Hit Man: A Technical Manual for Independent Contractors
|Author||Rex Feral (pseud.)|
|Published||1983 (Paladin Press)|
Hit Man: A Technical Manual for Independent Contractors is a book written under the pseudonym Rex Feral and published by Paladin Press in 1983. Paladin Press owner Peder Lund claimed, in an interview with 60 Minutes, that the book started life as a detailed crime novel written by a Florida housewife, and that the format was later changed to appeal to Paladin's reader base accustomed to the publisher's non-fiction books on military, survivalist, weapons and similar topics. The book portrays itself as a how-to manual on starting a career as a hit man, fulfilling contracts. However, after a number of lawsuits claiming that the book was used as a handbook in several murders, the publication of the book was stopped. It marked "the first time in American publishing history that a publisher has been held liable for a crime committed by a reader."
Paladin Press published the book under the author's pseudonym "Rex Feral" in 1983. The book is written as if by an actual experienced assassin, as a how-to manual on contract killing. It was said to be written by a divorced mother-of-two who simply fabricated much of the material it contains based on mystery novels and movies. The book goes on at length about studying "the mark", learning the mark's movements and routine, and silently moving in for the profitable kill, and offers advice on weapon selection and techniques.
On March 3, 1993, a triple murder was committed in Montgomery County, Maryland, by a man who claimed to have used the book as his guide. James Perry, who had been imprisoned for a violent crime, was caught, convicted, and sentenced three times to death. He had been hired by Lawrence Horn, who sought to receive the proceeds of a trust fund that resulted from his ex-wife's suing a hospital over injuries to their son.
The families of Mildred Horn, her son Trevor, and her nurse Janice Saunders sued, claiming Paladin Press "aided and abetted" the murder. The suit, Rice v Paladin Enterprises, claimed that Paladin Press had a share of responsibility in the murders by virtue of their publication of a book that, by Paladin's own admission, could be used by criminals and would-be criminals in the solicitation, planning, and commission of murder for hire. In November 1997, a U.S. appeals court ruled 3–0 that Hit Man was not protected by the free speech/free press clause of the First Amendment and thus Paladin Enterprises could be held liable for a triple murder committed by one of its readers.
On May 21, 1999, Paladin Press' insurance company agreed to settle the case out-of-court, against the wishes of Paladin Press themselves, who were confident that they would prevail in court on First Amendment grounds; however, Paladin’s insurance company balked at going to court again, figuring expenses for a lengthy trial in federal court, plus the posting of a bond in case they lost and appealed, would have cost much more than the settlement. Under this settlement, Paladin's insurance policy paid several million dollars to the families of those killed by the murderer, while also agreeing to destroy the remaining 700 copies of the book in their possession and surrendering any rights they had to publish and reproduce the work. Jon Ford, Paladin’s editorial director, called the settlement "economic censorship."
The book was also cited as a source of information in a similar crime committed by Robert Vaughn Jones in 1999. In 2000, Paladin Press was sued again as a result of Hit Man. The lawsuit was result of the 1998 attempted murder of Bobby Joe Wilson by her ex-husband, Robert Leslie Goggin, who allegedly hired Robert Jones to kill her in order to get money from her life insurance policy. In court, Jones testified that Goggin recruited him to kill Wilson. Jones said he then purchased Hit Man. In her lawsuit, Wilson outlined two dozen points of advice from the book that Jones followed to the letter in planning to kill her. The suit was eventually settled out of court in 2002.
After the legal cases, Paladin no longer published the book, and allowed the remaining undestroyed circulating copies to sell out. Copies exist on the Internet (notably IRC), often accompanied by the spurious claim that the book is now in the public domain. Paladin Press claims that the rights are still held by the author. It can also be purchased used from independent sellers. It is believed that 13,000 copies were sold, although Reason Magazine estimates there are 20,000 copies of the book in existence.
In 1999, a book called Deliberate Intent: a lawyer tells the true story of murder by the book, was released by lawyer, author, and First Amendment scholar, Rod Smolla. Deliberate Intent described his involvement in the notorious "Hit Man" case, where Smolla successfully represented the families of three murder victims in the court case against Paladin Press. The book was later made into a television movie and actor Timothy Hutton portrayed Smolla.
On August 6, 2000, a television film by Fox and the FX Cable Network called Deliberate Intent was aired in the U.S. based directly on the book and the case. It starred Timothy Hutton, Ron Rifkin, Clark Johnson, Penny Johnson Jerald, Cliff DeYoung, James McDaniel, and Yanna McIntosh. Peder Lund, Paladin Press' owner, was played by Kenneth Welsh. It was directed by Andy Wolk, produced by Howard Braunstein and Michael Jaffe, with music by Harald Kloser. In the drama, which clearly parallels the Horn case,
The legal team then proceeds to tie the book to the case of a Motown recording engineer (McDaniel) who gets a hitman to murder his ex-wife, their paraplegic daughter [sic] and the son’s nurse. By proving that the hired killer followed 22 of the 26 steps shown in Paladin’s book, they’re able to bring home the point that freedom of speech laws should not protect material that is produced for the purpose of aiding and abetting murder.
- "Paladin Press Pays Millions to Settle `Hit Man' Case". PublishersWeekly.com. May 31, 1999. Retrieved 2018-09-04.
- Hit Man: A Technical Manual for Independent Contractors ISBN 0-87364-276-7
- Montgomery, David (26 July 1998). "If Books Could Kill". Washingtonpost.com. The Washington Post Company. Retrieved 17 October 2014.
- David B. Kopel (August–September 1999). "The Day They Came to Sue the Book". Reason Magazine.
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- The Murder of the First Amendment?
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- Smolla, Rodney A. (1999). Deliberate intent : a lawyer tells the true story of murder by the book. Internet Archive. New York : Crown Publishers.
- Zahed, Ramin (2000-08-02). "Deliberate Intent". Variety. Retrieved 2018-09-04.
- Rotten Tomatoes, Deliberate Intent (2000), retrieved 2018-09-04
- "Deliberate Intent (TV 2000)". IMDB. Retrieved 17 February 2012.
- Kopel, David B. (August–September 1999). "The Day They Came to Sue the Book". Reason Magazine. Archived from the original on 2006-02-15. Retrieved 2006-02-21.
- Stim, Richard (October 20, 2007). "63. Dirty, Dangerous and Banned Books". Nolo. Retrieved 2010-02-11.
- McMasters, Paul (May 24, 1999). "Murder by the book: Free speech takes a hit". First Amendment Center. Archived from the original on September 27, 2007. Retrieved 2006-02-21.
- Hit Man: A Technical Manual for Independent Contractors, from archive.org