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Legacy of Steel Vol.1-2
Master at Arms James Keating's legendary training camp in Hells Canyon comes to life in this 2 DVD set produced by Paladin Press. Basics of forward & reverse grip, counter-knife, Bowie, test cutting, and more await! (40)

Comtech In Fiction

Back in High School I got into reading what were termed "men's adventure novels" just for fun. These books featured super macho characters who changed their guns more often than they changed their clothes engaged in high-octane action. There were many series to choose from with titles like "They Call Me The Mercenary", "The Survivalist", "Death Merchant", "The Destroyer", and perhaps the most famous of them all "The Executioner".

The Executioner series was first created by author Don Pendleton in 1969 and by now must have well over 500 books and counting along with a number of spin offs. The main character throughout is Mack Bolan, an Army sniper who returned home from Vietnam to find his family destroyed by the mafia so he took revenge city after city, book after book. Eventually the government gave him amnesty on the condition he would lead a secret anti-terrorist team under the new name Col. John Phoenix.

Of course, like any book series this large Pendleton didn't write them all himself!

Starting in 1990, one of the many *ghost writers* for the novels which came out monthly was Jerry Van Cook, a former undercover narcotics investigator and martial artist. To the best of my research, he wrote 39 novels in the series. You can find all of them listed here along with pictures of the covers and sometimes short descriptions.

Outside of fiction Van Cook was a prolific magazine author, penning articles for scores of titles related to cutlery, firearms, self protection, etc. Back in the day on any given month you might find his work in several different publications. Many of you will know him from articles in Tactical Knives, Close Quarters Combat, etc.

We only met one time but it was a blast! We were both teaching at a Hock Hochheim seminar and had a great time talking and training.

He had a wild sense of humor and infused his writing with all kinds of curious details drawn from his experiences to bring the characters to life. It was not uncommon that Bolan would be carrying a Laci Szabo designed RAD custom folder or a Bill Bagwell Hells Belle Bowie, or that a villain would know the intricacies of the Spanish Navaja fighting.

For example, in the novel "Triburst" (The Executioner #196) he mentions that one of the characters, a knife expert named Colin James who works with Bolan, had recently attended the Riddle of Steel to "tune (his) technique against opponents near his own caliber" because the rest of the team (Bolan included) wasn't enough challenge! He also learns a special technique at the ROS involving wooden spikes which later helps save the day.

In a later novel, "Precision Play" (The Executioner #257) Van Cook goes all in, mixing the real world with the fictional one when a tree-hugging Vice President and his daughter are kidnapped by a militia who have a secret compound deep in Hell's Canyon.

This plot device allows Mack Bolan to meet none other than Knife Master James Alberts and a whole slew of other warriors at the Edge Quest training event...

Obviously, James Alberts is James Albert Keating and Edge Quest is the Riddle of Steel!

(And the VP is Al Gore if it wasn't clear for the kids out there.)

Van Cook goes out of his way to introduce the reader to a number of specific warriors at the Edge Quest event and while it was clear to me who some of them were, I was intrigued to find out about the rest.

So I made a list of all the characters in the book and their details and sent it on to Mr. Keating (or should I say Mr. Alberts?) for review!

Without giving too many spoilers, early in the novel, Bolan meets with wheelchair-bound retired Army General Harsey and his son Rick at the General's house which is full of weaponry like a military museum and where a huge firefight erupts.

General Harsey - Col. Rex Applegate

Rick Harsey - Bill Harsey, Knifemaker and longtime friend of Applegate

Later on Bolan is moving up the Snake River Canyon on foot towards the militia's compound and spots a camp where he sees a large group of men is training with knives. He realizes that they are not the militia group he is seeking but also doesn't know who they are. Without giving away the story he ends up meeting (in order of appearance):

Gary Kirk - Jerry Van Cook "A former undercover cop and author of adventure novels"

James Alberts - James Albert Keating "The fisherman he had seen earlier with the red goatee, now holding a Hell's Belle with an eagle-head hooked pommel"

Mark Kane - Doc Kaye "A psychologist from PA"

Mabe Davidson - David Mobley "An assistant instructor with black hair and a beard in his 30's"

Josh Robertson - Rob Langford "A young instructor in his 20's"

Anton Zanna - Laci Szabo "A man with a Hungarian accent who is piloting a jet boat"

Charlie Denton - Charlie Porter from Denton Texas Freedom Knives "In his 50's carrying a knife with "The Friend" engraved on the handle"

John Crossett - John Saucier from Crossett Arkansas "Tall and lanky like Alberts, carrying a Glock and a bolo"

Buzz Baggins - Bill Bagwell "Older bearded guy wearing a cowboy hat and boots with a Hell's Belle"

T. Moose Roads - Big Jay "Big man with a gold earring and covered in tattoos"

Sgt. Thompson Lewiston PD - John Morbeck Clarkston PD "A short man who looked like he spent every minute lifting weights"

The fights are over the top as always in this series with the Edge Quest crew helping Bolan to take out the bad guys and save the day using their hand to hand combat skills featuring lots of specific cutlery and firearms which you will recognize.

There are plenty of other little jokes throughout this novel. A Secret Service agent named Keating, a jet boat named Norma, etc. I think Van Cook *really* had a lot of fun with this one coming up with as many little references as he could for those in the know.

This book was written in 2000 but used copies are still available online (or they were until I wrote this article)

All my very best to you,

Pete Kautz

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