Paladin Press: A Brief HistoryNOTE: Peder Lund, the founder and publisher of Paladin Press, died suddenly on June 3, 2017, while on vacation in Finland. Peder was always a doer, and we at Paladin take comfort in the fact that he died doing what he loved most.
Peder fought in the Vietnam War with the U.S. Army Rangers and Special Forces, and he was especially proud that Paladin was one of the first publishers in the country to offer books about the Vietnam War. He remained fiercely supportive of all the men and women in uniform who serve their country.
On his passing, one of Peder’s long-term friends described him as “a good friend, a great warrior, an intellectual, a gentleman, and a most accomplished businessman.” We think that pretty much sums up his life.
Creating a Niche
What is the secret of Paladin’s success? We believe it is our diligent effort to seek out and publish the unique, hard-hitting information our readers demand—information that some people think should be available only to a privileged few.
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. 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 content 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.
From the beginning, one of Paladin’s most perennially popular categories has been Combat Classics. Based in large measure on requests from long-time Paladin customers, we have sought out reprints of previously hard-to-find manuals by W.E. Fairbairn, E.A. Sykes, Rex Applegate, Charles Nelson, and Bob Kasper on such topics as World War II hand-to-hand combat, firearms, combat shooting, counterinsurgency, martial arts, survival, boxing, wrestling, and self-defense. Though long out of print—but still much in demand by many people charged with teaching new generations of soldiers, police officers, or self-defense students—these classics remain timeless even today.
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.
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 remained one of Paladin’s all-time best-sellers for decades, 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.
A Special Forces Vietnam veteran, Peder Lund was 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 preferred to be left alone to pursue his livelihood, and his life, without undue restrictions or interference.
Lund always insisted on Paladin providing readers with quality books on a variety of interesting and unusual topics. We seek out authors who are knowledgeable in their fields and encourage them to write for Paladin’s audience. Many authors are the leading authorities in their fields: John Plaster on SOG and military and police sniping, Kelly McCann on all aspects of close-quarters combat, Ragnar Benson on survivalism and emergency preparedness.
Paladin’s best-selling title of all time, The Ultimate Sniper by John Plaster, is the acknowledged bible for police and military snipers all over the world. Its popularity also created demand for other quality sniping titles, including Plaster’s Ultimate Sniping videos, Long-Range Precision Rifle (now in an expanded edition) by Anthony Cirincione II, and 100+ Sniper Exercises by Spaniard Eduardo Abril de Fontcuberta.
Perhaps the topic of survivalism is the one for which Paladin is best known—and for good reason. In many respects, we pioneered the genre. Back in the 1970s and ’80s, Paladin offered hard-to-come-by information on nuclear survival, emergency medicine, retreats, firearms, and poaching and trapping by such survival luminaries as Dr. Bruce Clayton, Ragnar Benson, Mel Tappan, and Dale Martin. We still offer these classics, but have added newer titles geared to today’s preppers—including how to build the perfect off-grid home—from such authors as M.D. Creekmore, F.J. Bohan, James C. Jones, and Fred Demara.
Adapting to the Times
In publishing, as in life, you either adapt or perish. Paladin’s history is filled with examples of how we have adapted to publishing’s changing landscape.
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 full lineup of action-packed DVDs on the latest in self-defense, combat shooting, and other topics, featuring such international authors as American Kelly McCann and his Kem-ba-tivz staff, Brit Lee Morrison and his Urban Combatives curriculum, Canadian Kevin Secours and his Russian-based Combat Systema videos and book, and Australian Nick Hughes and his French Foreign Legion Combatives series.
Today Paladin video titles are available for immediate download as DVDs on Demand. Likewise, many Paladin books are now available as e-books either through Amazon’s Kindle program or as PDF files on Paladin Press’ website. This allows us to cater to the preferences of all customers.
When Paladin first started out more than four decades ago, orders and communication with customers was by mail order. Then toll-free ordering allowed customers to call in their orders free of charge. Today most Paladin orders and communications are through the Internet. Paladin’s website allows customers to place orders safely and easily, and our e-newsletter lets us disseminate information to them about new titles, sales, and changes in prices/availability on a regular basis. Customers can access our online catalog 24/7 to learn more about our library and place orders. Our author-written blog keeps readers informed about author happenings and topics of interest.
Delivering on a Promise
Our founder Peder Lund always insisted on quick, efficient customer service, fair prices, and an unconditional guarantee on every book and video sold. If for any reason a customer is dissatisfied with a product, Paladin will refund his money, no questions asked. To make sure these promises are met, Lund kept his corporation small and focused. The staff is close-knit and dedicated to Paladin’s tradition of excellence. The company’s longevity and percentage of repeat customers—some of whom have been ordering books since 1970—are sure indicators that Paladin’s customer-service policies have worked.