The Death Merchant

The Death Merchant

"The Death Merchant" is the title and lead character of a series of men's action-adventure books written by Joseph Rosenberger. Richard Joseph Camellion, as described in the books is a master of disguise, the martial arts and wet-work. Cynical and lethal in equal measure, his normal employer was the CIA - at a cost of $100,000 tax free bucks a mission.

He is described on the back of the books as "Richard Camellion, master of death, destruction, and disguise. He gets the dirty jobs, the impossible missions, the operations that cannot be handled by the FBI, CIA, or any other legal or extra-legal force. He is a man without a face, without a single identifying characteristic...except that he succeeds by being a Merchant of Death!"

The Death Merchant

Additional information about the Death Merchant is sprinkled every now and then in the series of books as follows:

"Birthplace": "#30, The Shamballa Strike" reveals that Camellion's birthplace is St. Louis, Missouri. As an adult, Richard Camellion keeps a ranch in Texas where he lives when not on a mission.

"Education": Two books, "#30 The Shamballa Strike" and "#53 The Judas Scrolls" mention Camellion studying at St. Louis University, where he received a Bachelor of Science degree. It is also stated in the former book that Camellion holds a degree in engineering from Washington University in St. Louis. Two books ("#1 The Death Merchant" and "#9 Laser Mission") mention that Camellion is an ex-teacher of history, but this may simply be a cover story.

"Hobbies": Gardening, Martial Arts, Amateur archaeology (mentioned in "#9 Laser Mission" and "#61 Bulgarian Termination"). Camellion is very interested in the occult, and especially the prophecies of Nostradamus.

"Alias:" James Valdorian, Chester Giffwangle, Leonard Higgdon , Emil Milrich , Cempt Tobtocpam , Thomas Wang-Ji. On two occasions, when asked if Camellion is his real name, he replies that it doesn't matter. "#63 The Soul Search Project" reveals that Richard Joseph Camellion is not the name on his birth certificate.

Frequently disguises himself (and fellow mercs) during operations

"Worked with": ONI (Office of Naval Intelligence), NSA , CIA , MAD (West German counter-intelligence)"Known enemies": the KGB , SWAPO , GROB (Indonesian Political Security Service), various terrorist organizations.

The Death Merchant has two pet pigs, known as Damon and Pythias.

The Death Merchant is notable in being rather more nihilistic than many of his 70's and 80's action series counterparts; he normally doesn't think twice about killing innocent people if it is the quickest way to get the mission accomplished. For example, "#62, The Soul Search Project" sees The Death Merchant's team cold-bloodedly killing over 50 New York Police Department officers who try to stop them during a mission.

Another interesting thing about the Death Merchant is that he seems to have little interest in women or sex; there is no "love interest" for Richard Camellion of any sort in any of the books. In an early book, however, he does mention a former girlfriend, "the one true love of his life" who had been killed by the KGB, however, in the first book "The Death Merchant", He has a relation with a disabled girl and show true feelings for her. He on one occasion states that he will not feel truly satisfied until the Soviet Union is "a sea of radioactive glass."

He has sex a few times in the books, although considerably less than many of his counterparts -- He does have sex aboard a boat in one book "(The Billionaire Mission)" and with a CIA staff girl in "The Iron Swastika Plot."

The Death Merchant's face is not described in great detail, and it is mentioned that he has had plastic surgery to alter his appearance numerous times. He does, however, like his men's action adventure counterparts Remo Williams and Mack Bolan, have blue eyes which are occasionally described as "icy." The Death Merchant is described as being about 6 feet tall and having a slender, wiry frame.

The Books

1. The Death Merchant -Richard Camellion was not born to a life of crime and killing. The fateful circumstances of his existence led him to become a master of murder, of cunning, of disguise-of all the brutal knowledge needed to become undisputed top gun of the strongest, vastest crime network in the history of the world. Now, fresh from his latest hit, the Death Merchant has been summoned to a top-echelon conference at a little restaurant near Chicago's Loop. Come inside and meet the Family...

2. Operation Overkill

3. The Psychotron Plot-It is a fiendish Russian invention, specially designed to drive a man insane by blasting his brainwaves and interfering with his body's electromagnetic fields. Strategically, by using the Psychotron for telepathic hypnosis, the Russians and Egyptians could annihilate Israel.

4. Chinese Conspiracy-The head of the government's program to put a space shuttle into operation has been kidnapped from Cape Kennedy. The man who planned the project is ex-SS Nazi General Hans Hugo Kronsleiter. Can he be prevented from taking the doctor out of the US to Canada and then to China?

5. Satan Strike-A virus a thousand times more deadly than smallpox, a virus able to kill millions of people within a few hours. It was developed by the sadistic dictator of a Caribbean empire. He's going to trap Russia and the US, using germ warfare as the bait, and watch them destroy each other. 6. The Albanian Connection

7. The Castro File-A battle for power between the Russians and the Cubans must be averted, and only the Death Merchant can prevent it. He must keep Fidel Castro from being killed and replaced with an exact double, a Russian agent who intends to deliver Cuba into the Kremlin's hands.

8. The Billionaire Mission - One of the richest men in the world is a devil-worshiping madman, with a plan to destroy society as we know it. The combined intelligence forces of the world want to stop him, and The Death Merchant is their key player.

9. The Laser War-The Israelis have captured an Egyptian intelligence agent. From him they learned that during World War II the Nazis had developed a laser weapon with capabilities far in advance of even the most modern designs. The Israelis want that weapon-all the nations of the world do! 10. The Mainline Plot-The "H" Bomb. But this time "H" means heroin, and a superpotent strain has been developed exclusively for the US market. The North Koreans, intend to enslave a generation of Americans.

11. Manhattan Wipeout-A contract is out on the Death Merchant. Salvatore Giordanno, Capomafia of the most powerful New York family, knows it's a kill-or-be-killed situation-his entire organization is at stake. It's a mop-up and a wipeout scene in Manhattan!

12. The KGB Frame-Flash! Camellion turns double agent. The target of both his colleagues and his enemies, the Death Merchant becomes the object of the most intense manhunt in the history of international espionage.

13. The Mato Grosso Horror-Deep in the steaming jungle of Brazil, a secret enclave of ex-Nazis worked feverishly to perfect the ultimate biological warfare weapon. Leading a small "anthropological" expedition into the sweltering Mato Grosso, Richard Camellion knew that his chances of survival diminished the deeper he penetrated the jungle.

14. Vengeance of the Golden Hawk-Vengeance of the Golden Hawk, an Arab terrorist organization dedicated to the elimination of Israel. Now the VGH is assembling a rocket with an atomic warhead, and plans to unleash the murderous weapon on Tel Aviv.

15. The Iron Swastika Plot-Die Spinne. German for the Spider. A deadly network of fanatic ex-Nazis. The Spider is attempting to snatch a huge treasure in gold-$2 billion worth-from the Atlantic waters off Argentina.

16. Invasion of the Clones- Our protagonist helps lead a revolution in Africa, but finds himself opposed by five clones of the world's deadliest killer -- himself. 17. The Zemlya Expedition-When the Russians build an experimental undersea "city" in the Arctic Ocean the Americans want to know what it's about-for the nation that can control the sea today can control the world tomorrow! One man against a Russian city! 18. Nightmare in Algeria-The Black Avengers form an alliance with the Blood Sons of Allah. Together they plot to kill the US Secretary of State, the President of the US, and the President of Egypt. Could this be the start of World War III?

19. Armageddon, USA!-Three A-Bombs have been planted in three American cities. Which cities? That's what the FBI and the CIA need to know. The Death Merchant is the one man capable of doing the job: locating the bombs, preventing their detonation, and then eliminating the eliminators. 20. Hell in Hindu Land-It seems there is a mysterious, secret room in a Buddhist monastery in India-a room that contains secrets "from the stars." The CIA cannot afford to ignore this report, no matter how bizarre it sounds. If only partially true, the potential value of these ideas to a world power like Russia could be disastrous to the USA...possibly the free world.

21. The Pole Star Secret-According to reports from a CIA agent inside the KGB, the Soviets have set up a secret base at the North Pole to study weather control. If the Russians could alter climatic patterns they could create financial and the political havoc. There are also rumors of a "lost land" somewhere close to the North Pole! 23. The Budapest Action-Hungarian scientists are working on a new weapon-a powerful hallucinogen gas that, if dispersed within a city, could neutralize the entire population for as long as two weeks. The Death Merchant races against the Russians, in search of the formula that could immobilize the world!

24. The Kronos Plot-The plot: Castro is planning to blow up two ocean-going vessels in the main locks and destroy the Panama Canal. The Death Merchant must destroy the Kronos plot before the canal is destroyed!

25. The Enigma Project-Noah's Ark has been located on the top of Mt. Ararat, the towering mountain that overlooks the Soviet Union. The Death Merchant's job-go as a member of a biblical group and bring back photos of the entire Soviet border sector.

26. The Mexican Hit-An easy mission for the Death Merchant-merely halt the entire drug traffic across the Mexican border and prevent a bloody and ruthless revolution.

27. The Surinam Affair-A US spy satellite crashes in the jungle of Surinam. The Death Merchant's job: destroy the satellite before the Soviets get to it, to save the US from nuclear destruction! 28. Nipponese Nightmare-A terrorist organization operating in Japan plans to assassinate key international figures and blow up their embassies. The murders will be blamed on the CIA! 29. Fatal Formula-The Russians have developed a deadly influenza strain. The Death Merchant must find the secret laboratory somewhere in the Crimea, destroy the formula, and make sure no one remains alive who can recreate it in the future! 30. Shambhala Strike-For centuries there have been rumors of an extensive complex of caverns existing under Tibet, Bhutan, Mongolia, and Kurdistan. The Red Chinese and the Russians are trying to find it. Not if the Death Merchant has anything to do about it. . .

31. Operation Thunderbolt-An American planeload of vacationers has gone down off the coast of North Korea. Among the survivors is a doctor working on an ultrasonic bomb. Can the Death Merchant get the doctor out of North Korea-or kill him-before he is forced to talk?

32. Deadly Manhunt-Somehow his cover has been blown. But his true identity is known only to a carefully selected few. And that means that someone Camellion knows has betrayed him.

33. Alaska Conspiracy-A highly secret organization is plotting to smash OPEC. Their plan: sabotage the Alaskan pipeline and make it look like the work of OPEC-hoping the US will take drastic military action against them, thereby destroying OPEC.

34. Operation Mind-Murder-When the Russians begin building a complex that appears to be not only a radar station but a sophisticated weather experimental base, this can only mean trouble for the free world.

35. Massacre in Rome-A simple woman living in Rome has been making predictions about world events that have turned out to be frighteningly accurate. Red Brigade revolutionaries kidnap her and the Death Merchant's orders: Find the woman, and settle the Red Brigade's hash once and for all-at any cost!

36. The Cosmic Reality Kill-The Cosmic Reality Church, a powerful religious cult is overrunning the US and brainwashing impressionable kids to become terrorists. The Death Merchant must infiltrate the cult and destroy the maniacal leader. 37. The Bermuda Triangle Action-The Cubans and Russians are building a secret underwater base south of Jamaica. The Death Merchant must locate and destroy this complex-and see whether the strange disappearances in the Bermuda Triangle come to an end.

38. The Burning Blue Death-In eight months, twelve people, all connected to high government posts spontaneously combust. The Death Merchant is sent in to find out the who, what, and why of the Spontaneous Human Combustion deaths.

39. The Fourth Reich -- The Death Merchant and his men versus a massive neo-Nazi conspiracy. No contest!

40. Blueprint Invisibility-Camellion's mission is to find out if the KGB has stolen one of the US's most well-guarded secrets: electronic camouflage.

41. Shamrock Smash-The rate someone's smuggling weapons into Northern Ireland has tripled-the supply is endless, and the IRA won't stop its merciless bombing and killing.

42. High Command Murder-A retired French postal worker reveals that he helped a group of Americans and Frenchmen bury 100 boxes of Hitler's gold in Brittany at the close of World War II. He's murdered before he can tell the CIA where.

43. The Devil's Trashcan --

44. Island of the Damned-Russian scientists are hard at work, secretly perfecting an ingenious but lethal device: the Bio Memory Scanner. With it, the Soviets plan to monitor not only the mental activity of everyone alive, but also anyone who has ever existed!

45. The Rim of Fire Conspiracy-The Soviets have buried nuclear devices deep below the ocean floor-along the Rim of Fire! They hope to destroy the US with earthquakes and volcanoes. 47. Operation Skyhook-The Soviets launched a test version of a satellite with lasers far superior to anything the US has ever produced. The US overrides the satellite and it lands in Indonesia. The race is on!

48. Psionics War -

50. The Hellbomb Theft -

51. The Flight of the Phoenix

53. The Judas Scrolls - A cache of scrolls reported to have been written by Judas the apostle of Jesus, have been discovered, stolen and rehidden in the Jordanian Desert. The Death Merchant is sent to be the first to retrieve them, fighting off Israeli's, Jordanians, and Russians.

54. Apocalypse, USA! - A team of Libyan and East German terrorists are trying to smuggle a deadly nerve gas into the USA to release by airplane, killing millions and precipitating World War III. It's up to the Death Merchant to stop them, and it's no more Mr. Nice Guy in this book. . .

55. Slaughter in Salvador -- The Death Merchant heads to war-torn El Salvador, where he tangles with death squads and communist Sandinista rebels, with predictable carnage.

56. Afghanistan Crashout -

57. The Romanian Operation --

59. The Burma Probe -- The Chinese have created a secret base deep within Burma, with the intention of launching warheads loaded with chemical weapons into Thailand and Laos and taking over the region. The Death Merchant teams up with Thunderbolt Unit Omega and Lester Vernon "The Widowmaker" Cole to bring those plans to a bloody halt.

60. The Methuselah Factor -

61. The Bulgarian Termination

62. The Soul Search Project -- A scientist has discovered a way to communicate with the souls of the dead, and Richard Camellion must protect him -- or kill him -- before the Russians get to him. Notably the most nihilistic book of the series, as Camellion and his colleagues kill several dozen NYPD officers during a chase without blinking an eye and justify it by saying that "you have to break a few eggs to make an omelet."

63. The Pakistan Mission - The Russians have created a secret Spetznatz base on the border of Afghanistan, which they plan to use as a springboard to invade Pakistan. Enter The Death Merchant, exit Commies in bodybags.

64. The Atlantean Horror --

65. Mission Deadly Snow --

69. The Miracle Mission-A diabolical alliance of Red Brigade and Arab extremists have stolen the sacred Shroud of Turin. Someone has to recover the precious relic and teach the terrorists a lesson they won't forget.

70. The Greenland Mission -- Camellion and his crew head to Greenland to recover what seems to be a flying saucer buried beneath the ice. The Russians are, of course, not far behind. . .

THE FINAL BOOK IN THE DEATH MERCHANT SERIES was released in 1987, a double-sized adventure entitled "Apocalypse". (Not to be confused with "Apocalypse U.S.A") The series ends with a bang rather than a whimper, as the Soviets finally perfect their weather-controlling machines, resulting in millions of deaths around the globe, an enormous hole in the Ozone layer, and a conflict with Camellion and his operatives that, as the book ends, leaves the World on the brink of World War III, with the President of the USA lobbying Congress for a declaration of war and revolutions breaking out in Eastern Europe. The final scene sees Camellion on a nuclear submarine, gleeful that the final nuclear conflict with his most hated enemy is about to happen.

The Writing

The books make great use of the paranormal and supernatural, which distinguishes them somewhat from other similar action-adventure series -- Camellion is able to see "auras" which indicate whether someone will live or die, and frequently mentions prayers to the "Cosmic Lord of Death." The plots of some of the books involve the lost city of Atlantis, the Bermuda Triangle, aliens and flying saucers, and biblical artifacts. The prophecies of Nostradamus are mentioned on more than one occasion.

The books also make interesting use of speculative military techonology like a machine to contact the souls of the dead, super laser weapons, and devices to control people's thoughts and the weather.

To this extent, the series could be considered something of an ultraviolent progenitor of "The X-Files."

Despite the often bizarre nature of the plots, the books are grounded firmly in reality, with footnotes to provide factual information about a number of topics related to politics, history, crime, weapons, military tactics, and various conspiracy theories. Rosenberger writes with abundant and convincing details about the life, people, geography, and customs in the various countries the Death Merchant visits, such as Burma and Pakistan.

The books are arguably the most graphically violent of all the men's action-adventure series of the 80's -- the author describes the trajectory and impact of nearly every bullet fired, in detail worthy of a medical professional. Likewise, the hand-to-hand combat scenes offer lengthy descriptions of graphic damage to bones, muscles and organs, as well as a tremendous amount of information about martial arts in general.

Weapons of the Death Merchant

Unlike his counterpart Mack Bolan, who preferred to use the same weapons again and again (normally a .44 Automag known as "Big Thunder" and a Beretta 93-R) the Death Merchant used a wide variety of different sidearms, assault weapons, ammunition and explosives. To this extent, the Death Merchant books provide even more of a survey of the weaponry of the era than do other men's adventure series, and the books probably have even more technical information about them, both in the text and as footnotes.

The only weapon which Richard J. Camellion seemed to have any special attachment to was his lead-weighted icepick, which he called "Baby."

When fighting at close quarters Richard Camellion (and his colleagues) often fought with a pistol in each hand, much like the characters in the films of John Woo.

Here are but a few of the weapons the Death Merchant has used:
#.45 Safari Arms Matchmasters (competition grade M1911, the well-known .45 Colt automatic)
#Mac-10 SMG
#.44 Backpacker Auto-Mag (apparently a very limited custom .44 Automag with two inch shorter barrel)
#.223 Bushmaster (a civilian M-16 variant)
#Walther P-38
#High Standard .22 Pistol
#"Gebhardt" dart gun
#Lead-weighted icepick (which he called "Baby") in a special holster between his shoulderblades
#M-6 flash grenade (possibly a variant Flash-bang?)
#mercury grenades
#C-4, RDX
#9mm High-Power Browning
#RH4 Rheinmetall assault rifle
# Twin Smith and Wesson Combat .357 Magnum revolvers (S&W Model 19)

Tools and Gadgets

# Microwave Impedator (aka "Mister Fuck Up") Roughly a briefcase sized device , can render useless infrared and other photo-electric detectors. Also can jam transmitters of audio and motion detectors , which operate upon the Doppler principle. Has a built-in self destruct mechasism.
#The Plan : Set of lockpick tools inside a small metal cylinder , which can hidden in the rectum , to be used in case of capture and search (Used in #4 "Chinese Conspiracy" and #16 "Invasion of the Clones")
#D-SEP (Distant Sound Evaluator Pickup or the "Big Ear"): Tiny device that can amplify existing sound so one can hear a whisper at 30m and breathing at 15m.
#The GF Mechanism : An electromagnetic field device which can render large objects (such as helicopters) temporarily invisible and inaudible. Lethal for a human to cross through.

Fellow Mercs

#Vallie "The Eye" West
#Vernon "The Widowmaker" Cole
#Merle Duvane
#Colonel "Mad" Mike Quinlan : Commander of Thunderbolt Unit Omega (merc outfit)
#Hannibal Llewellen "H.L." Kartz
#George McCauley II
#Tom Pierson

Camellion's CIA contact and overseer is named Courtland "The Fox" Grojean

imilar Series

#"The Executioner" with Mack Bolan
#"The Butcher"
#"The Penetrator"


[ Modern Pulps: The Death Merchant] -- overview of the series and descriptions of four of the novels

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