Friday, June 24, 2011

Do-It-Yourself A-Bombs

The Death Merchant is as violently death-obsessed as ever in his 19th adventure: ARMAGEDDON, USA!, published by Pinnacle in Our Bicentennial Year 1976. Author Joseph Rosenberger, who actually wrote all of the Death Merchant novels without passing them off to ghosts, was one of men's adventure fiction's most idiosyncratic writers. Considering the lengthy passages of graphic gunplay and violence and the frequent proselytizing performed by his leading man, there's no mistaking a Rosenberger chapter for anyone else's.

ARMAGEDDON, USA! has a pretty good though not terribly original plot. A right-wing organization called The Sons and Daughters of the Stars and Stripes have hidden atomic bombs in three U.S. cities and promise to explode them unless the President resigns. Based near St. Louis, Missouri, Richard Camellion and his CIA team (which includes one woman) race against their deadline to track down the SDSS' leader, elderly nutbag H.G. Motts, and find out which cities are targeted for destruction. Rosenberg delivers a nice twist in the form of Motts' airtight backup plan involving goons hired to set off the bombs manually in case of government interference, but they think they're just exploding arson devices!

If you're read a Death Merchant novel or just my earlier reviews of Death Merchant novels, you're aware of Rosenberger's penchant for drawn-out action scenes that flamboyantly describe in almost fetishistic detail the number of ways the human body can be destroyed. ARMAGEDDON, USA! has more going on between the violent interludes than usual, including a couple of long dialogue scenes in which Camellion preaches anti-religion views presumably belonging to Rosenberger.

It has been said that Rosenberger was using the Death Merchant series to parody the simplistic action series dotting the literary landscape during the 1970s, such as Don Pendleton's Mack Bolan books, but I'm not buying it. If it's satire, it's too clever for me to pick up on.


Joe Kenney said...

I have to say, those grenades sure are hanging from an unusual position.

Only Rosenberger's fans claim the guy was parodying the genre...but given that he wrote pretty much the same book over and over (and over), it's hard to buy. I think it's pretty clear he believed every word he wrote.

The strange thing is, though I can't stand his books, I'm fascinated by the mystery behind the man and floored by his odd turns of phrase.

Jack Badelaire said...

Oh, yeah. He's not writing parody at all. I'm one of the biggest JR/DM fans out there, and I think he's as frighteningly serious as it seems.

I read this one, and I didn't think it was one of his best, but it is definitely one of the hardest-hitting because the "good guys" have NO PROBLEM machine-gunning innocent bystanders to cover up their covert activities.

Rosenberger's characters always believed the ends justified any means necessary, and this book puts an exclamation point on that statement.

AndyDecker said...

No, these were no parody. I think Rosenberger fascinating, even if he wrote the same book over 60 times. But he did one thing which ticked off all the hardcore Bolan fans, he never adhered to the idea that those vigilantes would never harm an innocent bystander. Camellion just didn´t care, and as every psychopath he alone knew the "truth". The hero´s constant "can´t wait for WWIII" was truly extreme.

But the work Rosenberger put in his novels was astounding for its time. He liked his facts, and the novels show.

The PAC Squad said...

And what's more he was a Ph D, seemingly with a doctorate in perversion --