Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Murder Master 1 - Death Trap by Joseph Rosenberger

Death Trap
by Joseph Rosenberger
Murder Master 1
Manor Books 1973

Louis Luther King is an undercover FBI Special Agent assigned to infiltrate the Invisibles.  Despite the name, they're just a handful of criminals who knock over an armored cars without giving the Mafia their cut.  King and the Invisibles are plotting their next heist and have to contend with a mob snitch.

A bit restrained for Rosenberger though there's still a hefty body count.  There are some weird inconsistencies with King's morals and motivations, which are unsatisfactorily explained away.  I've gotten that feeling from Rosenberger before - that an editor told him to fix something, and instead he shoehorned in some commentary.

King has an undercover identity as the Murder Master, yet he's concerned enough about concealing his crimes that he's okay with semi-innocent victims being murdered.  It makes a little bit of sense that he's covering up his unorthodox methods from his FBI bosses, but one would think he'd want the underground to know of the crimes of the Murder Master to build his street cred.

King's mission is to recover the stolen loot, but making an arrest is not even considered.  He's fully intent on murdering the Invisibles, leaving the leader for last so he can find the location of the money, but doesn't really make an effort to take them out until the end.

The big action set-piece is the raid on a warehouse loading cash into an armored car.  Instead of tipping off the police he joins in.  He makes a nominal effort to not hurt anyone, which for Rosenberger means only machine gunning off people's legs and setting them on fire before blowing the whole place sky high.

I suspect the original draft has King a criminal who double-crosses his partners - the plot makes a lot more sense that way.  Maybe an editor told him to make King a cop and he did so with the minimal amount of typing.

This is another example of Rosenberger's disguise fetish, which is silly and worse than useless.  Every day King disguises himself as an old man before returning to the tricked out RV in the trailer park where he lives, at which point he changes back or sleeps in his disguise.  Which doesn't do him a ton of good, seeing as how he doesn't switch cars and the one he drives has a bumper sticker for the trailer park.

I was surprised by how not racist it was.  It may be more fair to say that Rosenberger is a general misanthrope rather than a specific bigot, and that he's not afraid to go racial when he wants to.  Rosenberger's heroes see themselves superior to the rest of humanity and King is no exception.

I suspect things might have gone south if King wasn't the only Black character.  Since he was the superman, everybody else was an idiot, and here that meant that everyone from taxi drivers to neighbors to mafia hitmen were stupid racists (on purpose), looking down on and underestimating him because of his race, with King showing them up.  The Italians actually get it worse - there's a line about eating garlic in hell.

The back cover copy was trying way too hard.  The actual text is much less jivey - maybe just a few "baby"s sprinkled here and there.

Aside from a quick snarky comment on "Black is Beautiful", the book benefited from a lack of Rosenberger's political ramblings, though he tended to keep that solely in Death Merchant.  Too bad - I'd like to see him go whole hog and have footnotes about the KKK owning KFC and jet planes existing in ancient Egypt.

The Murder Master series is a titch pricey on the used book market and didn't quite have the novelty value I was hoping for to justify me hunting down the other two installments.

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