Longform

Death Sentences

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Over "a couple beers," Turner testified, Lawrence expressed frustration with his former wife and complained about the custody battle. Turner testified that he then introduced Lawrence to his old pal, James Perry, a man Turner had met while in prison on an armed-robbery charge.

The business card belonging to "Dr. J. Perry" describes the 47-year-old Detroit grandfather as a "spiritual adviser and case buster." He is known in other circles as a con man and two-time convict, with convictions for armed robbery and assault.

Exactly how Perry made a living in his post-prison years is a source of debate. His attorney said at trial that "people all over the country" sent Perry money for his ministry. Investigators, however, are skeptical of those claims. FBI agents and Michigan state troopers who tailed Perry before his arrest testified at trial that they never saw the self-proclaimed minister go near a church.

At any rate, when Perry met Horn, both men were in the same boat: they were hard up for money. Maryland investigators say that L.T., "the Man With the Plan," came up with an idea that could lift both men out of the poverty track. Horn would be a rich man if his wife and son were dead. Perhaps Perry could help him with that.

Months before he and Horn were introduced, Perry had ordered and received two books from Paladin Press, Hit Man and How to Make a Disposable Silencer, Vol. 2. He paid for the manuals with a personal check. It bounced.

Books on subjects related to the professional hit man are hard to find. But there are a few publishers out there who have the backbone to provide those of us who take life seriously with the necessary educational materials. Paladin Press advertises in almost every issue of Soldier of Fortune, and other publishers also offer relevant reading material, available by mail order.

--Excerpt from Hit Man

Panther Publications was founded in the early 1960s by Robert K. Brown, a former Green Beret. Brown believed--and time would prove him right--that there were plenty of armchair soldiers in the world who represented a ready market for military manuals and action/adventure books.

In 1970 Brown took on as his partner Peder Lund, another Special Forces veteran and self-proclaimed "adventurer." The men tossed aside the name Panther (to avoid inadvertent identification with the Black Panther movement, according to a Paladin promotional insert) and rechristened their venture "Paladin Press" after the twelve knights who served Charlemagne.

The pair specialized in reprinting military manuals and publishing books that, as Brown brags in a three-page biography distributed by Soldier of Fortune, "outraged liberals." But by 1974, political provocation was not enough to satisfy Brown's appetite for risk-taking. He wanted to be where the action was, and he dreamed of starting a magazine featuring reports on mercenaries and revolutions--what he called "hairy-chested journalism."

Lund wasn't interested, and he bought out his partner's share in Paladin. The following year, Brown took the money and established Soldier of Fortune magazine, which as recently as 1992 claimed a circulation of 90,000.

Paladin's success was equally impressive. According to a self-congratulatory article in the Twentieth Anniversary catalogue Paladin published in 1990, "From the late 1970s on, Paladin's titles and sales doubled almost yearly, and today the company has established itself as the unquestioned leader in the 'action' book market, with a list of more than 350 titles, generating sales of hundreds of thousands of books and making Paladin a multi-million dollar enterprise."

Lund accomplished that by expanding beyond military subjects to "topics he felt were right for the times." And what times they proved to be.

For a small price (most of the books in Paladin's catalogue range from $10 to $30), readers can own a copy of such offerings as The Poor Man's Sniper Rifle; 21 Techniques of Silent Killing; Be Your Own Undertaker: How to Dispose of a Dead Body; 101 Sucker Punches; Head Butts, Eye Gouging and Hair Pulling: A Scientific Approach to Dirty Fighting; The Ancient Art of Strangulation; Fun, Games and Big Bangs: The Home and Recreational Use of High Explosives; and Kill Without Joy: The Complete How-to-Kill Book.

Paladin's do-it-yourself manuals teach readers how to convert semi-automatic weapons to fully automatic, how to pick locks and circumvent security alarms, how to destroy bridges, how to convert model rockets into explosive missiles, and how and where to sell bodily organs to the highest bidder. Customers can learn how to make grenade launchers, bazookas, flamethrowers, silencers, claymore mines, 9mm submachine guns, nitroglycerin and plastic explosives.

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Karen Bowers