Saturday, January 23, 2016

Death Merchant #62: The Soul Search Project

Face to Face - Hate to Hate!

The KGB has kidnapped Cecil Montrose, an American professor whose electronic experiments may yield a means to contact spirits of the dead. The KGB has its own use for the professor. Richard Camellion, the Death Merchant, has got a job: pry Montrose loose from the Reds - by any means that work.

It's a cross-country dance of ambush and attack. The Reds have a head start and Camellion has no time to spare. He's a whirling dervish of destruction as he leads a top-notch kill team on a crusade to crack the KGB's cover. This time he'll use every gruesome tool of his trade to exile the Reds - from the USA to the Land of the Dead!


Joseph Rosenberger dedicates The Soul Search Project to the Cosmic Lord of Death, "the best friend mankind will ever have". (I can't help but notice how puny Rosenberger's name is on the cover, as though letting readers know who wrote the damn thing was nearly an afterthought. Re the "Over 12 Million Copies In Print" notice: I wonder how much Rosenberger was paid for these books. Whatever it was, I'm sure it was a flat fee per manuscript, with no royalties.)

Richard Camellion's latest mission (as noted above) is to rescue Professor Montrose from the Russians before the "pig farmers" can learn of his remarkable experiments in contacting the souls of the deceased. Getting Montrose back safely from the KGB will be "another stab in the bloated body of atheistic communism".

Before Rosenberger explains what Montrose was doing, he spends seven pages having a couple of CIA scientists talk a lot of mumbo-jumbo of how the human body is actually a lot of empty space and that the brain needs an outside "mind" to send it information:
"I refer to the scientific fact that our present-day insights into the nature of matter prove that ninety-nine percent of all matter—be it flesh or steel or stone—is void. Let me give an example. Let us say we take an atom from the human toe. We shall now magnify the atom until it is the size of an apple, that is, until the nucleus is the size of an apple. On this kind of scale where would the next atom be? Between one thousand to two thousand miles away! Looking upon our bodies, based on this scale, we would see a vast universe composed of many millions of trillions of atoms forming billions of galaxies. If the nuclei of those atoms were shining, we would see a vast, starry sky of unimaginable spaces. So you see, our body, of which we have only a faint perception when using our limited senses, is really a 'great emptiness' with atoms, forming molecules, dispersed at great distances." ...

"All matter, all the furniture in this room, the very building we are in, all of it is mostly empty space. That is why our vision can pass through solid glass several inches thick; that is why hundreds of radio and television signals, carrying speech, music, and pictures, are at this moment traveling straight through the solid walls of this house and through our very 'solid' bodies. It is absolutely vital that each of you comprehends this truth of emptiness. By absorbing it, you will be able to grasp the scientific fact that it is possible to have two or more things occupying the same space at the same time." ...

"The premise is difficult to accept emotionally," agreed Dr. Lessenstein. He glanced in annoyance at Herbert Aduss who, lighting his pipe, was puffing out clouds of smoke. "It is obvious to anyone that we experience our physical bodies in everyday three-dimensional space and time. This means that our minds and souls are living in another space-time system which interpenetrates our physical bodies and occupies substantially the same space as our physical bodies. Hence, the 'next world' is the one in which our minds and souls already live and in which our minds and souls will continue to live. This means that when we have shed our worn-out physical bodies, we will be aware of the surroundings in which our minds and souls are living. We shall then be in the astral planes. There are various planes, this explaining the meaning of the Bible's 'many mansions.'" ...

"Another law that is being accepted more and more—not yet by all scientists, particularly in my fields, which are psychiatry, parapsychology, and psychobiogenic chemistry—is that the brain is not the mind, which is to say that the human encephalon does not generate thought. The brain is only the receiver. Or one might say that it is by means of the brain that the mind expresses itself.

"To put it another way—we know that the brain controls all aspects of the body. We can say that the body is the bioelectrical mechanism and that it is controlled by its computer, which is the brain. We can also say with confidence that the human brain is infinitely more advanced than the most sophisticated computer built by man. But even the brain would be totally useless without a programmer, some intelligence separate and totally removed from the computer itself. Gentlemen, it is the mind that is the programmer and interpenetrates the empty space in that jellylike mass we call the brain. It is the mind that controls every single action of the more than sixty trillion cells which make up the physical body. Is that not amazing?"
Before getting to the details (such as they are, or can be) of Montrose's work:
Dr. Herbert Aduss was saying, "We do know that Professor Montrose used a shielded transmitting-receiving system. The sets were encased in a Faraday cage, which is not a barrier to mental, psychic, or spiritual energies. Other components were an AM receiver, a standard five-inch magnet speaker, a microphone, a tape recorder, and an audio tone generator. Oh yes, I must not forget the electrically activated quartz transducer that used ultraviolet light—and the broadcasts were made on the kilohertz wavelength. Pragmatically, I don't suppose it matters how Montrose—"

Camellion sighed. He is leaving out many important points. The oscillator antenna—it was a one-fourth wavelength stub—radiated the 1200-MHz signal into the chamber at focal point F. At the other focal point F, he had a one-fourth wavelength open section which acted as a parallel resonant section at the fixed 1200 MHz frequency. A miniature demodulation amplifier was installed at the base of the microwave oscillator center. Fortunately, the Company has all his notes and tapes. But the pig farmers have Montrose!

"—did it. What is of tremendous importance is that Professor Montrose succeeded in talking to the dead! ...

"For one thing," said Dr. Lessenstein severely, "it is difficult for any discarnate intelligence to find the sufficient vibratory level by means of which it can use mental power to form words that can be audible in our space-time continuum. The sound energy imparted to the molecules of air from spoken words is at a very low frequency—from a few hundred to a few thousand cycles per second. Our radios receive waves of energy which vibrate at hundreds of thousands of cycles per second. Our telephone conversations are carried across the country by energy which has a vibrational frequency of millions of cycles per second. Light rays, with which we are able to see, have a frequency of roughly twelve trillio2n cycles per second, and soft X rays, hard X rays, gamma rays, etc., vibrate at even higher frequencies."

Excited now, Lessenstein stopped to inhale.

Dr. Aduss stared at Heyd. "Remember, all activity in the world of spirit is purely mental. Think of the most vivid dream you have ever had and you will only partly get the idea of what we are talking about."
You get the feeling that Rosenberger could easily continue in this vein for another 40 pages.

Also, a footnote on page 172:
Professor Montrose and his experiments do not seem so fantastic when one learns that back in the 1950s the CIA tried to contact dead Soviet agents in the hope that these souls would now see the falseness of communist materialism and "defect" to the West with all kinds of secrets about the Soviet Union—this information from former CIA agent Victor Marchetti. Source: Mind Wars. by Ron McRae. New York: St. Martin's Press. 1984.
That's actually a real book: "Mind Wars: The True Story of Government Research into the Military Potential of Psychic Weapons".

The Soul Search Project opens with Camellion and Phil Heyd flying a two-seater Cessna 340 into a small airport outside Atlanta. (Montrose did his work in Atlanta.) Immediately after they land, gunmen in a Hughes OH-6 Cayuse helicopter swoop down and fire at them, "the Beretta M-12 SMG spitting out a stream of 9x19mm Parabellum slugs, and a U.S. AR-18 assault rifle spewing 5.56x45 projectiles". As the copter circles around and prepares to make another run, Camellion and Heyd plan their counterattack. In the end, the Death Merchant's slugs damage the rotor blades and the Cayuse is forced to land. After the occupants are riddled with slugs, the Death Merchant and Heyd have little choice but to surrender to the Georgia state police.

Naturally, the state cops don't believe Camellion's and Heyd's claim of being CIA agents; one Southern trooper says that Heyd's CIA ID card "don't mean no never mind". The locals are also a bit confused by the clothing worn by Camellion and Heyd, and think they might be "queers". (Camellion has a "white shirt with a frilly front" and Heyd is wearing "a lavender Sarasota Chintz jacket, a blue-and-white-plaid sportsshirt, sandpiper slacks, and pink Cardin wingtip shoes".) They are rescued when two other members of their top-secret group (Blue Eagle Force) arrive, flash their badges, and demand their release because they are part of a top-secret operation vital to national security.

There are also some humorous descriptions of how tough Camellion sounds when he cuts Georgia Sergeant Duddy Hallbanks down to size:
"Or you will do what?" The Death Merchant dropped each word with all the force of a tiny pistol shot, his whiplash tone a tossed gauntlet, an undisguised Go to hell! I dare you! It was his sheer gall and cold-blooded nerve that tossed Hallbanks and the other state cops off balance. ...

It was his icy calm and steely inaccessibility that seemed to defy all that was normal. Abruptly, Hallbanks had the fleeting thought that he was confronted with the possibility of the impossible and facing a man who had come from the far side of nowhere ... a man who had come from a long way and a long time.
Meanwhile, men at the Ceskoslovenska Socialisticka Republika embassy are offering awkward exposition about the successful kidnapping of Professor Montrose and explaining to the reader exactly when and how he will be transferred to "Seattle, in the State of Washington".

Blue Eagle Force has one small clue: the man who headed the Montrose kidnapping is Karel Konecky, a Czech diplomat at the United Nations. So a flight to New York is planned. Camellion and a female agent named Brendalee Charters dress up as two of Konecky's friends (the CIA has photos and the DM is a master with disguises). Unfortunately, Konecky's apartment is wired to the apartment on the floor below so when Camellion and Charters try to escape, they are met by gun-carrying goons on the stairs. The goons are quickly killed (as are two doormen in the lobby) before they escape into an alley beside the building.

After two somewhat dull volumes, Rosenberger redeems himself in this number, with plenty of shootouts and a lengthy, wild car chase around midtown Manhattan and north through Central Park after the kidnapping. From Konecky, they learn the location of the Seattle STB safe station: a roofing company run by a Vietnamese guy named Phan Kim Phuong. His second-in-command is Allen Jay Hobbs, who Camellion believes is "a native pig farmer" and the real boss of the STB network. The Death Merchant and his group raid Hobbs's house and, after finding a short-wave radio hidden under a closet's floorboards, they take both Hobbs and his wife into custody.

Hobbs and his wife are injected with dexedrine to hype them up and then thioridazine to make them crash. While under the influence of the drugs, they slip up and come close to revealing sensitive information, but they still refuse to confess. It's only after Camellion shoots Elina in the head that Hobbs starts talking. Hobbs (actually Anastas Sofrenovitch) says the KBG station is housed in an older/poorer section of Seattle, at Kibbs Klock Kove. There is a wild shootout at the clock repair shop  and Camellion learns from four captured Russians that Montrose is not being brought through Seattle. One of dead Russian officials has a book of matches in his pocket from a religious curio shop in Florida and Camellion believes this is a clue. Could a high-ranking Soviet agent be dumb enough to carry around something that could tip off the CIA to the entire operation? Yep. The Florida shop is raided (in an operation headed by Camellion's racist friend, Lester Vernon Cole), but Montrose has been moved out to a huge Russian vessel in the Atlantic. And so the big finale occurs on the "high seas", with Camellion, Cole, and 30 commandos storming the General Rodion Malinovsky.

(Cole expresses another reason to rescue Montrose: "Assuming it's all true, what Montrose has learned from the dead could mean that psychokinetic energies could be used to disturb the memory functions of microelectric chips, as well as the new biologic chips when they're perfected. Should the pig farmers ever perfect that potential, our missiles would blow up in their own silos. The Soviet Union wouldn't have to send one missile at us across the North Pole. Our own would do the job for them.")

The hand-to-hand combat in the final fight is classic Rosenberger:
The Death Merchant, so close to one Slavic slob he could see a mole on his left cheek, fired the left Coonan point-blank at the same time as he pulled the trigger of the right magnum pistol. The face of Mole vanished in a shower of skin, blood, and bone, all the features melting faster than a wax candle tossed into a blast furnace. The second Russian managed to get off a short burst of 9mm projectiles from a Stechkin MP, the hot stream of metal passing under Camellion's left armpit, several of the slugs tearing through a rear canvas strap of a shoulder bag. The Cosmic Lord of Death permitted only one mistake per victim. Fyodor Mikhailovich Yelchenki had made his and it was fatal. Camellion's .357 Glaser bullet struck him just below the breastbone, tore out his stomach, ripped out a section of his lower spine, and splattered the man behind him with pieces of flesh, bone, blood, and shirt, plus some bits of leather from Yelchenki's belt. The bullet then bored into the man's left side and killed him when it stabbed all the way, horizontally, through his stomach. ...

To the Death Merchant, who found himself hemmed in on all sides by tough Spetsnazska, it was worse than being caught in the middle of south Chicago. He employed a middle front snap kick that caved in a Russian's stomach and at the same time started another creep on the short road of choking to death, giving him a right four-finger spear stab to the throat. Ducking a terrific Seiken forefist and just barely escaping a side thrust kick, the foot of the Russian almost touching the side of his ballistic helmet, Camellion twisted, turned to his left, and employed a very rapid double blow against another pig farmer who was trying to crack his skull with an empty Vitmorkin machine pistol. He must be an idiot! Such a blow would not even dent this helmet. Camellion's left hand shot out and clamped around the man's right wrist as he let the dummy have a right-handed vertical Shuto knife-hand chop on the left side of the face, then, as the Russian gasped loudly in pain and jerked back, stabbed him directly in the eyes with a right Ni Hon Nukite two-finger spear thrust. A left-leg roundhouse kick to the groin sent the man reeling back, gagging and vomiting all over himself. He had a perfectly good reason to bring up his lunch: his testicles had been crushed. ...

Kidlikof came straight in while the KGB specialist darted to the Death Merchant's left in an effort to get behind him. Camellion then did the totally unexpected. Just when Shport was only a split second from passing him, Camellion jumped to the left in front of him, so fast and so close that if he hadn't put up his left arm, his face would have collided with the Russian's. Camellion's left hand darted to Shport's face in a tiger mouth grip, his fingers digging into the man's cheeks. To an observer, the clutch would have seemed like a mediocre blow. But it was not the force that counted; it was how the fingers were applied and what they did that made the difference. What they did was apply a specific pressure to facial nerves, the sensation penetrating deeply inside the head to a knot of neurones known as the "gasserian ganglion." The gasserian ganglion is headquarters for the nerves of sensation that serve the eyes, the nose, and the upper and lower jaws. When the knot is disturbed in any way, all hell breaks loose: the eyes can't focus, orientation is lost, and often the victim loses consciousness, if one is lucky. If he's not, then he suffers an agony similar to thermite burning inside his face and head. Yuly Shport was not lucky. He screamed shrilly from the unbelievable agony that would last a full five minutes.

Rosenberger is still screwing up military time. He writes that Camellion wants an attack to begin "at thirteen hundred hours tomorrow morning". Rosenberger means 1:00 AM - but 1300 is 1:00 PM.

"'It is the duty of the future to be dangerous!' These were the words burned into a wooden plaque that hung on a wall in the den of the Death Merchant's Memento Mori ranch in Texas."

"If the pilot had half the sense God gives to oysters, he and his buddy would call it a night and head for home."

"'Konecky, you get out first,' ordered Camellion, who was angrier than a crosseyed gopher in a cactus patch."

"That roofing company will be as clean as a nun's conscience by the time we get to Seattle."

Camellion "had a good feeling about [Jonathan] Fury, even if the guy did eat tons of wheat germ ... and was forever washing his hands as though he had murdered Jesus Christ."

"Quickly, she slipped into her white robe and stepped into her clog houseslippers—all the while half turned to Camellion (who would rather pat a Walther P-38 than a pussy)."

"The Soviet agent sensed that the man holding the two large pistols was not an ordinary individual. There was a deadly self-assurance about the way he spoke, the way he moved. Here was a man at home with violence and intrigue, with a lethal capability as well as self-control."

"'It's not going to be a ringside circus like it was last night,' the Death Merchant said, the flames of a warrior-monk burning in his blue eyes. 'This time we use stealth ...'"

"Double fudge! If I put a quarter into a parking meter, it would come up three lemons!"

"Yuri Miktkeneyev fired a long burst with his MAC-Ingram as the Death Merchant started to go down, the line of hot metal coming dangerously close to Camellion's back and right rib cage, four of the slugs so close that a sheet of paper could not have been inserted between them and cloth of Camellion's shirt." (Earlier, it is noted that a slug misses Camellion's neck "by only three-sixth of an inch"; why wouldn't Rosenberger simply write "one-half of an inch"? Does 3/6 seem smaller than 1/2?)

"With great difficulty, Cole pulled in his legs so that his knees were almost touching his chin. 'Man, I feel like an oversized fetus in the womb of an undersized midget!'"

"In the very long run, none of it made any difference . . . none of it. In less than ten years, the United States would be a radioactive wasteland, and when the sun did finally shine through the canopy of dust, years later, it would shine on a planet of horror, a little ball of death. And it's only 315 million, 360,000 seconds away. All aboard for Doomsday . . ." (315,360,000 seconds is equal to ten 365-day years ; but what about leap years?)

Death is "a simple transition from three-dimensional imprisonment into spiritual freedom ... Camellion also knew that the true purpose of life was a search—and nothing more than a short journey. A step toward Total Wisdom, a step toward God. Gary Royden had completed his journey in the world of physical particles. He was now totally in the realm of Spirit."

An exchange: "Which of you is Richard Camellion?" "That's the name on my baptismal record," lied Camellion. So either his name is Camellion and there is a fake name on his baptismal record or Camellion is not the Death Merchant's true name. Mystery!

While in Manhattan, the Death Merchant reveals: "I lived in New York for almost four years some years ago. I was there on very special and very private business." (I don't think this has been mentioned in any of the previous 61 volumes.)

This book is roughly 50 pages longer than any previous Death Merchant volume, coming in at 260 pages of small print. ... And so this has been ax extra-long recap!

Friday, January 15, 2016

Death Merchant #61: The Bulgarian Termination

Educating Reds

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, January 07, 2016

Death Merchant #60: The Methuselah Factor

Bloody Blitz

The CIA and the KGB want the DNA from the BND...and they'll stop at nothing to get it.

West German scientists have just discovered a way to slow the aging process in man. A fountain of youth for those who possess it; a cauldron of death for those who don't.

When a corrupt double agent leaks the info to both sides, the race is on. Moscow dispatches an elite squad of expert assassins. Washington sends Camellion, the Death Merchant.

Mercenary master of munitions, masks, and mayhem, Richard Camellion turns the autobahn into a battleground; gives both the Germans and the Russians a lesson in blitzkrieg on his way to capturing The Methuselah Factor.

While Richard Camellion is intent on securing the West Germans' "life extension formula" for the United States government, he believes the idea of extending the normal life expectancy to 150 years would create too many problems. First of all, the planet is already overpopulated. Also, "we could end up with ten or twelve billion gooks ... not to count all the freeloaders and assorted trash pouring through our southern borders."

Joseph Rosenberger delivers a bit of a dud with The Methusaleh Factor. First of all, he holds back on the usual amount of violence. In the book's first 140 pages, there is only a brief street fight in the opening chapter (followed by a long car chase) and then a short shoot-out later on in a factory building. Neither scene is very extensive. Most of the time is spent with the Death Merchant and his cohorts planning and discussing the possibilities of every single option available to them, and then every single aspects to every single option. A huge chunk of the middle of the book is devoted to preparing for a raid on the building where the two scientists are believed to be working. However, when the KGB get there first and nab the two scientists, the mission is aborted. Upon learning that the KGB "snuffed" 30-40 Germans in the raid, a U.S. official says he has "always considered the Soviets capable of any kind of vicious action". Of course, the Death Merchant's plan was almost exactly the same as the KGB's.

Rosenberger gives us three points of view - which I think is a first for the series - as the story unfolds, dedicating various chapters to the points of view of the KGB and the West Germans/BND. The KGB spends time wondering if one of the American agents is der Tod Kaufmann ("that mysterious death machine who often worked for American agencies, especially the CIA").

Camellion's boss, CIA Chief of Station Courtland "The Fox" Grojean, says that he knows where the KGB is hiding the two West German scientists and when they are going to be moved and transported to Russia. They are being held in West Berlin, in an old Nazi factory building, most of which is underground. Now facing a deadline, the Death Merchant quickly comes up with a new plan (much quicker than the Institute invasion that never happened) and two teams of commandos arrive via helicopters. The eggbeaters are equipped with the infamous Gf-Mechanism, which renders them invisible to both radar and the human eye. Once the commandos land on the snow-covered roof and kill a KGB lookout, the Russians know they are trapped - and all they will be able to do is mount a final stand and hope for the best. The finale is pretty low-key compared to past Rosenberger's finishes.

In two epilogues, we learn what happened to all of the main characters, something Rosenberger has never provided before. One of the two scientists died of a heart attack on board a US submarine; the other one reached the United States and "the world never heard from him again". What about the "life extension formula" that was so vital to the US? We do not hear even one word from Rosenberger about it. After the Death Merchant and most of his men survive the shootout with the KGB, that is that. The End.

Rosenberger indulges in his usual right-wing soapboxing. Camellion is paired (once again) with an agent who admires Adolf Hitler, so we get a handful of racist rants from him before he becomes a cold cut in the factory shoot-out.

One of the Russian officers, thinking about American liberals:
He knew that liberalism represented the attempt to superimpose on reality an artificiality, to substitute sham for real, a philosophy of racial suicide that maintained that "all men are equal" and demanded that everyone and everything be reduced to a gray uniformity. That was the trouble with liberals: they were all intellect and no instinct. For that reason, they habitually used words and expressions without any meaning. All the liberals could do was to perform cerebral circles in a spiritual desert and end by dying of thirst.
One lengthy section concerns modern day "revisions" made to the Bible:
"If you say so, Lieutenant." Burnett's voice was hard. "But if I were a religious man, I'd still do some praying when we start down for a landing. It's snowing just as hard at Rhinemein as it was in West Berlin."

Bagley made snickering sounds. "The way they're fiddling around with the Bible, you might as well pray to stones."

Sitting to the right of Camellion, Burnett leaned out, turned, and looked at Bagley, who was to the left of the Death Merchant. "How can anyone change the Bible? That's nonsense."

"No, it isn't." Bagley was firm. "Back during the summer of 1983 the National Council of Churches rewrote a lot of the Bible. Isn't that right, Heffner? Or wouldn't you know?"

The Death Merchant [using the alias Heffner] knew. Not only was he an omnivorous reader, but he was also gifted with almost total recall, within 99.99 percent accuracy.

He shifted his thought processes into high gear. "It really started back in the 1970s when the revisers of the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer made a stab at removing 'male bias' from the Psalms. But having put their best foot forward in Psalm One, they tripped over it a few psalms later.

"In the old 1928 prayer book, Psalm One read, 'Blessed is the man that hath not walked in the counsel of the ungodly.' ... The revisers, considering the language to be sexist, changed it to 'Blessed are they' and so on. But when they got to Psalm Fourteen, 'The fool hath said in his heart,' and so on, the revisers let that 'his' stand. Apparently the pro-feminist editors deemed it sexist to limit the 'blessed' to men, but when it comes to 'fools'—well, if the Bible said it was man who was the fool, who are we to tamper with 'Holy Writ'?"

By now, most of the men were interested and intrigued, and Camellion went on to explain that it was the National Council of Churches that had made a shambles of the Bible with its newly released lectionary, a compendium of Bible readings to be read in worship services in liturgical churches. "For example . . ."

"Son of God" (for Jesus) is out. The nonsexist "Child of God" was in. "Lord God" was out. Lord is masculine. The new term was the ridiculous "Sovereign One." Male pronouns were omitted when referring to God or Christ, resulting in sentences like (from Philippians 2:8): "Christ humbled self," substituting for the King James "He humbled himself."

Camellion said, "As I recall, Time magazine called the new revision 'ludicrous,' a 'total disaster,' and cited as an example this rewriting of John three-sixteen: which to religious people is one of the most beloved passages in the Bible: For God so loved the world that God gave God's only child. If you can't use male pronouns to refer to God, you have to repeat the name of God, no matter how terrible it sounds—or stilted."

"Who says that God has to be either male or female?" said Leonard Tuffs, one of the MAC-ATOG men. "Why does God have to have any sex, or maybe God's a hermaphrodite?" (Tuffs actually said "morphadite.")
Rosenberger gets a little post-modern at the end, with his narrator informing the reader what one of the characters actually said rather than what was written within quotations!

Camellion also has some deep thoughts:
It was the diabolical detachment of Grojean's voice that made tiny shivers ski up and down the spines of the other men, the single exception being Mrs. Camellion's third son, Richard, who could easily visualize his own extinction. To Camellion, the death of any human being—and this meant the death of the brain—was neither a "great mystery" nor an event to be contemplated with fear. All life was a march toward death, for nature could never be static. Nature demanded change. Death had to be fed, and Death always fed on Life. In this respect, there were only two possibilities: either Death meant total oblivion—like a star that becomes a super nova—in which case the individual would cease to exist totally, as if he or she had never been born. Or else memory and personality of the individual took up residence in another plane of awareness. A far more interesting prospect. Unless reincarnation is a part of some cosmic scheme. That could be hell! I could be reborn stupid and become a liberal as an adult. Worse, suppose I was born a—Russian? A damned pig farmer!
And he muses on his boss, Grojean:
The Death Merchant gazed contemplatively through the unfrosted section of the window glass and studied the three tarp-covered helicopters waiting on the FAARP (Forward Area Arming and Refueling Point); at the same time he reflected on Courtland Grojean. It was not the job of the CIA boss to ponder history or he would have known that history often repeats itself, that human beings persist in making the same mistakes. This was not the fault of the hundreds and hundreds of millions of Little People but of the men (and often women) unfortunate enough to reach pinnacles of power and permit self-aggrandizement to smother common sense, fools who could not bring themselves to admit that a little pride was a small thing, to lose compared with honor.

The great masses of every nation were always excluded from the decision-making process, even if they did think they participated. These were the plastic people with sponge minds eager to soak up the fads of the moment, victims of advertising, political lies, and propaganda, a subtle brainwashing that resulted in flesh and blood windup toys, in robots that could be manipulated and never, for a moment, suspect it.

The people of the United States were no exception. If West Germany was divided, the United States was totally fragmented, because of the Machiavellian politicos who were quick to give wild and ridiculous promises to any self-interest group that might help them get elected. A Great Society? A general public of fools whose heroes were not scientists but "stars" of television and motion pictures, or big names in sports—most of whom were functional illiterates while being experts in either hitting a ball with a bat, kicking a football, or tossing a basketball into a basket. Ironic that an ape could earn more money in a few years than a Ph.D. could earn in a lifetime!
Finally, a couple of gun porn footnotes:
1. The "Hardcap" shotshell resembles a 230-grain FMJ .45 ACP round. However, inside the Hardcap is either no. 6 or no. 9 shot, with more than enough energy to do the job. Upon discharge, the nose cap travels ahead of the shot pellets, impacting the target near the point of aim. The shot pellets saturate the target area around the central hole created by the nose cap, resulting in increased "hit probability."

2. The Whisperload is a subsonic cartridge, designed specifically for the suppressor-equipped Ingram M-10 submachine gun. Although "silencers" contain most of the blast produced in firing, they cannot quiet the "crack" produced by a bullet traveling at supersonic speed as it exits from the muzzle. The high-pressure 9mm cartridge is one of the hardest to effectively suppress.

"And he had the ethics of a fungus ..."

"This is worse than bringing a ham hock to a bar mitzvah!"

"Only five-feet eight-inches tall, the man appeared to be of greater height, but only because he was so thin he could have taken a shower in a shotgun barrel."

"I'm not your friend, you cabbage-headed Hitler-lover!"

"Camellion's frigid stare would have frozen a polar bear." Speaking of the Death Merchant's "icy calm": "Camellion didn't have ice water in his veins. He had pure acid."

Camellion is described earlier as being "as calm as a sleeping clam".

"Christ with kittens!"

"Son of a bitch three times over!" ... And 15 pages later: "Son of a bitch five times over!"

"The news from Grojean had been everything but amazing, Camellion being so much of a 'practical pessimist' that he wouldn't have been surprised if Moses, Jesus Christ, and Confucius had appeared in Briefing Room 4 on pogo sticks—chasing Joe Stalin on skis!"

"Camellion gave his opinion, all the while wishing he had a glass of coconut milk."

"'Things could be worse,' said Jeff Burnett, who was driving the vehicle. He gave a slight laugh. 'Suppose we were being attacked by killer tomatoes or man-eating cucumbers?'"

"The second slug wouldn't have killed him. It had only cut through the trapezius muscle, broken the clavicle, and lodged in the rhomboid muscle in the back."

"'And to think I could have stayed home and pasted plastic daisies on my bathtub,' cracked Eugene Carry."

Saturday, January 02, 2016

Infinite Jest 20th Anniversary Edition: Fan-Designed Cover Contest Winner Announced

For the 20th anniversary of the publication of David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest, Little, Brown held a contest for the cover design.

Michael Pietsch, CEO of Little, Brown parent Hachette Book Group, and DFW's editor for IJ:
The internet has made it possible to see the massive amount of creative response readers have to Infinite Jest. I'd seen a lot of art connected to the book online, and it seemed that allowing readers who have loved it to submit cover designs for the anniversary edition was a way of honoring and highlighting all that creativity.
The winner is Joe Walsh, a designer in Ohio. The edition will be released February 23.

Walsh shared his creative process (with many drawings) here.

I am disappointed in this cover, though I'll buy the edition because (a) it's my favourite book of all time and (b) there is a new introductory essay by Tom Bissell.

Chris Ayers at Poor Yorick Entertainment posted some of the entries while the contest was still going on. I really liked Ayers's submission:

If Little, Brown wanted something video cartridge-related, they should have chosen The Made Shop's entry:

It's beautiful - and the infinity loop of the tape makes far more sense than the eye on the winning entry. I don't understand the inclusion of the eye at all.

The Made Shop should release a dust-jacket-sized version that readers could print out and use.