A Notorious Publisher
Playboy Magazine recently called Paladin Press publisher Peder Lund the “most dangerous publisher in the world,” citing Paladin’s publication of the book Hit Man written by an unnamed female and The Ultimate Sniper by John Plaster.
Maybe he is that dangerous to a bunch of pantywaists who blame everything and
everyone but the criminals for their murderous ways. Peder is the first to admit that he has lived his life on the edge, with a total disdain for convention as he sought adventure and danger, and that publishing risqué and provocative adventure books fits right into his lifestyle.
I first met Peder at the El Paso, Texas, Airport. He was in his signature safari shorts, knee-highs and deck shoes, looking like a buff British Frat Boy. He had a muscular body builder’s build and an attitude. His piercing blue eyes below dark bushy eyebrows and thick black mop of curly dark hair gave a clear message, “don’t mess with me.” He was quiet and intense with a masked sense of humor until provoked, and then watch out, unlike many of Robert Brown’s (RKB, SOF publisher) boisterous friends, who were constantly out shouting each other.
New Guinea Gold Fever
RKB, his brother Alan Brown, Peder and a daffy, conniving old-timer called Posey had planned a rendezvous in one of the local hotels. The late General Heine Aderholdt, always up to some scheme if it involved money, had introduced the three to the old time shyster.
He had convinced the group that millions of dollars in gold bars were stashed in the walls of a parsonage in Papua, New Guinea. Mind you, this was early 2000 and this group’s search for the New Guinea gold had been going on for nearly two decades.
In what proved to be a most entertaining evening, I watched the three, with the crazed, lusty gleam in their eyes blinded by gold fever, as they tried to read an undecipherable map that was going to show exactly where the gold
was stashed away over a half century before behind the walls of an ancient parsonage. The old man’s eyes twinkled with glee, winking at me slyly, as he knew that I was on to his scheme.
According to Alan Brown, the gold bars were worth over $3 million at the time the good pastor stashed it away to hide it from the approaching Japanese in WWII, and at least $34 million at the time of the meeting.
Now it takes a great leap of faith to believe that the good pastor was paid that much for his selfless services in an impoverished country, even if he had lived several lifetimes. It takes an even greater leap of faith to believe that the good minister did not go back for his stash, unless he and all his ancestors had died, that is, and no one knew whether they had or not. This SOF group had taken that great leap and there was no going back. No one was more serious about the venture than Peder, whose eyes shot me angry glances, wishing me to evaporate, annoyed at my undisguised amusement. It’s called gold fever and I got a taste of what drove the California Gold Rush. Peder had it bad. Or maybe to him it was another wild adventure that gave him an escape from his publishing responsibilities.
Anyhow, after sending the old timer on many free pleasure trips to his WWII stomping grounds, and a few expeditions with his patrons; and after the gold seekers invested in metal detectors, lots of airfares and hotel rooms and other extravagances, having spent a small fortune, the group finally gave up on the deal and the old timer died with his secrets.
RKB had met Peder Lund some 40 years previously. The two gun toting, restless rebel adventurers were to become enmeshed in each other’s lives. It was the older bad boy Brown that would later lead Peder into the publishing business, a decision Peder made to join the madcap publisher Brown that Peder calls ‘bad judgment’.
“After graduating from jump school in 1964, I decided to head out again to Miami to see what kind of adventure/trouble the remaining soldiers- of-misfortune were getting into and with whom. Plots and plans but nothing materialized. There I met Peder Lund, who had bumped into some of the soldiers of fortune while working as a deckhand on an inter waterway tugboat,” RKB said.
“I went to pawn a .357 Magnum and was directed to Nellie’s, where I met the boys,” Peder recalled. Nellie’s was a run-down boarding house catering to anyone with $10–15 a week for a cot and two hots a day.
In an interview before he died, Marty Casey, former Marine who had been on the soldier of fortune scene in Miami for the prior three years in an abortive attempt to pull some refugees out of Fidel land, remembered meeting Peder.
“When Peder knocked on the door at Nellie’s, Lil Joe, one of the ne’er do wells, answered. Peder was more than welcome, as he carried a two-pound tin of coffee and a carton of cigarettes. A Miami Herald reporter, Don Bohning,
had given him our address and told him that we were broke and craving cigarettes and coffee. The cigarettes he bought, the coffee he found when nobody was watching on the tugboat he worked on. Peder told the boys that he was trying to find a Colorado adventurer by the name of Bob Brown. The name meant nothing to me, but the others perked up and started calling out the various handles this Brown was known for. “The Cowboy,” “the Texan,” “Uncle Bob,” etc., including a few Brown would rather forget. Within a half hour, as they sat swapping lies, there was another knock at the door. Again, Lil Joe answered and let out a loud, ‘Uncle Bob’! A big smile on his ruggedly handsome face, “Uncle Bob” called out hello and told us he had rented the empty apartment next to ours, and he would be back in a few minutes. He returned, no longer wearing jeans, cowboy boots and shirt. Now in uniform, Captain Robert K. Brown, U.S. Army Reserve, stood in the doorway showing off his newly won paratrooper wings. He would be in town for only eight days, but that was more than ample time for “Uncle Bob” to stir up enough trouble for a lifetime,” Marty said.
150 Questions for a Guerrilla
Apparently Peder had run across a copy of “150 Questions for a Guerrilla” at a newsstand in Boulder, Colorado, and wanted to meet “Uncle Bob,” publisher of Panther Publications. General Alberto Bayo, the ex-Spanish loyalist who trained Castro before he invaded Cuba, authored the manual. RKB got a copy, interviewed the general in Havana and self-published the manual.
“After a few hours swapping dubious tales, ‘Uncle Bob’ invited all to get some chow,” Marty said. “He wanted seafood and the seven of us stuffed ourselves into Fat Ralph’s ‘51 Dodge and ended up at the New England Oyster
House, by Miami International Airport. As we chowed down the seafood delicacies we rarely had the opportunity to savor, the main topics of conversation were the CIA and Cuban exiles. At that time the exile movement was a joke and the CIA’s operations would have been hilarious if it weren’t for the tens of millions being wasted, while a few good souls were being captured and executed. Everything was a mess and very few seemed to care except those who were making big money ripping off the taxpayers.”
“We got down to serious business when we returned to Lil Joe’s. We still had 12 days left on our boat rental and a lot of weapons. We lacked some ammo and money to buy gas and food; ‘Uncle Bob’ pledged that. When Lil Joe came home from working at a boat builder’s, he called a friend, Edy Mor, a Cuban exile activist. Edy was a member of one of the dozens of small exile groups who trusted neither the U.S. government nor much less exile politicians. A simple plan was hatched. ‘Uncle Bob,’ Peder and I would take the Toni back to the dock in Black Water Sound. The boys would join us there, bringing the weapons and ammo.” Marty continued his tale.
Peder at the Helm
“We got a late start and I soon learned Peder had quite a bit of boat handling experience. He took the helm and expertly guided Toni next to the tug on which he was employed. There was no one aboard, so we liberated a small coffee pot, coffee, sugar cubes, utensils and canned goods. We were not making very good headway and were still off Soldier Key when the sun started to set. Two hours later we were no farther south than Elliot Key and dog tired. Heading to ward shore, we spied a small dock and headed for it. We finished tying up when we heard noises coming from up on the dock. A man’s voice coming from behind a flashlight called out, “Do you want to spend the night?” Peder asked if we could tie up and told the man we were headed for Key Largo and were too tired to go on. The man said his name was Bill and invited us to his house for coffee. At the end of the dock was a sandy beach. Thirty meters farther,now slightly illuminated by a moon peeking its nose over the eastern horizon, sat an eerie looking, large two-story wood frame house, complete with gables, one of which was loose and slowly swinging and creaking in the slight breeze.
“The house was Spartan with a small table and chairs, a wood burning stove and a couple buckets of fresh water. We shot the breeze by the light of an oil lamp. Bill was a former medical doctor who had fallen prey to alcohol or ‘the Irish disease,’ as he called it, and was now recovering and worked for the landowner, Arthur Vining Davis. Mr. Davis would send his alcoholic friends down to the key to dry out. Bill’s job was to care for them. The house, built in 1875 of durable Dade county pine, constructed with all dowel work, without a nail, had weathered many a vicious hurricane. But it was haunted by the ghosts of various alcoholics who didn’t leave the key alive.” Marty said.
“‘You can spend the night here,’ Bill told us as he walked us into a small room illuminated by the candle he carried. As soon as he left, Peder dove into a small cot, leaving ‘Uncle Bob’ and me to share a slightly larger bed. Small beams of moonlight filtering through cracks in the gable and the sound of the broken gable added to the eeriness. In no time we were asleep,” Marty said.
No Exiles, a Cuban Punk
“The following morning, with a belly full of eggs, fried corn beef hash, biscuits and hot coffee, we were on our way. It took almost five hours to get to the cut leading to Black Water Sound. Once into the sound some teenagers in a speed boat came by and started yelling, ‘Cuban exiles, Cuban exiles.’ We ignored them as we passed the Caribbean Club, once the main set for the Bogart movie, Key Largo. A few minutes later we were tied up at the small dock. I walked to the Caribbean Club and called Lil Joe, who assured me they would arrive at 9 p.m. It was pitch black. Peder stayed on the boat while ‘Uncle Bob’ and I walked the few meters to the road, more a single lane path covered in gravel. The path ran down to the water’s edge, then hooked back to the highway. ‘They’re early,’ whispered ‘Uncle Bob’ as we heard a vehicle crackling the gravel. Slowly the car advanced, its headlights extinguished. The car stopped. I was on the passenger side, Bob on the driver’s. Bob asked, ‘Are you the Cubans?’ as he pulled the door open. The overhead light came on to reveal a pockmarked teenager performing dubious acts who dropped the gear into low and sped off showering us with gravel,” Marty recalled.
Trying to Find Refugees Who Needed Rescuing
Peder’s recollection of the event was not so thrilling: “‘The boys’ at Nellie’s had a scheme to bring some refugees out of Cuba, film the operation, sell the film to a major TV network, and with the proceeds finance an armed raid against Cuba. As I was the only one working, I financed the rental of the Toni. ‘The boys’ were to bring weapons by road, and a Cuban captain/guide was to rendezvous. We slept on the Toni when we weren’t hanging out in Key Largo. There wasn’t much else to do except slap mosquitoes or eat refugee beans and rice, or both. RKB said he would accompany me on the boat to Key West, but would not go on the harebrained scheme to rescue refugees. We, of course, encountered foul weather, ran aground on a sandbar, ran out of food but for refugee beans and rice, caught
no fish except for one small barracuda (they are virtually all bones and inedible), and waited a frustrating five days for the boys and captain. After numerous payphone calls, we were told the captain had ‘to do his laundry’ and would not be joining us. The mission was aborted.”
“I started feeling more and more antsy about this mission. Not only had the guns not arrived, it just didn’t feel right. My gut had kept me from getting whacked twice in Havana by not joining abortive revolutionary expeditions to the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua. I told Peder, who was young, dumb and full of testosterone, ‘This is bad…I don’t like it. I’m not going,’” RKB added.
Peder finally agreed, worried anyhow about having no Cuban captain. RKB left a couple of Army ponchos with Marty, who later used them to jury rig sails when the boat’s putt-putt went kaput, which allowed them to make it back to Miami. Peder and RKB split up, Peder enlisting in the Army to circumvent the draft, where he went on to get his commission the hard way as RKB did, at the Ft. Benning School for Boys.
Uncle Bob the Shrink
“I happened to be on the East Coast and decided to boogie over to Ft. Dix, New Jersey, where he was going through Army Basic Training. Peder unloaded his frustrations regarding what he considered to be the mismanagement, incompetence and just plain old stupidity of the training. Lund was never one to suffer fools gladly; he didn’t suffer fools, period.
“In any event, Lund’s frustration was about to boil over into some serious prison time for him, as he told me he was going to steal a couple of M-60s, desert, and join the Cuban exiles who were fighting the bearded dictator, Fidel Castro. Fortunately, even though I was all for helping the exiles, I was able to convince him of the folly of such a course of action and I convinced him to gut it through.”
Peder signed up for Officer Candidate School and Airborne instead.
Peder Ordered to Vietnam
Peder got orders for Vietnam, where he served six months as an infantry rifle platoon leader and later a company commander as a second lieutenant with the 9th Infantry Division, then later for a year as an “A” Team commander.
“We patrolled, patrolled, patrolled through endless rice paddies, mud, bamboo groves, canals, leeches, and unrelenting heat. After coming off an operation of three or four days’ duration at 1800, we often moved out for another at 0500 the next morning. He recalls the horrors. “I saw a second lieutenant killed as he walked into a helicopter tail rotor. And trying unsuccessfully to clamp off the femoral artery of one of my troops, knowing he would die and lying when he asked me. I will never forget seeing one of my troops take a friendly M79 round in the back and later having the media report the death as hostile fire.
“In May 1967 my company (B/3-60th), along with other elements of the 3-60th and 3-47th, decimated the 514th Local Forces Battalion, killing 160–200 Vietcong and virtually destroying their heavy weapons company.
“The 9th Infantry Division had a policy of rotating company-grade officers out of the field after six months. I wanted to stay in the field and found that 5th Special Forces Group had a priority to levy anyone in RVN whom they wanted for themselves. A few words through SF buddies who knew Col. Frank Kelly, Group Commander, and I was reporting for duty to SF HQ in Nha Trang.
“A-224 was sited along the Song Ba River in the Central Highlands of South Vietnam, halfway between the Cambodian border and the rich Bong Song Plain. My boss in the B team, a lieutenant colonel, was 60 kilometers away by helicopter.
“We ran patrols 365 days a year, interdicting supply routes the NVA were using to reinforce their units along the populated areas of the coastal plain. We had approximately 400 Montagnard troops, primarily Jarai with a few Rhade and Ba Na, and about 400 women and children dependents.
“Supplies were brought in by aircraft, using our 3,600-foot, membrane-covered laterite airstrip. When that was occasionally out of commission, supplies were parachuted in, including cattle in wooden crates suspended in belly slings. I wore two hats as senior district advisor and SF senior advisor, de facto camp commander.
As Difficult as Anything I Have Ever Done
“In one disastrous mission, we were in the lead chopper on a four-bird insertion and birds two and three collided midair. We lost 24 of our Montagnards and four U.S. Army aircrew. We continued the mission and recovered more than 200 heavy weapons with ammo. Facing the families of our dead was as difficult as anything I have ever done.
“The highs of the mission included being in a night ambush position with Montagnards throwing stones at a tiger eating dead NVA from our ambush of the night before.
“The biggest scrap we were in was not in our AO. I took a company via chopper into an area north of us to bail out a couple of RVN units. The bad guys were well dug in, and we had to call for gunships armed with 2.75-inch rockets. As the positions on the ground were not clearly defined, I went up with the birds to direct fire, which proved very effective.
“While clearing up the battlefield, we found a body, a NVA that we had killed in an earlier firefight. He was about six feet tall, 230 pounds, built like a linebacker with very Mongoloid features—certainly a Chinese advisor. I still have his Tokarev 7.62mm pistol.
“The camaraderie, informality, pride, and professionalism of an SF A Team camp is an indescribable experience. Couple that with the loyalty, honesty, and humor of our Montagnards, and you have the best high in the world. After 19 months in Nam, Peder was discharged in Oakland five hours after the plane landed and he went on to San Francisco. He was fed up with the Army bureaucracy and inflexibility.
As For General Westmoreland
We asked Peder to comment on the excerpt from Westmoreland: The General Who Lost Vietnam, that ran in April,
2012 SOF issue.
“General Harold Johnson [US Army Chief of Staff] was, in my opinion, correct in feeling that small-unit scouting and patrolling could be effective. While serving as a recon platoon leader in the Mekong Delta in 1967, on numerous occasions I requested permission to lead squad-size stay-behind patrols. My requests were denied at the brigade level as being too dangerous.
“Later, when I was a camp commander at A-224 Phu Tuc, I initiated a policy of continuous patrolling by squad-, platoon-, and company-size units. I assume this policy was effective, as the camp itself was never attacked in the year I was there,” Peder commented.
“The emphasis Westmoreland placed on statistics, body counts, and secure areas was laughable. When I assumed command of the A camp, I also became the senior district advisor for MACV. In November 1967, our intel sergeant
asked me to sign off on a multi-page computer printout. This was the monthly operational summary for the district, or MOPSUM. It gave various numerical values as to the relative security of our area. I asked to see the previous month’s MOPSUM, and strangely the current month’s report was virtually the same. I then reworked the November report to reflect what I regarded as a true and accurate security evaluation of the district. The MOPSUM was duly forwarded to the MACV chief at Phu Bon Province level.
“In due course, the colonel from Phu Bon demanded that I change the November report so that it more closely followed the statistics he had been submitting to Saigon for months. I refused. I have no doubt the reports I sent in
were all changed to demonstrate a consistent security level of 90 percent. I had it pegged at approximately 70 percent. After all, if I could not walk from camp 200 yards to town without being armed and accompanied by another team member, is that secure?
Paladin Press is Launched
After Peder came back from Vietnam he agreed to take care of RKB’s Panther Publications until RKB got back from Nam. Peder needed to get back in touch with society after Nam and decided to return to Boulder where he had linked up with a buddy before enlisting in the Army. After RKB got back from Nam, they met up in Boulder in 1970 and decided to transform Panther Publications into Paladin Press with a financial jump start from Peder. When the two strong minded publishers hit a crossroads, RKB sold his interest in Paladin to Peder in l974 and started SOF in l975.
But they were still connected and met up from time to time. The two joined a paramedic team that was giving aid in Peru after a devastating earthquake.
“In June 1970, I received a call from one of the more notorious American soldiers of fortune from Miami, a former
Marine by the name of Gerald Patrick Hemming. Gerry, 6’ 4” and John Wayne handsome, had a gift of bullshit that got him into a lot of projects that seldom reached fruition. He was in Lima, Peru, heading up a team of paramedics assisting the Peruvian government in recovery efforts from the earthquake. Hemming wanted me to recruit and equip a second team (which I did in 48 hours) and Lund, always looking for a little more adventure, signed on as my team executive officer.
“After a few days in Lima, Peder, who was hopping mad about Gerry’s failure, for whatever reason, to get the Peruvian Air Force to provide aircraft to facilitate our parachuting into a cut off area in the mountains, called Gerry out. The three of us had a meeting where Lund chewed Gerry’s ass up one side and down the other, and then did it
all over again. As I told Peder after the meeting, had Dick Butkus chewed me as he did Hemming, I would, even knowing I was going to get my sorry ass stomped into the ground, have had no choice but to defend my honor and that of my mother, grandmother and numerous relatives going back several generations. But it evoked no response from Gerry at all. To him, it was a nonevent. It just never happened. Peder blew off steam, was fed up and caught the next plane back home.”
The Trophy Man Scores Another Souvenir
In the mid 1980s, Peder met up with the SOF bunch in El Salvador. While one team spent about 24 hours with the 1st Squadron (equivalent to a rifle company) of the FAS Airborne Battalion, which was conducting a combat operation in Cuscatlán Province, Lund remained with the squadron for two days after the other team members had returned to San Salvador. The team evaluated field tactical procedures, gave weapons training and maintenance and related subjects. There he scored another souvenir, an M-16 he took off a dead guerrilla.
In 1993 Peder was sued because some murderous thug killed three people in Montgomery County, MD, and claimed to have used the book Hit Man as a guide to mastermind his atrocities. A U.S. appeals court held that Paladin Press could be held responsible for the murderer’s acts. The insurance company caved before going forward with an appeal and paid off the families of the three victims. Paladin Press disagreed with the agreement to settle but was strong-armed to settle to the tune of millions.
The media went hysterical and indicted Paladin Press in public opinion. What had been intended as a novel, like thousands of others about assassins, triggered a nightmarish episode forPeder. Not surprisingly, a movie based on the case, Deliberate Intent starring Timothy Hutton, was produced in 2000. Peder marched on as publisher of the now high profile Paladin Press that, with SOF, continues to irritate the People’s Republic of Boulder, Colorado.
Article by Dr. Martin Brass