreeing that they acted in self-defense.

The three men head to Mandalay to meet up with Chit Soe Kha, an Indian intelligence agent who will be their jungle guide. On the train, Camellion recalls his briefing for the mission, and we get a two-page flashback in which Camellion argues with a CIA man about the supposed accuracy of self-proclaimed psychic Jeane Dixon.* In Mandalay, they meet Kha - the Death Merchant and Quinlan have darkened their skin to better fit in - and are transported to the lower hills of the Angew Taungdan mountain range by hiding in the false bottom of two trash carts drawn by mules, a journey that was "the most miserable that Camellion had ever been forced to endure".

* Camellion offers his own predictions: "It's not difficult to predict certain events if one has a sense of history, uses logic and keeps informed on world events. ... I can predict that Mexico, about 1986 or 1987, will experience the same kind of turmoil that is going on in Iran, or that the United States is going to collapse financially, or fall entirely. But my predictions are based on real events, on facts and trends, as proven by history." Later, we read: "Camellion knew that by the year 2000, there would be only radioactive rubble where New York had once proudly stood. In fact, every major city in the United States would be destroyed by the year 2000. The old cycle would be ended, and the new cycle begun ..."

Camellion and three others must first hike to the camp of the People's Freedom Army, led by Po Dat Wol. While en route, they anticipate an ambush near a canyon pass, and Camellion and Quinlan sneak up ahead and get the drop of a couple of small groups of Chinese soldiers, killing them all. Heading back to Darhangak and Kha, they discover that they are now with Camellion's old friend Lester Vernon Cole and five others from the PFA camp.

Cole, who last worked with the Death Merchant in #47 (Operation Skyhook), is an ardent admirer of Hitler and is not shy about expressing his unabashedly racist views. Interestingly, we get the same right-wing nonsense even in the chapters that are written from the enemy Chinese's point of view, that the "stupid" United States government is turning the "land of the free" into a third world nation by "permitting all sorts of trash to enter their country", namely Mexicans and Latin Americans. Cole cites the supposedly higher-birth rates of these minorities, which he says will threaten "the continued existence of the white race". (Along the way, we also get rants against the postal service, homosexuals, the peace movement, the integration of the public school system, and Amtrak.)

While Camellion and Quinlan are at the PFA camp, the 253 members of Thunderbird Unit: Omega are relaxing in Calcutta, waiting for the call to action from Mad Mike. The Death Merchant is trying to arrange helicopters to take himself and Quinlan to the spot where they will meet the other mercs and start their jungle mission. (So why they travelled for days to the PFA camp is not really clear.) There is a traitor in the camp and he has used a transmitter to broadcast the camp's location, which prompts a furious aerial and ground attack from the Chinese.

After much mayhem, the members of the camp and the Death Merchant and his men begin an eight-day trek out to a series of caverns where they will be safe. From there, Camellion and Quinlan are picked up by two helicopters and flown to meet up with the 250 Omega mercs. It turns out that there will be no hike through the jungle. (There is only about 30 pages remaining in the book at this point.) After the other copters riddle the base with air-to-ground missiles, destroying most of the buildings, the men land right on the airstrip. The 500 or so Chinese troops are in hiding - and the Death Merchant and the 250 mercs stand around in the rain planning their strategy. The final fight is similar to the end of every Death Merchant book. Both sides let loose with their automatic weapons until they run out of ammo - at the same time! - and because they are in too-close proximity to reload, they end up fighting hand-to-hand.
You two pieces of trash should get a break today, but you won't from me! Camellion stepped lightly to his left, twisted so that the right side of his body was facing Yi'fing and ducked the stabbing muzzle of the T-50 SMG. One eye on Shuti Ju'chan, Camellion calculated his rush, then punched Yi'fing's final ticket with an expertly delivered right-legged groin kick, his foot coming up between the man's legs. Only a grenade or a bullet to one of his vital organs could have done more damage to the man. Camellion's kick had been very accurate and his foot had crushed Yi'fing's testes, broken his pubic bone and flattened his bladder to the extent that urine should have jumped from Yi'fing's mouth, nose and ears. Yi'fing couldn't even scream. The horrible agony, inducing shock in the central nervous system, was more than any human being could stand. A look of stamped, frozen horror on his wedge-shaped face, and with gurgling sounds thrashing about in his throat, Hai K'an Yi'fing dropped the T-50 SMG. His knees buckled and he wilted to the ground at the same time that Camellion turned to his left, sidestepped quickly to his right and reached out with his left hand. He had timed Shuti Ju'chan's rush correctly, to the split second. The bayonet cut the air only several inches from the Auto Mag holstered on the left side. By then it was far too late for Shuti Ju'chan. The most any enemy, face to face with Death Merchant, could hope for was one chance. Ju'chan had blown his. By the time he realized his mistake, Camellion's left hand was wrapped around the barrel of the T-56-1 assault rifle, right behind the raised wrapped-around-the-barrel sight, and his right hand was streaking toward Ju'chan's throat. In an instant it was over, and the ridgehand slam had crushed Ju'chan's trachael cartilage and CameIlion was jerking the T-50 SMG from the dying man's limp hands. His eyes almost popping out of their sockets, gurgles and burbles percolating in his throat, Shuti Ju'chan fell sideways and almost collided with Mike Quinlan who had just killed two Chinese, stabbing one in the solar plexus with an all black Tekna survival knife and cracking the skull of the second enemy with the side of a Safari Arms "Black Widow" .45 semiautomatic. The man with the cracked skull fell in front of a furiously fighting Jose Jesus Santino who was ducking a bayonet thrust by a bare-headed Che'il Kkuno who was wasting a lot of time and energy screaming, "White debil die! White debil die!"
Rosenberger, who claimed to once have been a karate instructor, gives us a long list of martial arts moves employed by the Death Merchant and his men: a three-finger Hapti Tun stab, a right Herabasemi inside ridge hand, a left Shuto knife hand, a high Mae Geri Keage front snap-kick, a right-legged Yoko Geri Kekomi side thrust kick, a Ura Uchi Ken back knuckle strike, a Hira Ken angular knuckle strike, and a right-legged Yoko Geri bill-of-the-foot kick.

Before the final fight, we learned exactly what firearms each man is carrying:
All five Thunderbolts were dressed in hot weather olive-drab jungle fatigues, U.S. Special Forces mountain boots and black berets. On the front of each beret was a silver death's head. There were no crossed bones at the bottom of the death's head. Instead, there were two crossed thunderbolts. All the mercs wore Ace type combat harnesses, complete with ammo pouches for pistol and SMG magazines. Yet each man carried different types of weapons.

Alexander Pratt carried an Israeli Galil assault rifle. On his hips were two 9mm Sig-Sauer P220 auto-pistols in black nylon holsters. Strapped to his narrow chest was a short machete; on his left leg was strapped a steel tomahawk.

Rene DuBois, the Frenchman, was armed with an FN-FAL A-R, two Star M-28 auto-pistols and a USAF survival knife. In addition, he carried five Marauder throwing-combat knives. Double-edged, the Marauder had a guard that terminated in two sharp points. Three more points were at the end of the handle, two perpendicular, one horizontal.

Other than his shotgun and Valmet assault rifle, Santino—quick, keen-eyed—had two Llama .44 magnum revolvers in tan leather shoulder holsters. At his waist, a large SHIVA knife was holstered on the right side. A holstered Colt .45 auto-pistol was on the left side.

The Peppermint Kid sat holding a Steyr AUG 5.56mm A-R upright between his legs. Two H/K P7 pistols were strapped around his slim waist. A Buck custom commando dagger and a SEALTAC-I knife were in sheaths fastened to a wide strap across his chest. What fascinated Darhangak the most was the huge canvas holster hanging from a heavy cord around O'Malley's neck. In the holster was a 9mm semiautomatic Linda pistol with a long magazine that contained forty-three rounds.

Finally there was the huge Bruckner who, to Darhangak, looked like a giant box with arms and legs—and a bullet head. Bruckner was holding a Heckler & Koch MP 5K submachine gun in his lap. In two shoulder holsters were P-38 Walther autoloaders; a curved jambiya Arab dagger, in a metal sheath, was stuck in his belt. To his right front thigh was buckled an M16 bayonet.
At the very end of the fight, Camellion learns about the Chinese high officials and officers hiding in the underground cavern, and he and his men rig the air shaft and entrance with RDX. The mammoth explosions trap the men inside, burying them alive. While the other mercs debate the pros and cons of being a mercenary in the 1980s, Camellion is already thinking of his next mission ... in Germany!


"The Death Merchant had not been impressed with the visit to the Shwe Dagon, mainly because of his realization that all things existed only for a moment and that the only real constant was change, with the real Universe occurring as a series of instantaneous occurrence on a moment-to-moment basis."

"Mad Mike twisted his body slightly to the left and his left leg came up as his left arm streaked outward, the tip of his Chukka boot catching Lung Ting-yi where the sun never shines and the moon never casts a shadow, the short but deadly snap-kick crushing Ting-yi's testicles with the force of a sledge hammer slamming down on a slice of lemon."

FN: "Hindus are very prejudiced against nursing ..."

FN: "This writer has always warned that the West has more to fear from the Chinese than from the Russians."

"Frig a frozen frog!" ... "Shit on a shiny shingle!" ... "Beaver balls!"

Camellion's Law Number Three: "Aim for perfection. Half right is always half wrong." [To my memory, Rosenberger has never revealed Laws One or Two.]

"Red Chinese strategists had planned well, reasoning with typical Oriental logic that while the only two nations capable of stopping them were the United States and the Soviet Union, neither the U.S. nor the USSR would interfere."

FN re opening, reading, and resealing someone's mail: "Burmese intelligence is behind the times. American intelligence, the F.B.I. and Postal Inspectors use a chemical, a 'letter bomb visualizer,' that turns most papers transparent for thirty to sixty seconds. They don't have to open the letters. The chemical costs about $40.00 per bottle, but liquid Freon, purchased from photographic suppliers, will do the same job. Yes, there is a way to circumvent 'letter bomb visualizer.' I'm not going to explain how, however."

Friday, December 11, 2015

Trump's Racism Is As American As Apple Pie

A few days ago, Daily Show correspondent Hasan Minhaj referred to Donald Trump "an extremist leader who came out of nowhere", who is "self-financed, recruits through social media, attracts his followers with a radical ideology to take over the world and is actively trying to promote a war between Islam and the West".

In other words, Minhaj said, Donald Trump is "White ISIS".

That line is good for a laugh, but the noxious Trump is not the real problem. He's simply another in a long line of popular racists tapping into an American vein of hatred that has always existed. Trump is a symptom, not the disease.

Chauncey DeVega, Salon:
Donald Trump's racism, nativism and bigotry are as American as apple pie.

The United States Constitution was in many ways a pro-slavery and pro-Southern document. American empire was built on the genocide of First Nations people and the enslavement of blacks. The United States Constitution also limited citizenship to white property-owning men only.

In total, for 83 percent of its history—from slavery through to the end of Jim Crow—the United States practiced legal white supremacy and racism against African-Americans. ...

When combined with a belief in American Exceptionalism, a state of selective amnesia is created where too many Americans want to remember the best of what the country is as opposed to taking an honest accounting of both its goodness and shortcomings.

Racism, bigotry and xenophobia are a core part of America’s national character.
Hamid Dabashi, Al-Jazeera English:
Trump is a symptom not the disease. He is a decoy, a diversion so outrageous, so disgusting, that it overwhelms and hides the real disease.

Trump's call to ban Muslims from entering the US, or his earlier remark to single out and profile Muslims, or his fellow Republican candidate Ben Carson stating point blank that no Muslim should ever become president, are only the most obnoxious versions of a much more deeply rooted bigotry and racism against Muslims that has been dominant in the US for a very long time, but particularly since 9/11.

If you are distracted by the noxious symptom of Trump you will forget that the democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton only a few weeks ago prided herself to have the entire Iranian people as her enemy. ...

The threat the Muslims face today ... is much deeper and firmly rooted in the political culture of a country that began its history by the mass murder of Native Americans, continued by the systematic slavery of African Americans, and most recently with a stroke of a pen ordered the US population of Japanese descent incarcerated in concentration (internment) camps during World War II.
Justin Mueller, The Hampton Institute:
Trump is not funny any more, because Trump is a fascist, and the "humor" of a fascist is to "punch down" on the already marginalized and oppressed while at the same time claiming victimhood. ... You don't need to successfully ignite a world war, acquire authority, or even kill many people in order to be a fascist. He is having a measurable effect, however, and will continue to even if he fails to win the primary or get elected. His militaristic and anti-immigrant talk is becoming infectious ... and leading to an escalation in the violent rhetoric and proposed policies of the already impressive authoritarianism and racism fueling the energetic base of the GOP. We can laugh at the absurdity of building 20 ft border walls with sentry turrets, underground electric fences, armed drone patrols, moats with sharks bearing lasers on their heads, or whatever stage of hysterical social hypochondria we are at, but a material consequence of this rhetoric will be more dead brown people for as long as we tolerate it. There is a large, angry, racist, xenophobic, reactionary-populist segment of the American populace, and they are taking Trump very seriously as a signal allowing them to embody their cretinous innermost selves.
It is worth noting that while Hillary Clinton has spoken out against Trump's racist rhetoric, she has "retained a campaign surrogate [Wesley Clark] who previously called for the internment of some Muslim-Americans":
If these people are radicalized and they don't support the United States and they are disloyal to the United States as a matter of principle ... it's our right and obligation to segregate them from the normal community for the duration of the conflict.
Clinton - a Democratic candidate that Bernie Sanders has promised to support for the White House - has so far not spoken out against Clark's suggestion of Muslim concentration camps.


Obama's Speech, Translated into Candor: "I gave a lofty major speech a couple of years ago about how a democratic society can't have perpetual war. I like to talk about such sugary ideals; a spoonful helps the doublethink medicine go down."

The US' Language of Terror and a History of Preemptive Aggression

Despite Global Blowback, US Military Demanding Bigger, Badder Drone War

And if you needed any more evidence that the US presidential campaign - and the media covering thereof - is nothing more than high-gloss entertainment, there is this: Report: ABC World News Tonight Has Devoted 81 Minutes To Trump, One Minute To Sanders

Saturday, December 05, 2015

Death Merchant #58: The Silicon Valley Connection

Computer-Age Counterplot

GA-1—Yankee ingenuity has triumphed again, creating a revolutionary supercomputer and missile guidance system. But in the hands of the Russians, the computer could spell Armageddon for the free world.

A specially trained group of KGB agents has managed to pull off a daring midday kidnapping of the inventor of the GA-1, Dr. Burl Martin, from near his laboratory in California's famed "Silicon Valley". Aided by a slick and ruthless motorcycle gang, Satan's Gentlemen, who "make the Hell's Angels look like Boy Scouts," the KGB plans to bring Martin to a Soviet submarine waiting off the Pacific coast. The CIA is short on time, and even shorter on clues.

Only Richard Camellion stands to bring the scientist back alive. But even the Death Merchant will have to use more than just his great cunning and awesome firepower to win at this deadly game of cat and mouse.


It was noted at the end of the previous Death Merchant book that Richard Camellion hated the state of California "for a variety of reasons". So I read The Silicon Valley Connection hoping for some Rosenbergerian rants about hippies, Hispanics, and homosexuals. I was disappointed. While Rosenberger's opening sentence is promising - "In Richard Camellion's opinion the only difference between Hell and Los Angeles was that one met a better class of people in Hell—and Hell was a lot safer." - he doesn't go very far with criticizing California. He describes LA as a "murderous mess" and refers to San Francisco as a "provincial" city that "cannot claim any kind of leadership in anything", except perhaps high numbers of gay men and women, but that's about it.

KGB agents have infiltrated many of the electronic firms in Silicon Valley, hoping to learn the secrets of "American military technology" and, in particular, the GA-1 microprocessor. The book opens with Dr. Norman Revlon meeting some Russians on a yacht in a Los Angeles port, where he will turn over the GA-1 plans for a cool million dollars. The FBI has learned about Revlon thanks to some recording devices secreted in the House of Pandemonium, a sleazy San Francisco nightclub run by "Dandy" Phil Butler, the head of a biker gang known as Satan's Gentlemen. But the FBI agents that infiltrated the group "vanished" and so the CIA was notified and they called in the Death Merchant ("and his efficient but usually illegal methods").

Camellion tails Revlon and sneaks on board the yacht, but is captured. However, he manages to get free of his captors, killing them all (and Revlon) in the process. Four cops, responding to reports of gunshots, are about to take Camellion into custody as he comes off the boat when the Death Merchant's accomplice (who had been waiting in a van) guns them down; a few minutes later, Camellion wipes out four more cops who arrive on the scene. Afterwards, Camellion's plan is to "black bag" Dandy Phil - Satan's Gentlemen are working with the KGB - and see what the CIA can learn. (During the meandering discussion, we get off-topic negative comments about the ACLU, Mexican immigrants, and the Freedom of Information Act. Because Rosenberger.)

At the same time, in the wake of the yacht catastrophe, the KGB decides to not lay low, but to move quickly and kidnap Dr. Burl Olin Martin, the inventor of the GA-1. The Russians offer Butler $300,000 to have his gang kidnap Martin, but Butler wants one million.

Camellion and his "Blood Bone Unit" go to the House of Pandemonium in San Francisco. While two agents pose as customers, the Death Merchant and two other men walk right into the club with fake FBI identification and go upstairs to Butler's office. The biker asks to see the warrant and holds it up to the light. He's looking for the Department of Justice watermark - but there isn't one! He yells that the men are imposters! Camellion and his two partners pull their weapons and fire, before retreating back down the hallway. They make it outside to the waiting van, but are pointed out to the cops by a nightclub employee (a "brill-o-head" that works in the kitchen). They elude the cops because Camellion unloads (from a secret tank in the van) a bunch of Superslick, a chemical compound that the cops' cars' wheels slip on while negotiating a corner, leading to a crash.

The focus then shifts to a "safe house" in a funeral home where the DM and some others discuss a file on Willis Colturvane, owner of the Big Green Mountain Outdoor Supply Company. Camelllion saw a file related to Colturvane in the nightclub office and figures that since he's got ties to the biker gang, he's probably knows something about the KGB and the microprocessor. Because why would that important information be comparmentalized? So after the Death Merchant works his magic in disguising himself and three others as "PLO terrorists", they go to the Majestic Mall to kidnap him. Things go somewhat awry - and Rosenberger spends way too much time describing the layout of the store and back rooms, which ends up being completely irrelevant information - but they make it out with Colturvane (whose name changes in this chapter to Coultervane).

Camellion learns that there is an abandoned winery that is in Coultervane's wife's name - and thinks that Dr. Martin may be being held there. So it's off to the winery - but Camellion and his men are too late. Martin was there, but he has been transferred. So they settle for shooting up a bunch of pig farmers and engaging in some deadly hand-to-hand combat. (They keep one guy as prisoner and pump him for info.)

Martin is being taken by a cabin cruiser to a Soviet sub waiting in international waters. It's a shot in the dark hoping to find the surfaced sub in thousands of square miles of Pacific Ocean, but they find it! A barrage of heavy artillery destroys the yacht and rips a hole in the top of the sub - preventing it from submerging. The Death Merchant and his fellow commandos rappel down onto the Russian sub and, after dropping tear gas canisters and grenades down the hole, clamor inside. They make their way through various bulkheads and a massive fire-fight breaks out.
The Strange One had used his ear syringe to squirt DMSO and novocaine on the back of Young's neck. In less time than it takes a tornado to blow away a house made of straw, the mixture of DMSO and novocaine penetrated Young's skin and entered his blood stream. Instantly, the goof felt as if he were being turned to stone. Here, there, almost everywhere feeling fled, and he suddenly got the idea that he was looking out of eyes that, along with his head, no longer existed! The numbness reached his lower leg, then his ankles and quickly spread to his feet. Unable to maintain his balance, he toppled.

So did Nelson "Black Charlie" Widside and Max Wittenbach, the latter of whom had tried to blow away Randy Kooney with a double-barrelled shotgun. Just in time, Kooney kicked up and out with his left leg, his foot knocking the barrels upward as Wittenbach pulled both triggers. The weapon boomed, the double blast blowing two holes in the ceiling. Before Wittenbach could lower the now empty weapon, Kooney's SIG P-210 autopistol cracked twice, the two nine-millimeter slugs stabbing Wittenbach in the chest. He was kicked back against Tag Varner, who had tried to take out Max Weems with a series of karate chops, stabs and blows. Weems had grinned, spit in his face and ducked every attack. Worse for Varner, Weems had counterattacked and had just put Varner on a merry-go-round of pain with a Yon Hon Nukite four-finger spear thrust to the solar plexus. In agony, Varner now had only one hope: that Dale "The Hammer" Vasquiez, rushing in at Weems from the right, could save him. Called "The Hammer" because he preferred to fight with a small hammer in his right hand—the kind with a series of screwdrivers in the hollow handle—Vasquiez couldn't save Varner and didn't. Weems didn't waste any time. Always short-winded, he turned the Coonan mag pistol toward the wild-eyed Vasquiez and pulled the trigger. The big weapon roared, the .357 bullet stabbing Vasquiez's stomach, blowing through his spine and hitting Nelson "Black Charlie" Widside in the lower left side. Wyatt Scronce, about to blow away Black Charlie with one of his S&W .357 mag revolvers, was just as surprised as Black Charlie when the latter let out a short "OH-UHHH!" twisted his face in agony and fell. Scronce marvelled when he saw the Death Merchant take out Sid "The Sorrowful" Uffel and Billy Valerius with a series of fast kicks—a leaping left side thrust kick that caught Valerius on the jaw, then a lightning quick spin to a "Dragon-Whipping-its-Tail" kick that was aimed at Uffel's groin. But the "tail" kick, falling short, only staggered Uffel. Snorting like an angry rhinoceros, Uffel rushed the Death Merchant who let the big dummy have a flying thunder kick squarely in the stomach, his foot almost giftwrapping Uffel's stomach and part of his liver around his backbone. Shock did the rest, and pain. The world went black and "The Sorrowful" started to sag.
In the end, Dr. Martin is found dead - having been drugged by the bikers, he was likely weak and killed by the concussion from the grenades. Still, for the Death Merchant, it's a victory: "The KGB didn't get to keep Doctor Martin and we put a big dent in the Soviet apparatus that concerns itself with the products turned out in Silicon Valley."

Early in the book, a couple of right-wing interjections come out of nowhere:
"Terminate the rest," Camellion said cheerfully. "Should one word of this leak to the general public, the stink would give even more encouragement to the Soviet Union than those ignorant Catholic Bishops and their 'ban the missiles' policy that wants to leave this country defenseless."
"It's a large area, even the comparatively small part we're searching," Baxter Lincolnwell said thoughtfully, "and there are numerous civilian ships down there. Radar can't tell the difference between friend and foe."

"In this case radar seems to be like American education which maintains everyone is 'equal' in learning ability," Tensor said.

"Fuck a duck!" exclaimed Wyatt Scronce. "It was those damned crosstown buses and the lowering of standards to graduate apes that wrecked American education."
Rosenberger also includes a bunch of off-topic political stuff, then says it is completely irrelevant to the plot of the book:
"The problem is to find a way of insuring national security with minimal damage to the American business community," Camellion said. "It's easier said than done. The way it's set up now, the Commerce Department reviews between 80,000 and 90,000 export applications a year. Maybe between eight to ten thousand of these applications involve national-security considerations. Out of these, the Commerce Department asks the Pentagon to look over two or three thousand. What the Pentagon wants is complete veto power over Commerce, that is, complete control over any export from the U.S. that could conceivably endanger U.S. security. So far, the Pentagon hasn't gotten to even first base. It's all politics. American businessmen would rather make a bunk and risk a thermonuclear war than do what is logical. But none of that helps us with this particular mission."
Cathy frowned. "Correct me if I'm wrong, but I was under the impression that the present administration is being extra tough with the USSR!"

"I mean those nitwits in the Carter administration," Royall said half-angrily. "It was that moron Carter who gave the USSR the world's largest electromagnet. I forget the date9. I do remember it was Carter and his 'good ole boys' who committed that bit of stupidity. And it was Carter and his 'boy scouts' that gave the Russians—all in the name of 'peace'—a giant computer that the Soviets used for military research.'"

The Death Merchant cleared his throat, at the same time thinking that the Mercury, when it exploded at the House of Pandemonium, had not injured anyone.

"This is all very interesting," he said lazily, "but it doesn't help with our present problem."

"Four things have changed the 20th Century: the automobile, Adolf Hitler, television, and the microprocessor—a 'computer on a chip.' Not that it matters. The fifth will be a shifting of the poles in 1999. The human race—what's left of it—can then start over."
(Epigraph from Richard J. Camellion, Votaw, Texas)

"Double fudge! ... Damn him to Section B of Hades!"

"Spain was dead before the sound could even reach his ears, the big flatnosed bullet striking him in the forehead just above the bridge of the nose, the terrible force splitting open his skull the way a hammer would squash an orange."

"The telephone on the starboard wall rang. Men on the bridge or in some other part of the vessel? It's certainly not the good tooth fairy—and not the kind of fairies they have in 'Frisco either!"

"Julia Maria Uzhgorod was not a beautiful woman, yet with her slim figure, she did not appear Russian."

"Yet she did have good, well-rounded breasts, and she obviously wasn't wearing a bra, unless it was made of the finest of tissue paper which permitted her nipples to struggle furiously for freedom beneath her crepe de chine blouse." (Later, Rosenberger will describe go-go dancers shaking "their milk bars at moronic customers".)

"Look, this is a worse mess than being in the middle of a Chinese tupperware party."

"He let out a loud cry of fear and anger, but he had less chance to live than a Nazi war criminal in the middle of Tel Aviv."

"Roy Gomoll, the other Satan's Gentlemen, who had a face like a concrete mixer ..."

"Ollie Wogers almost reached Tensor before he ran into the Strange One's foot, the tip catching him squarely in his jingle-jangles."

"This is enough to make me want to pee at the moon! Pterodactyl terds! We're at a dead end!"

"While the Russians are backward when compared to the West, they have the same capacity for intelligence as any other people of the human race."

"The Russians are so stupid they think Peter Pan is something to put under the bed! ... Or study for six weeks to pass a urine test! ... [S]o stupid that he believed testicles were something found only on an octopus. ... [S]earch a lumber yard for a draft board."

"Faster than a wino reaching for a fifth of 'Sweet Lucy," the Death Merchant was inside the watch room shoving a fresh magazine into his MAC-10."

Rosenberger continues to have trouble with military time. At two different points, he has 3:00 AM and 3:15 AM as 1500 and 1515 hours.

Future Volumes: In Chapter 3, Rosenberger mentions a CIA agent who has written about the existence of Atlantis. A footnote cites DM #67, The Atlantean Horror. How far in advance was Rosenberger writing these things? This book is #58! It turns out that The Atlantean Horror will end up as #64. ... And later in the book, Rosenberger goes off on a multi-page rant about the "Soviet slave system" and says he will deal with this topic in #68, Escape From Gulag Taria (which will be published as #67).

Thursday, December 03, 2015

American Uprising: The Untold Story Of America's Largest Slave Revolt, By Daniel Rasmussen

In January 1811, as many as 500 armed slaves walked off the cane plantations around New Orleans and moved en masse in an attempt to conquer that crucial port city.

American Uprising author Daniel Rasmussen calls this rebellion "the largest act of armed resistance against slavery in the history of the United States - and one of the defining moments in the history of New Orleans and, indeed, the nation". Two hundred years later, however, the revolt is virtually unknown and the names Kook, Quamana, Charles Deslondes, and Harry Kenner - men who risked slow torture and certain death in organizing the revolt - mean nothing to us now.

Members of the white power structure minimized the event almost immediately and, later, downplayed its implications. It has become what Rasmussen describes as "one of the most remarkable moments of historical amnesia in our national memory". In only 217 pages, Rasmussen offers a concise and necessary corrective, producing an informative, exciting account of this brief revolution, situating it in the political landscape of American expansion of the early 19th century as well as the economical system of plantation agriculture in the southern US.

Rasmussen covers a lot of ground, laying the foundation for the revolt by showing how the institution of slavery was crucial to the southern economy, how Louisiana plantations were known for their brutal conditions, and the importance of New Orleans as a port city on the Mississippi River. He cites as inspiration for the 1811 rebellion the 1791 uprising on the island of Saint Domingue, which lasted 12 years and led to the elimination of slavery and the formation of the independent nation of Haiti.

What Rasmussen calls "the greatest challenge to planter sovereignty in the history of North America" began on the rainy night of January 8, 1811. By the following morning, many white planters had received word of the slaves marching towards New Orleans and fled into the swamps. The rebellion was put down three days later by federal troops after an open-field shootout. The slaves never made it to New Orleans.

The planters held a tribunal and questioned many of the captured slaves. Many of the slaves were then killed and decapitated, with their heads nailed on pikes and their bodies left to rot along the roads and levees. The planters and government officials also minimized the scope of the revolt, dismissing it as "an act of base criminality", stripping it of its revolutionary and political meaning. The handful of historians who have bothered to look at the rebellion in subsequent years have generally accepted the government's white-washed version of events.

Rasmussen closes by looking at the western expansion of the US and slavery in the decades following the rebellion, the Civil War, and the civil rights movement. Rasmussen brings the story up to the present day (his book was published in 2011). He quotes Leon Waters, who founded the Louisiana Museum of African American History (in New Orleans) and runs Hidden History Tours, as seeing the 1811 uprising as "the intellectual antecedent of the American civil rights movement". He quotes independent scholar Albert Thrasher: "This revolt stimulated a whole range of revolutionary actions among the African slaves in the USA in subsequent years."

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Stephen King: Duma Key (2008)

Edgar Freemantle has made a lot of money with his Minnesota construction business before a horrific accident on the job leaves him with a damaged memory, a broken body, and a missing right arm. Along the way, Edgar's marriage falls apart. Depressed and thinking of suicide, Freemantle talks to his therapist, who suggests a change of scenery and a hobby, as "hedges against the night".

Edgar moves to the west coast of Florida, into a beach house he calls Big Pink, and begins drawing and painting - something in which he took pleasure when he was younger. His house overlooks the Gulf of Mexico and he begins painting sunsets. However, the subjects of his paintings soon change, and it's clear that Edgar has gained some paranormal power. He is at his easel constantly, producing an extraordinary number of emotionally-charged paintings in a relatively short period of time. He's not entirely clear on where this talent or creativity is coming from. His paintings eventually attract attention and he has a wildly successful showing. But all is not sunshine; there are some dark forces at work, as Edgar soon learns.

King's narrative is highly readable and enjoyable as he recounts Edgar's friendship with Wireman, a gregarious sage who lives down the beach as the caretaker of the elderly Elizabeth Eastlake, whose father once owned this particular strip of Florida coastline. King clearly draws on personal experience in describing Edgar's long and painful recovery from his accident (King was struck by a van and nearly killed in 1999) and he offers his thoughts on the creative process throughout the book, though he seems to hint that those impulses can come from a very dark place. It's only in the book's second half that Duma Key drifts into boilerplate horror.

Duma Key received good reviews, from the New York TimesEsquire and Pop Matters, as well as Kevin Quigley, who runs a website devoted to King and his work. However, while I enjoyed Duma Key more than the last few King novels in the Project, it disappointed me. I agree with the Telegraph (UK) reviewer who wrote that Duma Key "starts promisingly but descends into an overlong, self-indulgent stinker. ... The novel, in which King starts to weave a multi-layered tale of loss, hope and recovery, concluded with ghosts, zombies and killers."

One-third of the novel's 600 pages could have been cut with little negative impact on the plot. I enjoyed King's focus on painting/creativity, but my interest flagged as Edgar (with the assistance of two friends) attempted to vanquish the island's evil spirits and save both himself and his loved ones. I can accept some supernatural activity in my fiction - my favourite book of all-time features at least one wraith, after all - but I draw the line well before colossal reptiles and levitating lawn jockeys.

Next: Just After Sunset.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Death Merchant #57: The Romanian Operation

Freedom Run

The breathtaking but treacherous mountains of Romania become a deadly arena of intrigue. RSBK head, General Ion Gheorghe Constantriescu, wants to defect to the United States, and only the Death Merchant can get him out of the isolated Soviet bloc country. Two minor obstacles, however: Constantriescu will only leave Romania with his wife, a fiercely loyal Russian KGB agent assigned to spy on her husband. And the General's organization is doing its damndest to capture the Death Merchant.

Chances for success are extremely slim, like "trying to get the toothpaste back into the tube", as Camellion assesses the situation. But with a little help from a handful of Romanian freedom fighters, a monastery of Jesuit priests, a top-secret aircraft, and a deadly arsenal of weapons, the master of cunning and disguise plots an extraordinary kidnapping and escape.


The back cover of The Romanian Operation plainly lays out the task for Richard Camellion: get General Constantriescu and his family out of the country. It will be a tough task, as Romania is completely surrounded by other Communist countries: the Soviet Union to the north and east, Bulgaria to the south, and Hungary and Yugoslavia to the west.

The Death Merchant is in Bucharest with fellow agent JoAnn Jackson, in disguise and posing as an elderly German couple: Professor Hans Hermann Bach and his wife Greta. They are roused from their hotel bed by six armed agents of the Romania Brosko Stramosesc Kibuyturii (RSBK). With multiple guns drawn on him, Camellion fakes a heart attack, then springs into action "with such speed that the human eye could not follow his movements". They kill the RSBK agents and escape. After stealing a car, they transfer to public transportation and during the streetcar ride to the Zimbor Doll Factory, Camellion ponders his latest assignment.

Constantriescu wants to defect to the United States, but he insists that his wife Sonya and his two children be taken out of Romania with him. At a couple of points in the book, Camellion wonders what information Constantriescu could possess that would be so important to the U.S. Author Joseph Rosenberger never returns to this thread and so we never learn why the CIA undertook this dangerous operation.

A plan is formed to kidnap Constantriescu. Knowing that he suffers from arthritis and visits the hot springs at Baile Herculane a few times a year, someone is able to (slightly) poison him so he has leg pain and heads to the baths. He and his wife are stopped along the road by the Death Merchant and his crew and kidnapped. (The two children are left to fend for themselves, it seems.)

While in the custody of the Death Merchant, they travel to a few different spots, including hiding in a few rooms hidden under the stone floor of the Moldevita Monastery, founded in 1466. They hope that a special U.S. military plane - across between a jet and a helicopter - can land on the monastery's grounds and whisk them away. Unbeknownst to the Death Merchant, there is a hidden transmitter in Sonya Constantriescu's handbag and the local militia is able to pinpoint their location. By the time Camellion finds the transmitter, it is too late.

They battle the RSBK and escape from the monastery through a tunnel - and make their way through the Alps to a cave known to the local group helping them. It is stocked with food and blankets. However, they must return to the monastery to be air-lifted out of Romania. (While walking through the snowy canyon, Camellion experiences a bit of deja vu about being in a similar canyon "in another land, in another time, and as another person". (I have no idea what Rosenberger is getting at here. Also, he seems to get confused in his narrative: "Camellion moved through the snow ... each step an effort, for the snow was heavy. Fortunately, it was dry and not all that heavy.")

They make their way back to the monastery and have one final battle before being taken away to safety - lifting off just as RSBK reinforcements arrive. The book ends as the men (and one woman) escape. All we know is that in two weeks, Camellion would be in California, for his next mission.

Rosenberger's political and social rants return in this volume, with a strong focus on the evils of U.S. immigration. (Any and all typos are in the original.)
Prahova's large eyes blinked rapidly behind the large plastic frame of his glasses. He said calmly, "I was referring to the United States being the only nation in the world—that I know of—that works against its own national interests. I don't think you can disagree with me. ... The United States policy of immigration ... Any kind of people can get into the United States. You admit any and all of them, even people who cannot read and write. For that reason the United States is no longer the great power it used to be. Your nation's present deterioration stems from its loss of racial homogeneity and racial consciousness and from the the alienation of most of your citizens."

Called out Hisamic, pulling a board from the top of a crate, "Your government is doing nothing about the millions pouring across its southern border. Some months ago one of your national news magazines called in a 'Brown Horde' that is costing your taxpayers millions.2 It is a pity that Americans have yet to learn what we Europeans have known for centuries: that no multi-racial society can be a healthy society. The United States government has made itself a laughing stock with its theory of 'equality.' All men are not equal in ability and morality, and to attempt to push all men forward on a broad front only succeeds in bringing down all standards. Do you disagree with me, my friends?" ...

FN2: 18.5 percent of undocumented women of Mexican descent, living in Los Angeles and interviewed after giving birth at county hospitals, said their families received welfare.
Rosenberger then shatters the fourth wall, listing a bunch of unsourced claims - not in a footnote, but in the narrative:
In a study of illegal aliens in New York City who had been caught, 13 percent of the Haitians and 29 percent of the Dominicans said they were receiving unemployment insurance.

A California survey found that nearly 25 percent of illegal aliens received unemployment benefits.

An Illinois survey suggests that illegals collect more than $50-million in unemployment benefits from that state; and that 46-51 percent of illegal aliens apply for unemployment benefits.

The above is from the 10-6-82 Phoenix Gazette, and was reproduced in the Daily News Digest, whose editor stated that "This is a natural result of a welfare state. Consider what we Americans are going to see when economic and political unrest in Mexico drives millions more people across the border into the United States!"
Later, Camellion offers his thoughts on the idea of "racism" (and, of course, immigration):
JoAnn Jackson laughed softly and looked at the Death Merchant. "You sound like a racist," she mocked. "I always thought you believed in the salvation of all men."

Ignoring her scathing sarcasm, Camellion hooked a thumb into the handkerchief pocket of his tweed sports jacket.

"'Racism' doesn't mean closing one's eyes to reality," he said. "I don't pay the expenses of other ranchers in Texas, where I live. Why should I help pay the expenses of aliens, for people who aren't even U.S. citizens? This is government-enforced 'charity.' Defenders of such a policy only kid themselves when they say it's the 'American way.' Nonsense. Charity cannot be orchestrated by any government without the will of the people—and find me a single American who wants part of his taxes to go for the support of people who don't even have a right to be here? And we must remember the kind of people who come to our shores, with the exception of Europeans and the Japanese. Your more skilled, intelligent and successful citizens of the countries stay where they are. It is the less fortunate, the less skilled and the less educated that come into 'Welfare America' for whatever they can get. Some of them do pull themselves up. The vast majority do not. They end up on welfare roles and, as President Reagan says—and I believe it is true—there are jobs out there available to those who have skills. The illegal aliens don't have any skills. . . ."
It's unclear how Camellion pays for "the expenses for aliens", since in earlier books, he proudly states that he pays no taxes on the $100,000 he receives for each mission.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) receives particular condemnation:
With his plate, Chris Ankers had sat down at another table and was saying to Josef Hisamic in a friendly voice, "I agree with what you and Stefan said about American society being fragmentated. The American people would like to kick out every parasitic spic. They can't because of self-serving politicians who kiss the ass of every minority group in order to get votes. No doubt if two Martians landed, the politicians would kiss their butts too, then ask the little green men to vote for them."

"There's more to it than that," said Mund, filling his plate. "It's all the bullshit 'freedom' organizations and the do-gooders—like Catholic priests and bishops—who are constantly butting into politics. The worst of the lot is the ACLU—the American Civil Libery Union. The ACLU is all for the 'undocumented worker' and adores common criminals. Your wife can be raped and your children's throats cut by some piece of scum. The ACLU will be right on the spot, making sure that the trash gets his 'rights.' They'll give all sorts of excuses—the criminal was 'poor' or he was 'abused' in childhood or whatever. Naturally the ACLU is against the death penalty.4 Yes sir, the ACLU has a positive genius for coddling the worst kind of criminal."

FN4: In Arizona the ACLU is even against roadblocks to stop drunk drivers! The fact that such roadblocks save lives is of no concern to the ACLU.
Switching on the noise filter of the set, Camellion gave a low chuckle. "The Russian pig farmers have always reminded me of the American Civil Liberties Union in my country, the good old ACLU that is helping wreck American society."

Hisamic's face darkened with concern. "Surely this ACLU in your land can't be compared to the viciousness of the Russians?"

"Not to Soviet viciousness—No. To Russian hypocrisy—yes. For example, my government is thinking of passing a Family Protection Act, a bill that would help to make the family more of a unit and protect the morals of children. Believe it or not, the ACLU is dead set against this bill. Their reason is that the bill, if passed, would deny U.S. taxpayer monies from being used in colleges for the study of homosexuality. But at the same time, the ACLU is opposed with a passion to little children saying a single prayer in schools! In short, it's fine with the ACLU to spend federal bucks for perversion and unnatural sex acts, but a 'crime' to fund any activity that even remotely relates to religion."

"Their attitude is wrong," Hisamic said simply.

"Of course their attitude is wrong. The ACLU also has it all backward when it comes to crime. They say that if it's true that you can judge a civilization by the state of its prisons, then the U.S. is in 'deep trouble.' The truth is that you can judge a civilization by the kind of maniacs who run around free and are not in prison! And if any organization has helped to keep the trash and the scum and the crazies on the streets, it's the ACLU!"
Camellion is clearly confused in his thinking. At one point he says he doesn't want any of his taxes to be used for anything religious, but then he gets upset that the ACLU doesn't want federal money (i.e., tax money) used for anything religious.

One of Rosenberger's biggest bugaboos (judging from what he editorializes about in these books) is that U.S. politicians bend over backwards to give black people "extra rights". Here he gets so worked up, he's typing in ALL CAPS!! During their time in the monastery's hidden rooms, Sonya Constantriescu says, "None of you terrorists—nor you Ion—will ever reach the nigger-loving United States—never!"
"Tch, tch, tch, such racism!" mocked JoAnn. "But that's par for you Communists. You preach equality for all; yet you're against blacks."

"We Communists have more sense than to think black apes and savages can be 'equal' in anything. In your country, a nigger can commit crimes and scream 'racism' when he's caught.3 The pity of it is that your nigger-loving government listens to him. Lenin was right. Germany did militarize herself out of existence. England expanded herself into being a third rate power, and the United States will eventually put itself out of existence by pampering to savages and the world's trash."

FN3: An exaggeration, to be sure; yet there is an element of truth to Sonya's statement. For example, in 1982, five blacks gang-raped a thirteen-year-old girl in a park in Bexley, a Columbus, Ohio suburb. The two young white boys with the girl were forced to commit oral acts with the girl, and then forced to fellate the blacks.
After the five blacks were arrested and brought to trial, the NAACP screamed "discrimination!" Blacks charged that a "big deal" was being made because the defendants "are black" and the rape victim was "white." "Why, they consider us animals," said the blacks. . . . From the Columbus Citizen-Journal.
In December of 1982, when a black was executed for murder in Texas, after FIVE SOLID YEARS OF APPEALS, the American Civil Liberties Union maintained that the condemned's rights had been "violated" because HE HAD NOT BEEN GIVEN AMPLE OPPORTUNITY TO APPEAL! It is this kind of illogical thinking that is destroying the fabric of American society.
As usual, in none of these conversations does anyone put forth much of a contrary viewpoint. (Also, we have no way of verifying the accuracy of Rosenberger's reporting.) Perhaps a character might quibble with one or two strands of thought, but even then, he is generally forced to admit that most of what the bigoted speaker says is right.

An amusing note: On page 146, we are told that Camellion "considered racial jokes a mark of stupidity"!


Camellion "had been born with a memory that was 99.9 percent photographic. He could read a page and remember it almost word for word ten years later, including the number of the page, the title of the book, and its author."

"Damn! Double fudge and curly, crinkly crap!"

The CIA was "as suspicious of General Constantriescu as a KKK member at a NAACP convention".

"Camellion wasn't the type of man one could question, even subtly. He was a loner. Open your mouth the wrong way to him and all you'd get would be the fuzzy end of the lollipop."

"Well, crunch my corn!"

"This makes as much sense as Liz Taylor going to the Midwest on a 'peace' mission."

"Feeling like a black man being forced to sing 'White Christmas' at gunpoint, Camellion watched Prahova who continued to count the pegs ..."

"He stared at the large hole that the 88mm missile had torn in the north wall. As empty as the head of a fundamentalist."

"Death was the same as entering into another country were [sic] the customs are different and the language strange—Sort of like living in California!"

At one point, Rosenberger includes the footnote: "Although this is a work of fiction, the names are real." The book includes a "Special Dedication to: Miron G. Badrokov (the real "Stefan Prahova" - who did escape from Romania)".

Saturday, November 07, 2015

Stephen King: Blaze (as Richard Bachman) (2007)

Stephen King refers to Blaze as "a trunk novel", written in late 1972/early 1973 and then packed away. "I thought it was great while I was writing it, and crap when I read it over." Many, many years later, King revised his thinking.
"I thought it was pretty good - certainly better than Roadwork [published in 1981 as Richard Bachman's third novel], which I had, at the time, considered mainstream American fiction. ... I thought Blaze could be re-written and published without too much embarrassment ... I thought it could be a minor tragedy of the underclass, if the re-writing was ruthless. To that end, I adopted the flat, dry tones which the best noir fiction seems to have ... I worked fast, never looking ahead or back, wanting also to capture the headlong drive of those books ... I also determined to strip all the sentiment I could from the writing itself, wanted the finished book to be as stark as an empty house without even a rug on the floor."
Kevin Quigley: "The story is unrelenting. True to his intentions, King has crafted an economical read, as quickly paced as the earliest Bachman novels. ... In tone and speed, Blaze recalls the doomed march of The Long Walk; the more complex and tragic back story brings to mind Bart Dawes in Roadwork. ... [T]here's little actual hope to be found in these pages, so what we are left with is a suspicious sort of compassion."

I completely agree with Quigley. For the most part, King succeeded. The sentences are short and sharp - the tone and rhythm was a significant change from the last few King books I have tried to read (from the mid-00s). It's hard to know without seeing the original manuscript, but there were times when a sentence felt redundant (or included a brand name) and I wondered if this had been one of King's later additions. The tone and bleak outlook of Blaze is in keeping with the other early Bachman novels, all of which are worth reading except for one. Stay far away from The Regulators (which is not an early Bachman novel).

Clayton Blaisdell Jr. is mixed up in petty crime and eventually finds a protector and friend in George Rackley. The two men pull many cons together, but roughly three months before the book begins, George is knifed to death during a card game - and Blaze is alone. (During the first few months after George's death, Blaze swears George is nearby and he can hear his voice talking to him. Fortunately, there is nothing supernatural going on. It's simply in Blaze's head.) Before he died, George talked about pulling one last big con - stealing a baby and holding it for ransom. When Blaze reads in the paper about the baby of a very rich family living nearby, he sets out to do the job himself. Of course, Blaze is doomed to fail.

King's narrative alternates between the present day, as Blaze prepares for and pulls off the kidnapping and is then forced to care for a three-month old infant during a cold Maine winter, and incidents in Blaze's past. It is a very depressing tale. Blaze's mother dies shortly after giving birth and his father is physically abusive, at one point throwing the young child down a flight of stairs. This results in a large dent in Blaze's forehead and his slow mental faculties.

Blaze is placed in a group home called Hetton House. He is periodically "adopted" by various couples, but it usually turns out to be a farmer and his wife looking for free labor during harvest time. Once the crops are picked, Blaze is returned to Hetton House because the situation "simply didn't work out".

While a reader knows Blaze cannot possibly succeed in getting away clean with the ransom money, the story does have its uplifting and tender moments, as Blaze bonds with the baby, at one point thinking that the money is unimportant and as long as the two of them are together, they will survive. A few incidents in Blaze's past hint at happiness - when he and a friend find a wallet full of cash and go AWOL from Hetton House on a bus to Boston for a few days, when Blaze gets a job picking blueberries and is accorded some responsibility by the kind-hearted owner of the farm - which simply makes the rest of his story doubly tragic.

Next: Duma Key.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Death Merchant #56: Afghanistan Crashout

Rescue Mission

"With the help of Allah," a handful of fanatic Afghanistan freedom fighters plan an all-out attack on the Soviet high command in the mountain city of Kabul. But the odds are staggering: The Russians have twenty thousand crack troops and the most sophisticated weaponry; the rebels are poorly organized, and still depend on knives for fighting and carrier pigeons for communication. Everyone, including the rebels, thinks that the attack will probably be a suicide mission. Even the Death Merchant has his doubts.

But the CIA needs Richard Camellion to get two key Western spies out of the Soviet-controlled Central Prison in Kabul, a hellhole of inhuman slaughter and torture. Only the Death Merchant could attempt such a daring rescue, but even he'll have to use more than just his great cunning and deadly firepower to pull this one off.


Richard Camellion is in Afghanistan ("the hillbilly haven of Asia", according to author Joseph Rosenberger), with a group of Shi'a Muslims led by Khair Bahauddin Ghazi. As noted on the back cover, the Death Merchant is trying to reach the Central Prison in Kabul and rescue two agents who were inadvertently swept up in a mass arrest.

Ghazi and his tribe are fighting the Russians, who have invaded Afghanistan (as they did for real in late 1979; this book was published in August 1983). The Death Merchant and three others - Rod Hooppole, Ghazi's son Ismail, and another Afghan - have been hiking for two weeks on their way to the prison when they spy a Russian mine-laying unit, complete with armoured cars and grenade launchers. Ghazi wants to attack the Russians and basically taunts Camellion into going along with his seemingly suicidal scheme. (Of course, all of the Russians are wiped out.)

Back at the complex of caves in the lower hills of the Karakorum mountain range, Ghazi reveals his big plan: to attack the city of Kabul in three weeks and drive the Soviet forces out. Ghazi has been amassing men and weapons on the outskirts of the city for awhile. Camellion thinks this idea is pure suicide; the Afghans' methods are so rustic, they rely on human runners and carrier pigeons for communication. (Yet, the CIA is supplying them with weapons.*) Ghazi agrees with Camellion to a point, admitting that while he expects to triumph, he'll likely lose 80% of his 7,000-mujahideen fighting force.

* The US is doing this covertly, of course. Rosenberger says that is because the US does not want to trigger WWIII. (But wouldn't the Russians already know (or deeply suspect) from whom the Afghans are getting their weapons?) Ghazi says that the US should care deeply about what happens in Afghanistan: "The Soviet Union's invasion of our country is a major international disaster which in the long run will adversely affect the United States." In this, Rosenberger was quite prescient.

As they are discussing the Kabul mission, they receive word that Soviet helicopters and tanks are approaching the base. First, the town of Bashawal is destroyed, reduced to smoking rubble. ("The Cosmic Lord of Death descended on Bashawal.") The Afghans fire some RPGs and destroy five of the copters. Close to 400 Russian troops begin to advance up a hill - and the Afghans hold their fire, waiting until the Russians advance far enough that a retreat is impossible. Camellion orders the Afghans to charge - the "brain-washed Russian goofs" have walked right into a trap! An epic firefight erupts, a battle that is big enough to be saved for the end of the book. Rosenberger describes the shooting and hand-to-hand combat in his usual overly descriptive way, informing us of the paths the many slugs take through human bodies.

After the fight, approximately 100 people begin the long march to Kabul (190 kilometers), most of it through the Hindu Kush mountains. At some point, Camellion feels that the mission "is no longer feasible", that the attack on Kabul will surely fail and the chances of rescuing the two men in the prison are next to nil; he wants to be helicoptered out when a supply drop is made. The CIA doubles his usual $100,000 fee and for that reason and some others that are not too clear, the Death Merchant agrees to continue. The march continues through the Nuristan region, and past a communication center in Failiya (which apparently is in Iran); they traverse a huge gorge known as Aknib Limok (fictional) and encounter an encampment of Kuchis. A week later, they are at the ruins of Shahri-i-Chulghula (also fictional (or misspelled)).

When they make it to the Zaranj plain, on the outskirts of Kabul, where the CIA will make the weapons/supplies drop, they are once again attacked by Soviet helicopters. This assault is over very quickly, though, as the mujahideen fire Stinger missiles and blow the pig farmers' "eggbeaters" out of the sky.

While drawing up the plans to attack the seemingly impregnable Central Prison from all four sides, Rosenberger goofs on military time yet again. It is daylight at 0400, someone asked if darkness will be a problem at 1500, and 1500 is also referred to as "three o'clock in the morning".

Afghanistan Crashout ends when Camellion et al. kill all of the prison guards and free the captives. We hear about the Afghans' subsequent attacks on the Soviet headquarters and airbase in a one-page Aftermath. They did not succeed and nearly 4,000 mujahideen were killed. But Camellion's mind is elsewhere, as the men hike out of Afghanistan to be picked by helicopter in India. (One of the two jailed agents that Camellion was trying to rescue died in his cell before the Death Merchant arrived; the second one dies in his sleep during the trek to India, two days after being rescued.) The Death Merchant will fly first to London and then on to Romania for his next mission.

Like the last few DM volumes, this book was a real slog in some places. Rosenberger's goofiness from the earliest books is long gone, and you really get the sense that he saw the series at this point as a job, and perhaps not a very pleasant one. While he still includes a ton of research (which is sometimes interesting, though it's hard to know if any of it is fictional) and will occasionally offer a poetic turn of phrase, often when describing the climate or specific terrain, Rosenberger's narrative is overly serious; there is a heaviness to the book. Rosenberger puts a lid on the usual discussions of politics in this book, though Camellion does muse that the internal collapse of the United States is "right around the corner":
"[U]nless something was done quickly by 1990 the American transportation system would collapse. Aliens from Asia, from Mexico and Latin America had already ruined many major cities. The demise of their economy and the free enterprise system was staring the American people in the face, while lawlessness was increasing, due to Kennedy-type liberalism.1

FN1: All this was foreseen by a recent symposium with both U.S. mayors and scientists in attendance.
There is also a serious increase in gun porn, with Rosenberger taking time out to describe exactly how some weapons work:
The Death Merchant sighted down the updated M16, thinking about the RAW, the Rifleman's Assault Weapon that was designed to give all riflemen the instant capability of defeating such obstacles as concrete bunkers, walls, and armored vehicles. The system required very little training to use; it was as easy as fixing a bayonet. The man firing attaches the unit to his rifle, pulls out the safety pin and fires an ordinary cartridge at any target, using standard sights. Within a quarter of a second, the RAW is propelled from its launch frame—attached to the barrel of the rifle—and flies straight to the target in less than two seconds with zero trajectory.

The RAW's launcher frame holds a tube which is free to rotate on bearings and which contains rear vents, as well as two side vents consisting of two curved tubes that are at opposing right angles to the axis of the main tube. The projectile—it resembles a round metal ball—fits into the main tube and up against part of the main launcher support. It is this portion of the support that has a hole drilled through it which connects with the muzzle sleeve. The removal of the safety pin unblocks a firing pin at the lower end of the hole where it meets the body of the projectile. When the bullet leaves the muzzle of the rifle, some of the expanding gas flows down the launcher-tube hole and through the bracket. With the safety pin removed, the gas is free to strike the firing pin, driving it into a primer in the rear of the projectile and starting the rocket motor that drives the five inch diameter ball-projectile. As gas is expelled from the rocket, it is directed through the two right-angled tubes, causing the main tube and the "ball" to spin sixty revolutions per second. At launch, the gases are directed through the 'rear vents and diverted away from the man pulling the trigger.

The RAW warhead is armed through a conventional thrust/pin mechanism. Upon contact, the front part flattens, giving a "squash head" effect for the thirty-four ounces of TNT that explodes. The RAW is rifle munition with artillery power.
Nevertheless, I'm committed to reading the rest of the books in the series - or perhaps I should be committed for doing so. I'm already looking forward to going back in time and reading the other series Rosenberger wrote in the early-to-mid 70s (Murder Master and Kung Fu: Mace). I fully expect those books to have plenty of the humour and wackiness Rosenberger displayed in the earliest Death Merchant volumes.


Opening line: "By the big black beard of Boob McNutt, this just isn't my day!"

"Camellion aimed with all the precision of a newly married virgin bride reading a marriage manual ..."

"The Afghans are nuttier over 'macho' than the refried bean boys south of the border."

"In contrast, Mului Imu was killed outright by the eighth grenade, the hundreds of pieces of shrapnel turning him into bloody Afghanburger ..."

When the battle begins: "The show was on the road! The curtain had just gone up. But it beats being an oboe player!"

"To the Death Merchant a Russian was about equal to a spirochete, the microorganisms that cause syphilis."

"Grojean can go fly a milk bottle!"

"The Death Merchant despised communists of any nationality, disarmament freaks, people who grabbed at him, cults, and green beans - and in that order."

"Damn pig farmers! They dropped out of first grade - when they were thirty!"

"What do you get when you cross a Mexican with an octopus?" "I don't know, but you should see it pick lettuce!"

Footnote, page 80: "Richard Camellion has written three books on bare-handed kills. Two are not available to the public. The third is: Assassination: Theory & Practice. Paladin Press, P.O. Box 1307, Boulder, Colorado 80306." I have a copy of this book, which was published in 1977. Paladin published another book "written" by Camellion, Behavior Modification: The Art Of Mind Murdering, the following year. I wonder why Rosenberger didn't mention that one; perhaps because it concerns mind-control and not "bare-handed kills"?

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Death Merchant #55: Slaughter In El Salvador

Revolutionary Rampage

The tiny Central American nation of El Salvador becomes a seething cauldron of blood as right wing death squads and leftist guerrillas engage in brutal warfare. Civilians die by the thousands and the fragile pro-Western government teeters on the brink of collapse.

The turmoil is an opportunity for Moscow - and a deadly challenge for the Death Merchant. Wanting neither a Moscow stooge or a bloody dictator in power, the US assigns Richard Camellion to terminate the crazed leaders of each extremist faction.

Luck won't be enough, the Death Merchant will need all the firepower he can get - because his mission will put him in the middle of a jungle holocaust.


At the end of the last "incredible" Death Merchant adventure, Richard Camellion asked H.L. Kartz if he'd like to accompany him to El Salvador on his next mission. Kartz - a Hitler-loving nihilist - said yes, and as the two men (along with Wilbur Fainn) are sneaking through a coffee plantation on an assignment to terminate the six leaders of the right-wing terrorist group, Escuadron de la Muerte (Squadron of Death), the racist Kartz is going on about how "this Central American tortilla trash is only one step above the gooks in Vietnam". Charming.

The Death Merchant's mission in Slaughter in El Salvador is to wipe out the six high-level leaders of the Sandinistas, as well as a handful of top Cuban and Russian officials, at a meeting in Managua. The Death Merchant and a force of five are in disguise as KGB officials (Camellion's alias is Colonel Viktor Maikop Kizhnatsky) who are supposedly late for the meeting. They get ushered up to the fourth floor conference room in the National Institute for Agrarian Reform and commence firing as soon as possible. The slaughter is over fairly quickly - the men at the table have no time to draw their weapons - and then it's a battle with the building's guards as the Death Merchant et al. head to the seventh floor and then to the roof, where a helicopter will be waiting to carry them to safety.

Before that, there is a trek into the Mountains de Huapi with members of the Paribundo Marti National Liberation Front (who are also fighting the "Sandys") and various shoot-outs that all seem like killing time (and filling pages) before crashing the big Managua meeting. At one point, one of the El Salvadorians tells Camellion that he is sick of hearing Kartz's racist opinions. The Death Merchant is of little help: "Racism is a tricky word that has many meanings to many people. ... I don't agree or disagree with what he said ... I will say this: any man who thinks all races are equal in abilities is an idiot."

Early in the book, author Joseph Rosenberger offers a short explanation of how the United States government "has always meddled in Central America":
As far back as 1904, President Theodore Roosevelt issued the "Roosevelt Corollary" to the Monroe Doctrine, declaring that the United States was entitled to police Central America.

U.S. troops were sent to Honduras in 1911 to protect American business interests and property. Between 1912 and 1933, U.S. Marines periodically fought Nicaraguan peasant rebels whose fanatical resistance made Washington worry about "Bolshevik" influence close to the Panama Canal. Before the Marines left they had established a National Guard that soon placed Anastasio Somoza Garcia in power and created a dynasty that lasted almost fifty years.

Then there was Guatemala! mused the Death Merchant. In 1954 Washington helped overthrow the Guatemalan government. Well, D.C. didn't have much of a choice. Not only had President Jacobo Arbenz Guzman expropriated property belonging to the United Fruit Company, but his wife, being a communist, had other agrarian reforms in mind. Those two idiots should have known better than to try to buck American Big Business.

Aided by the CIA, Guatemalan exiles invaded their homeland and overthrew Arbenz.

And here we are in El Salvador, trying to convince "God's Forgotten" that we only want to help!
It's a blunt history lesson I didn't expect from Rosenberger, who from all appearances was extremely conservative. Rosenberger even castigates President Ronald Reagan for giving tax breaks to the rich. Fainn refers to Kartz as "the Rolls-Royce of hit men" and then states (complete with footnote!):
"You now, speaking of Rolls-Royces, I suppose you know how our dear President—he who loves the poor!—has handed Rolls-Royce owners a tax break, giving them seventy grand tax-break rebates—two-thirds of the purchase price of their jazzy jalopies. A working stiff has to depend on his own wallet, but a rich guy can buy a new Rolls and Uncle Sam will save him seventy thousand dollars.7

7: Fact.
In Rosenberger's world, there is always time - even during the most tense part of a mission - for a discussion/argument about the evils of religion:
"God help us all!" breathed Leon Sunol, squeezing the fingers of his right hand. "It will be only with the help of the Almighty that we get out of this alive."

Kartz lit a cigarette. "You mean it will be with the help of firepower," he said with a sneer out of the corner of his mouth. "You can leave out God and his holy joes. In fact, it's the holier-than-thou morons and their unrealistic ideals who are making it easy for the Russians, not only in the U.S., but down here in Central America. If you spi— if you people down here had brain one, you'd boot out all the ministers and priests, and that includes the so called lay missionaries who are working with the rebels and their 'noble cause.'"

"You're really something, H.L.," exclaimed Fainn. "It seems to me that every time you bump your gums together you're castigating someone or something. Don't you ever have anything good to say?"

Kartz gave Fainn a You-dumb-banjo-butt look. "I say it how it is. Those who can't stand the heat of reality can get the hell out and hide in the cooler of unreality. That's what the Jesus boys and girls are doing—helping communist revolutionaries and thinking they're 'serving God' and doing 'His will.' The idiots! How in hell do they know what God wants!"

"He's right." The Death Merchant came to Kartz's defense, not so much because he liked the man and admired his professional kill ability, but because he respected truth in any form. "I'll give an example. The nuclear-freeze movement and the phony peace drive are inspired and directed from Moscow. The Soviet-controlled World Peace Council works with American groups to promote disarmament. The nuclear freeze program, for example, has been coordinated by the American Friends Service Committee under its disarmament program. This outfit is active with the World Peace Council. It was also the American Friends Service Committee that helped found the U.S. Peace Council."

The Death Merchant went on, "All over Central America and South America, priests and Protestant ministers are helping Communist especially the damned Jesuits. In fact, the Jesuits are so bent on overthrowing governments that the Pope has told them in no uncertain terms to stay out of local politics; and the damn fools think they are doing it in the cause for 'peace.'"

Kartz blew cigarette smoke toward the sky, then snarled, "You know what 'peace' means to the Soviets? It means the killing of all opposition to Soviet-dominated territories, whether it's by mass murder as in Afghanistan, by slow starvation and overwork as in their own Gulags, or by random terrorist attacks as in the target populations of Latin America and Africa." He tossed away his cigarette and practically glared at the Death Merchant. "Or we going to sit here and gab, or get on with it?"
Remarkably calm as he always was when the Cosmic Lord of Death was close by, Richard Camellion was not interested in the glories of Managua. Every nation has its "beautiful" cities with all their past and present "glories," their monuments and "sacred" places that its people cherish—and that in a twinkling of an eye can be turned into dust. It was all relative, all meaningless when viewed within the framework of reality—If the sun turned into a nova tomorrow and this planet evaporated, not the tiniest wave of discontent would ripple through even our own galaxy, much less the Universe. In less than thirty years, Managua would be nothing but rubble, its buildings deserted, most of its people dead and scattered throughout the jungle. And so will New York, Berlin, Moscow, Paris, and all the rest of the "great" cities of the world. But the THEN does not have anything to do with the NOW!

So far, he reflected, they had not encountered any difficulty. The drop-off at Pedro Melgarejo's small farm had gone as scheduled. They had spent a restless night and had left the farm on schedule. Not once had any Sandinista, or group of Sandys, stopped the jeep to ask the occupants for identification, none of which surprised Camellion. Other Sandinistas, seeing Sunol, Dorticos and Tristaban in similar uniforms, assumed everyone in the jeep belonged there and that the vehicle was on some official errand.

The jeep was soon skirting the guajiros barrio, a tremendous district of dilapidated houses, the poor section that was soon far to the rear as Tristaban turned onto the Autopista, the wide highway that would take them to the Avenida Andres, the long tree-lined boulevard that moved through the center of the city and divided it into the east and the west sections.

Traffic increased as they moved deeper into the city . . . a trickle of traffic, the kind one would find in Moscow, or Warsaw, or any city in any communist country. The automobiles were also similar to the vehicles one would find in a nation in the pig-farmer bloc—small East German and Czech cars. There weren't, however, any Soviet-built vehicles. Another difference was that there were quite a few American cars on the streets, these having been imported before the revolution.

Ricardo Tristaban called back in a loud voice, "Americanos, see how few cars there are? This is due not only to a lack of gasoline, but to a total lack of turistas. Rush hour used to be a bullfight in the streets with every car a blaring beast and every pedestrian a toreador. Not even the sidewalks were safe. All that has changed. People are afraid. At night the streets are deserted."

"Si, even the prostitutes have been driven out of business," said Leon Sunol. "Ironically, driving out the prostitutes is the only social good the Sandinistas have accomplished, and then it was unintentional."

Emilio Dorticos said, "So far they have not put any restrictions on religion. They have expelled many foreign priests and ministers. So far it's nothing like what is taking place in El Salvador where they're murdering the Religious left and right!"

Those weird "laughing" noises from Kartz. "Yeah, both the Left and the Right are knocking off the holy joes and janes."

"With the communists, religious liberty never lasts long," said Leon Sunol. "What kind of a nation can you have without religious freedom?"

And often . . . what kind of a nation do you have WITH religious freedom? The Death Merchant recalled the words of Lucretius: "How suasive is religion to our bane."

"Religious freedom" seems to be on par with stupidity, hyprocrisy, and brutality . . . with opponents of abortion committing arson against abortion clinics, and kidnaping and threatening death against those who disagree with them—all in the name of Jesus!

With opponents of the prayer-in-school amendment being reviled, threatened, and their patriotism impugned—all in the name of Jesus!

With books being banned by dangerous, uneducated boobs who tell us that God cannot stand Kurt Vonnegut!

I wonder what kind of God these people have? I wonder what kind of people are these, these screaming and raving Bible thumpers, these twentieth century Torquemadas who, with their inquisition of hate, are so quick to curse, so slow to forgive, so in love with compulsion, and so very ignorant of the very Bible in which they so fervently believe; these moronic sadists who could rationalize the worst moral crimes by saying it was "God's will" . . . who could totally ignore the real teachings of Jesus, who told his followers to pray in private . . . the same Christ who praised the publican's quiet prayer in the shadow over the Pharisee's public display of righteousness, who said religious acts should not be ostentatious, should almost be done on the sly, so that the left hand does not know what the right hand is doing!

On the sly!
The Death Merchant wanted to vomit. Modern religion in the United States was a symphony of loud noise, with screaming and screeching of "The Word," on television and radio productions aimed at the gullible millions—all of it orchestrated by legal con artists with an eye on the Almighty dollar.

I rather suspect God finds it hardest to hear prayers that are boomed from loudspeakers!
Camellion is referred to early in the book as "an amateur paleontologist", and none of Rosenberger's research goes to waste:
The escape corridor was not a straight shot to the canyon. It was not built like a railroad tunnel. To the contrary, the passage twisted and turned, often at very sharp angles; nor were the roof and the floor evenly spaced from each other. In some places the rock overhang was as much as thirty feet above the floor, in other places no more than six feet. There were no stalactites or stalagmites. There was only the dark ceiling, the floor strewn with rocks and the jagged walls of metamorphic strata with large cavities known as vugs; yet within the light of high intensity flashlights, "Night Blaster" lanterns and spot Q-beams, Camellion could see that within the walls were embedded the skulls of primitive birds, the bones of ganoids and placoderms, dinosaur vertebrae, wing bones of pterodactyls, and the bones of archaic mammals such as Xiphodons, palaeotheres, Eohippi, titanotheres, pinoeshemes, and Oreodons. ...

The Death Merchant saw that the far rim of the canyon, half a kilometer away to the east, was four hundred feet from the floor, all sides wild and primitive. On the canyon floor were bluffs and broad washes, interlaced with steep weedy slopes thick with tangled grass, cactus, and scrub. The bare surfaces that could be seen revealed an absence of Archaean and primordial strata, most of the rocks being Jurassic and Comanchian sandstones, with now and then a glossy black outcropping that suggested a hard, poor grade coal. These were gabbros, coarse-grained igneous rocks composed of diallage and labradorite.
At last, with his mission completed, the Death Merchant thinks some deep thoughts:
It has to do with Reality, with Time. If our future is predetermined, our every act is determined, including how and where and when we die. But who determines it? But if Time isn't a closed circle and the past, present and future aren't one, all rolled together, this means the future doesn't exist during the present and that the past is totally gone, except in memory. On the other hand, if we somehow choose our future from an infinite number of existing parallel universes, then there isn't any fixed result at any given time in any future and all possible futures exist. Precognition does exist. Does that particle of future exist at the same time that one is aware, precognitively, of that slice of future, of that specific happening? Fudge! None of this can explain a death aura.

"Fate put funny relish on our cheeseburger."

"Only one man in the second jeep had time to realize that the Cosmic Lord of Death was in their midst. He couldn't do anything about it. He could die, and did, a stream of slugs blowing open his skull like an overly ripe melon before he could even pick up his AK assault rifle."

"Porcupine poop!" ... "Camel crap!" ... "Donkey dung!" ... "Cassowary crap!"

"All four of you belong in the Who's Who of Dumb!" sneered the Death Merchant, who swung the AKM toward the doomed Sandinistas."

"'What is your name?' Stark naked vindictiveness dripped from all four words as the Death merchant let Sevilla have his most ferocious stare, stabbing him straight in the eye. For only a split second did the two men lock eyes, but that tick of time was too long for Sevilla. He didn't know what he glimpsed in the depths of those blue pools, but whatever it was the sheer malevolence, beyond time and matter, filled him with a flash of unspeakable dread and horror."

"'Hot diddly damn!' yelled Kartz—happier than a wino who had just broken into a liquor store and was looking at all the cases and shelves filled with booze."

"Give the man a tube of gold-plated Preparation H."

"The 9mm 115 grain JHP projectile stabbed into Enrique Varona ... the impact of the slug in the man's chest staggering him. Varona was still acting like a man trying to open an umbrella in his pants ..."

In each of the last half-dozen books, Rosenberger has made a passing reference to someone in California named "Rance Galloway". Rosenberger clearly does not like this guy (or his "sow-slut" wife), but Google has been no help. (I wonder if it's someone from Rosenberger's personal life.)