Paladin Press: A Brief History

What is the secret of Paladin’s success? We diligently seek out and publish unique, hard-hitting information our readers demand—information that some people think should be available only to a privileged few.

CREATING A NICHE

Paladin Press came into existence in September 1970 when Peder Lund joined Robert K. Brown as a partner in a book-publishing venture previously known as Panther Publications. They changed the name to avoid misidentification with the then-active and highly publicized Black Panther movement. The word “paladin” comes from the knights who served in Charlemagne’s court in eighth-century France. It was with some irony that Brown and Lund named the company after knights dispatched by the king to redress wrongs in the land.

As former military men and adventurers, Lund and Brown were convinced there was a market for books on specialized military and action/adventure topics. Both men also firmly believed that the First Amendment guaranteed Americans the right to read about whatever subjects they desired, and this became the cornerstone of Paladin’s publishing philosophy.

Their first book, 150 Questions for a Guerrilla , by Gen. Alberto Bayo, proved that the philosophy was viable. Bayo was a Communist veteran of the Spanish Civil War who became Fidel Castro’s mentor when Castro was training men in Mexico for his successful revolution in Cuba. The theories advocated in his book were state-of-the-art for the time and, while deceptively simple, deadly when applied against forces ignorant of the principles of guerrilla warfare. Previously, Bayo’s book had been available only in Spanish, and copies were scarce. Paladin’s edition became required reading for serious students of guerrilla warfare and is still in print today. This early work set the tone for Paladin’s future: it would be first to print books about controversial or suppressed subjects, and it would also be criticized for publishing works that some people found objectionable.

From 1970 to 1974, Paladin developed its stock of titles primarily by reprinting government military manuals previously available to the public only through purchase of purloined copies. In 1974, Lund and Brown split over the direction the company should take. Lund wanted to expand Paladin’s coverage of topics, while Brown wanted to start a magazine. Lund bought out Brown, who founded Soldier of Fortune magazine (SOF) in 1975.

PUSHING THE LIMITS

Lund started branching out beyond military subjects to titles on topics he felt were right for the times. As the interests of the public changed over the years, Paladin’s topics expanded to include survival and self-reliance, identity change, private investigation, espionage, personal freedom, action careers, lock picking, covert surveillance and countersurveillance, explosives, knives and knife fighting, sniping, martial arts, self-defense, and police science. Although some topics fell out of favor after a period, others have remained popular. Combat weaponry is one such topic that is just as popular today as it was in 1970 (one of Paladin’s perennial best-sellers is Jeff Cooper’s seminal book, The Art of the Rifle ), but even that category has evolved from an emphasis on surveys of gun hardware to works covering the tactical use of firearms in combat and self-defense situations.

In some areas, such as with firearm silencers and electronic eavesdropping, Paladin led the way by publishing the first works available to the public. Some of the books dealt with—but did not advocate employing—potentially illegal activities. These generated a lot of controversy—and sales.

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 900 titles, generating sales of hundreds of thousands of books and DVDs yearly.

George Hayduke’s Get Even: The Complete Book of Dirty Tricks , first published in 1980, opened up new markets for Paladin. This humorous approach to revenge struck a universal chord with folks frustrated by their run-ins with bureaucrats, bullies, and bad guys in general. It remains one of Paladin’s all-time best-sellers, with close to 150,000 hardback copies sold—which would place Get Even on a lot of national best-seller lists. It isn’t on any such lists, however, because Paladin’s lineup remains controversial in some circles.

Circumstances and changing times have caused Paladin to scale back publishing some of the more controversial material it had been known for in the past. After the settlement of the Hit Man lawsuit in 1999 and the passage of legislation making it legally treacherous to distribute information on explosives the company stopped publishing some 80 titles on explosives, demolitions, improvised weaponry, and self-defense. But in 2006, Paladin acquired the rights to reprint 40 books from defunct competitor Loompanics Unlimited, keeping a foothold in the “fringe publishing” world even in these legally cautious times.

MAINTAINING QUALITY

A Special Forces Vietnam veteran, Peder Lund is a classic individualist, skeptical of government and bureaucracies of all sorts and a fierce defender of the First and Second Amendments. Like most of his readers, he prefers to be left alone to pursue his livelihood and his life without undue restrictions or interference.

Lund strives to provide readers with quality books on a variety of interesting and unusual topics. He seeks out authors who are knowledgeable in their fields and encourages them to write for his audience. Many authors are well-known experts in their fields: Kelly McCann on all aspects of close-quarters combat, John Plaster on military and police sniping, Ragnar Benson on survivalism and emergency preparedness. In recent years, Paladin has branched out from its traditional focus on martial arts, military science, weaponry, and personal freedom issues to publish books on medieval arms and combat, hunting and fishing (through its Sycamore Island Books imprint), and classic aircraft of World War I (through Flying Machines Press).

By the late 1980s, providing state-of-the-art information led naturally into videotapes. In 1987, two videos debuted in Paladin’s catalog. Today, the company has a state-of-the-art video production facility creating a full lineup of action-packed DVDs every year on the latest in self-defense, combat shooting, and other topics.

In 2007, Paladin established its own in-house printing press, enabling the company to take advantage of print-on-demand (POD) technology and expand its catalog while keeping more or our older titles in print. One of the most popular programs to emerge from the POD system has been Paladin’s Combat Classic library—reprints of previously hard-to-find books in the public domain by Fairbairn, Sykes, Nelson, Cosneck, and Fitzgerald on such topics as World War II hand-to-hand combat, firearms, combat shooting, counterinsurgency, martial arts, survival, boxing, wrestling, and self-defense.

DELIVERING ON A PROMISE

Lund insists on quick, efficient customer service, fair prices, and an unconditional guarantee on every book and video. If for any reason a customer is dissatisfied with a book or video, Paladin will refund his money, no questions asked. To make sure these promises are met, Lund has kept his corporation small and focused. The staff is close-knit and dedicated to Paladin’s tradition of excellence. The company’s growth record and percentage of repeat customers—some of whom have been ordering books since 1970—are sure indicators that Paladin’s customer-service policies work.