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).

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