Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Original PMP Death Merchant Series Overview

I'm posting here the original Series Overview I wrote for the Death Merchant on the now-defunct Post-Modern Pulps Review Page website. I'm not going to re-write it now, although there may be some amendments to it down the line. I realize now looking at my old files that there were some DM books that I read but didn't write a review for, so I may need to re-read them and write a review - specifically #15, the Iron Swastika Plot, since I've read #14, and now #'s 17 and 18.

Without further ado:

The Series Overview:

Richard Camellion (yes, I think it really is supposed to sound like "chameleon", and yes, it is corny) is a nigh-indestructible badass who travels the world on the tab of the CIA, FBI, NSA, or any other government organization willing to pay him a hundred grand or so. He's a go-anywhere, kill-anything kind of guy, a "Merchant of Death" in the violent sunset years of the Cold War era. I hope you brought your .44 Automag and a lot of spare ammo, 'cuz it's gonna be messy...

Warning! These books are really "politically incorrect". Racist, sexist, classist, and just downright morally offensive at times, back "in the day" they would have elicited a head-shaking chuckle and an embarrassed sigh from most of their white middle-class male American readers. Nowadays, the author would probably be drowned under the flood of litigation filed against him by minorities and women's rights advocates. I make no apologies for Rosenberger's writings, nor do I defend them - the offensive nature of his material is, and always will be (I hope) an aspect of Free Speech, and the bad must come hand in hand with the good. And, to be fair, the sort of people who would actually manage to get through the murderous festival of carnage that is a Death Merchant novel probably don't give a crap about name-calling in pulp fiction entertainment.

The Writing & Content:

The writing on the whole is competent if a little dense at times, digging a little too deeply into the gritty details of weapons and unarmed combat. Not only are the fight scenes lengthy, but they're detailed with near-scientific precision as Rosenberger gleefully charts the wound channels of each lethal impact, tracing the bullets of the operator's guns as they plow through tissue, organs, bone, and brains. Often the kills are punctuated with such sadistic asides as "Instant death, quick and painless!" or "Utter annihilation!", the author clearly delighted with the carnage his characters inflict.

In fact, the hand-to-hand combat that most fight scenes inevitably boil down into (as characters discard their emptied firearms to close in with bayonet, knife, and fist) is even more graphic than the gunplay. Rosenberger clearly knows something about martial arts combat, and whether or not his knowledge is purely theoretical, his Shuto hand strikes and Atemi nerve attacks are covered in ruthless detail. I have actually squirmed in discomfort while reading about someone being kicked in the crotch so hard their pelvis was shattered and driven into their ruptured bladder, or a blow to the throat that leaves the victim choking on their own blood and shredded tissues.

The most annoying parts of these books aren't the exhaustive blow-by-blow battle expositions, but the dialogue between combat sequences, where the characters debate various aspects of world politics. I honestly can't tell half the time if this is pure character-driven political commentary or the author using his creation as a handy mouthpiece for his own viewpoints, but it does a lot to detract from what is otherwise a fairly entertaining festival of carnage. Israeli / Palestinian atrocities, political coverups, the CIA's (supposed) involvement in Watergate, the doomsday prophecies of Nostradamus (???), and a plethora of Cold War era brushfire war politics all feature prominently. It is clear that the author feels something for these topics, but it's sometimes a little difficult to tell where it's just a character playing Devil's Advocate, or if it's Rosenberger's own voice coming through the commentary.

In conclusion, the books are filled with some amazingly graphic violence and they're written with a very sadistic sense of humor, but the politics between the gun battles and karate fights are not only very "conspiracy theory", they're also just plain boring unless you really get off on a discussion of Cold War history as told through the voices of a bunch of bloodthirsty mercenaries roaming around the world killing for fun and profit. I should also make mention of the fact that Rosenberger is the only pulp author I've seen who makes extensive use of foot-notes, both to provide added details about weapons and equipment, to fill the reader in on various historic factoids, and to note when events from other novels are mentioned. As strange as it may seem, I think in a series like this, its oddly appropriate.


Hank Brown said...

Wow. I'm half-tempted to track one of these down, now, out of morbid curiosity. I think I came across one as a teenager, but just couldn't get into it. Read your comment on the other Death Merchant post and find it fascinating that Bolan was acknowledged in the continuity of the Camellion universe.

merchant services said...

cant relate..hahaha! i dont really like reading books. i preferred watching videos or any movies than reading

Anonymous said...

MS, we can tell you don't read just based on the syntax of your comment...

But back on track, the DM stuff was actually really interesting in a twisted sort of way. Who can forget Lester Vernon Cole? Or the slew of "next Ice Age" predictions that surfaced about halfway through the series? Or the guest spot he gave the inventor of the AutoMag in one of the early books?