The Save-Your-Life Defense Handbook, by Matt Braun, Old Greenwich, Conn.: Devin-Adair, 1977, 189 pp., $10/$5.95
Exotic Weapons: An Access Book, by Michael Hoy, Mason, Mich.: Loompanics Unlimited, 1977, 37 pp., $4 (paper)
Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Care for Self-Sufficient Living, by Guy Lockwood, D.V.M., Phoenix: White Mountain Publishing, 1977, 330 pp., $12.95/$7.95
In the attempt to become self-sufficient, most people, perhaps ironically, have to rely on others. Self-sufficiency doesn't come automatically; one has to learn how to do important things for oneself, and learning by trial and error is the arduous way. There is a market, then, for how-to books in the area, but not all of them are in fact reliable.
Matt Braun wrote The Save-Your-Life Defense Handbook in five chapters. If he had done it in as many paragraphs, it would have been less tedious to read and could still have contained every line of any value that appears in the book.
There is a good deal of homey philosophy, some sound and pithy advice, and more misinformation than I have seen in one place for quite some time. One could put his constant sexism down to the generation gap, and some of his combat ideas could be attributed to the types of training he had; but many of the methods and attitudes he represents in this book are dangerous in the extreme, presented as they are for the supposed instruction of amateurs. I note that in the jacket blurb the author is referred to as a historical novelist, but the list of titles on the "Books by" page reads like the Westerns section of the library. That is a good clue to the style of this book.
Chapter 1, "Crime and Self-Defense," recounts every "ain't it awful" gripe in the conservative lexicon concerning the condition of our courts, streets, and cities. There is not much to disagree with here, but in a book that would not be purchased by anyone not already convinced of what it has to say, it serves as so much repetitive filler.
Chapter 2, "Home Security," treats of locks, alarms, and watchdogs. There is very sketchy mention of a few locks, a remote overview of alarms; the section on watchdogs is good as far as it goes, which isn't far.
Chapter 3, "Hand-to-Hand Combat," begins to be irritating. Here, we encounter the first of the 60 action photos touted on the cover. They are not action photos. They are still photos of frozen and posed persons, the author foremost among them. The blows shown could not be thrown, as they are shown in the photos, without exposing the thrower to the risk of serious injury from even the most innocuous of opponents. They are supposed to be usable by amateurs; they are frankly dangerous to no one but the amateur unlucky enough to try them. Again, the jacket blurb says that Mr. Braun is a former Army officer and Ranger instructor. If so, he should know better than to perpetuate the myths he does, for example, by suggesting that a heel-of-palm blow upward to the nose will project bone and cartilage into the brain (into the sinus processes, yes). Then he suggests that by a similar blow to the sternum, the devastated breastbone can splinter and penetrate the heart. A really terrible blow to the sternum may unmoor some ribs; but it will not, for heaven's sake, put the sternum anywhere near the cardiac sac!
Chapter 4, "Gunfighting," contains some interesting ideas for training, but they are not enough to offset the serious errors promulgated here. Anyone who recommends firing from below eye level with a handgun at 3 to 7 yards is doing no favors for those who believe him. Mr. Braun favors a shotgun for amateurs. Fine; he could have stopped with that recommendation and thereby improved the chapter.
In Chapter 5, "Knife Fighting: A Knife Fight is Dirty Business," Mr. Braun has managed to show the most overextended, unworkable, dangerous style I have ever seen portrayed anywhere. Anyone who ever has to fight anyone with knives should hope his opponent will have read and believed every word in that awful chapter in Mr. Braun's book.
There are a few gems in the book; they are of use only to someone sufficiently well-grounded to sift out the vast amount of dangerous and misleading material. If you still want to read the book, buy it at the paperback price of $5.95. The hardback price of $10.00 is totally unmerited. Better yet; wait and buy it used. You shouldn't have to wait long.
In contrast to the foregoing, Michael Hoy's Exotic Weapons does what it sets out to do. This very interesting access book is broken down into two sections: General Access and Specific Access. It is a listing of where to find information on everything from air guns, machine guns, infernal machines, body armor, and silencers, to boomerangs (really!). It is a book of specialized interest, but $4 is an honest price; the book promises and gives the reader informational access to exotic weapons.
Also in contrast to the Braun book, veterinarian Lockwood's book is uniformly worthwhile. It is a gold mine for the beginning or even established small farmer or homesteader and belongs in the library of any serious retreater.
Dr. Lockwood does not attempt to give a four-year course in veterinary medicine in one volume. Nonetheless, he manages to cover the basic principles of housing, sanitation, sterilization, nutrition, disinfection, care of wounds, meat inspection, and farmstead and fencing layout, though not in that order or to the exclusion of specific advice on the more common domestic animals.
This is not a pretentious everything-you-ever-wanted-to-know book. It is the most solid collection of readable, usable basic information I have had the pleasure of reading in several years. Dr. Lockwood has done enough work on this one volume to justify much more than the paperback price of $7.95, but anyone genuinely interested in the book should buy the hardback version at $12.95, for it's a book to be reread and referred to constantly.
In one area alone, this book justifies its existence, exclusive of the rest of the excellent material present; Dr. Lockwood has worked out nutritional needs, feed compounds, and so on for each variety of livestock discussed and has translated that to acreage needs in farmstead layout. This is invaluable, as anyone who has ever tried to divorce himself and his stock from dependency on the feed store will realize.
I must resist the impulse to resort to a listing of contents; done properly, it would take too long. Suffice to say, everything from reduction of bloat to butchering is covered, and it's done well.
The information on disinfection and sterilization is worth reading, even if your retreat ideas include no domestic stock at all. And the section on livestock medications is worth memorizing for the no-nonsense breakdown of medicine types, substitutes, and applications.
Perhaps the most important thing about this book is that it faces up to the fact that many situations require drastic solutions, and it tells the reader how to set up so as to avoid such situations in the first place. Coping with reality is something vets do very well as a group, and Dr. Lockwood excels.
David Sutton is an authority on armed and unarmed combat and a variety of physical survival subjects.
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "The Save-Your-Life Defense Handbook; Exotic Weapons; Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Care for Self-Sufficient Living".