Showing posts with label Joseph R. Rosenberger. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Joseph R. Rosenberger. Show all posts

Monday, December 20, 2021

Death Merchant #25 - The Enigma Project

In November, 1977, Pinnacle published the 25th installment of Joseph Rosenberger's Death Merchant series. My reasonably intact paperback shows it is the second printing, a clue that this series was a big moneymaker for the publisher. Mostly, you can read the series in any order and the concept is really simple. Richard Camellion is a CIA agent, dubbed Death Merchant, that patrols the globe quelling international threats. Rosenberger thumbed through magazines like National Geographic to place his hero in exotic and dangerous locales to heighten the sense of adventure. In this case, it is the mountains of Ararat.

The Enigma Project begins with Camellion as an undercover mountain climber who has joined the Jasper Grundy Bible Institute. In the opening chapters, it's explained that this faux religious group was created by the CIA to use on a rainy day. The mission is for Camellion to climb to the heights of the Ararat mountains to place a specially designed, high resolution camera. This camera will quickly capture hundreds of photos that the CIA can analyze. The goal is to locate strategically placed satellite installations being utilized by the Soviet Union in Armenia. Or, something like that.

Camellion and two supporting agents join the study group under the intention of guiding them to a fabled position where Noah's Ark may rest. The group travel to Turkey on a helicopter, but unbeknownst to the passengers, the CIA has created a unique panel system that houses a small armory inside. This is unveiled to the passengers when they discover Camellion and others are packing heat for the climb. Camellion explains that mountain bandits and Armenians don't typically settle by just throwing rocks at unwanted guests. What he doesn't explain is that the group is expendable and their unfortunate deaths will be a sacrifice for the greater good.

Halfway up the snowy passage, the group encounter Soviet Armenians. In a series of exchanges, Camellion and his supporting agents fight the bad guys en route to the top. Problems include avalanches, harsh weather, Soviets, and a nagging religious scholar. Rosenberger writes the action sequences smoothly and places readers in the battle by describing who's on the flank, the perimeter defenses, and the combatants next moves. It's completely vivid and provides enough escapism for the average cubicle worker.

This series is fun in limited interactions. I prefer gritty team-combat novels, but in a pinch Death Merchant can provide some enjoyment. This installment is par for the course. Mileage may vary. 

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Death Merchant #13 - The Mato Grosso Horror

Popular men's action-adventure publisher Pinnacle added Death Merchant to their publishing catalog in 1971. The series was penned by Joseph R. Rosenberger and stars a CIA agent named Richard Camellion who uses a variety of disguises and weapons to infiltrate and eliminate enemy forces. The series ran 70 installments through 1988 and I periodically reading a random installment every few months. As such, I grabbed the 13th installment from my shelf, The Mato Grosso Horror, published in 1975.

Rosenberger uses a tried-and-true staple of men's action-adventure as the basic plot. The concept, used quite frequently in pulps and magazines, is that Nazis escaped Germany at the end of WW2 and emerged years later in secluded, exotic locations. These Nazis still swear allegiance to Hitler and haven't abandoned their quest to enslave the human race. To further their cause, the Nazis have mutated villagers and natives into freakish super soldiers that they hope to use as the Fourth Reich's secret weapon. Taking all of this into consideration, the Death Merchant has been ordered to enter the steaming jungle of Brazil to eliminate the newest swarm of jungle Nazis.

The narrative has Israeli intelligence reporting the quest for Reich Glory stemming from the vast, mostly unexplored Brazilian interior of Mato Grosso. Richard Camellion partners with a squad of American Green Berets to enter the jungle and destroy the Nazi lab. In doing so, the author places the Death Merchant in precarious situations fighting a cannibal tribe for weeks. In fact, nearly every chapter of this installment features Camellion and his allies fighting tribal enemies – like wave after wave of tribal enemies. This is really fun for a few chapters, then becomes an endless game of Duck Hunt as Camellion mows down the baddies.

The Mato Grosso Horror is a fun, action-packed novel that features a weak enemy simply being assaulted and killed by the Death Merchant. If that's your thing, then by all means you'll absolutely love this early series installment. I'm complacent enough to enjoy a mass slaughter twice a year and this adventure surely delivers the blood 'n guts one would expect from a long-running kill 'em all series like this one. Death Merchant wins...again.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Death Merchant #70 - The Greenland Mystery

During the 1970s and 1980s, men's action adventure fiction offered a robust selection of serial titles like 'The Destroyer', 'The Executioner', 'The Penetrator' and 'The Butcher'. The catalyst was Pinnacle Books, a successful mass market paperback publisher that catered to male consumers and readers. Beginning in 1971, Pinnacle added 'Death Merchant' to their impressive catalog of titles. The series was written by Joseph R. Rosenberger and featured a character named Richard Camellion, a globe-trotting CIA agent. Along with his cunning military tactics, Camellion was a master of disguises, allowing him to infiltrate hostile forces both as a spy and a combatant. The series ran 71 installments from 1971 through 1988 including a double-sized novel, “Super Death Merchant: Apocalypse”. While I've read Rosenberger's other literary work (“Geneva Force”), my first experience with 'Death Merchant' is oddly the last book of the series, “#70 The Greenland Mystery”.

Like “The Polestar Incident”, which was the series' 21st installment, “The Greenland Mystery” features an extraterrestrial storyline. This isn't the first action-adventure series to introduce the possibility of aliens into the mix. The Executioner #84 and #273 both featured Mack Bolan fighting a Black Ops team around the mysterious Area 51 in Nevada. In this novel, Camellion and his partner Quinlan are assigned to an exploratory station in Greenland. Once there, Camellion learns that the research scientists have discovered an alien city buried deep in the ice.

With Rosenberger's writing style, readers are accustomed to the author's bizarre narratives and deep political analysis. The idea that aliens crashed in Greenland and built a city isn't particularly swerving out of Rosenberger's lane. The CIA is worried that the pesky Russians will invade the research facility and scavenge any alien technology that exists. Camellion, Quinlan and a small team of agents scout the facility and create ambush spots along the perimeter. Once the obligatory invasion begins from the Russians, it's up to Camellion's team to hold the line and protect the resources.

My issue with Rosenberger and Death Merchant is that the battle scenes are overly technical. Readers should be enjoying the “rock'em sock'em” action instead of the author theorizing that the 12.7 DshK is more powerful than the 14.5 KPV MG. It's overindulgent to describe every firearm on the battlefield down to the ballistic metrics. I just read the second installment of Peter McCurtin's 'Soldier of Fortune' and it is vastly superior to ‘Death Merchant’ simply because the focus is on developing characters and story instead of an armory.

When the action heats up, “The Greenland Mystery” is just an average read. If I could carve off 80-pages of technical nonsense, these books would be far more appealing. After reading this installment, I've reassured myself that having just three Death Merchant books on my bookshelf is more than enough. The series has its fans, I'm certainly not one of them.

Purchase a copy of this book HERE

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Geneva Force

Author Joseph R. Rosenberger wrote a number of men's action adventure novels throughout the 70s and 80s. His 70-book vigilante series 'Death Merchant' ranks in the highest echelons of popularity alongside 'Nick Carter', 'The Executioner' and 'The Butcher'. Prior to his death in 1993, the author had conceived a new vigilante series entitled 'Tenkiller', paralleling the same format he utilized with 'Death Merchant'. The debut, “Geneva Force” (1989 Pageant), stands as the only series contribution.

This “Geneva Force” refers to Mason Tenkiller, a globe-trotting fighting man who seeks to punish terrorist cell The Red Brigade. In the opening pages we read newspaper clippings advising that Tenkiller's wife and son were killed in a terrorist blast. But, do we know if Tenkiller has the ability to wage a one-man war on international terrorism? 

After a furious fire-fight in an abandoned German brewery, chapter two settles in with a resume showcasing Tenkiller's validity as the “Geneva Force”. He graduated from Notre Dame with a master's degree in psychology. After refusing an appointment at West Point, Tenkiller joins the Fifth Special Forces Group Airborne and serves four years in Vietnam. Later, he's recruited by the CIA and excels as a GS-12 rating and promoted to the European Terrorist Desk at the U.S. Embassy in Rome. After his family's murder in 1984, Tenkiller begins his crusade to right the wrongs of Europe. 

Rosenberger's deeper plowing was in hopes of harvesting a rogue killing machine that was courted by both the CIA and KGB. In a fertile story-line, heads of the CIA and KGB meet under the assumption that they will capture Tenkiller and force him to be a lone member of a joint taskforce used to kill targets for both agencies. It's a unique twist that aligns the two super-powers in a conventional way. This novel focuses on Tenkiller's annihilation of Red Brigade hierarchy while evading capture by the CIA and KGB men. There's even a brief reference to Rosenberger's claim to fame – the Death Merchant himself, Richard Joseph Camellion. 

By 1989, Rosenberger had clearly ran out of ideas. After two decades of cashing checks for 'Death Merchant', along with entries like 'C.O.B.R.A.', 'Kung-Fu' and 'Shadow Warrior', this series spark is simply re-imagining Camellion as the newer Tenkiller. So much that the body count reaches extraordinary heights, the gun porn outweighs the writing and this character uses wigs and make-up to hide his killing agendas. These are all consistent with the 'Death Merchant' series. So, why do we need another? Ultimately, I'm not sure if Rosenberger had any more entries drafted or submitted for this ill-conceived series. Regardless, his death just five years from this book's release would erase any further volumes of Tenkiller's fate. 

Read “Geneva Force” if you absolutely need 'Death Merchant' part 71. 

Buy a copy of this book HERE