Paladin Press, the controversial Boulder-based publisher of titles chronicling the world of combat, conflict and survival — including the notorious "Hit Man" how-to manual — took its final order Wednesday and will be out of business at the end of the year, according to its website.

"Thanks for the trust you placed in us for the past 47 years. It has been quite a ride," the announcement begins, under a note stating that the final orders were taken by Paladin at noon Wednesday.

It adds that, at the end of the year, Paladin will "close its doors for good after a 47-year run as the publisher of America's Action Library."

Existing orders will be supported through Jan. 31, however.

Robert K. Brown, the co-founder of Boulder’s Paladin Press and founder, editor and publisher of Soldier of Fortune magazine, is pictured in 2009.
Robert K. Brown, the co-founder of Boulder's Paladin Press and founder, editor and publisher of Soldier of Fortune magazine, is pictured in 2009. (Courtesy photo)

The announcement comes less than six months after the death of Peder Lund, Paladin Press' co-founder and publisher, who died suddenly June 3 while on vacation in Finland, according to the publication's website.

Paladin press was founded in 1970 by Lund and Robert K. Brown, the future publisher of Boulder's Soldier of Fortune magazine.

Brown, a Boulder resident, said in an interview Thursday that his interest in Paladin Press was bought out by Lund in 1974.

"Everything has its time," Brown said. "They certainly had an interesting series of books over the years, no question about that."


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Business was still being conducted Thursday at Paladin's east Boulder office, where a sign in the door cautioned of a "dog on premises." But a receptionist directed questions to owner Sheila Conroy, who did not respond to a request for comment.

'Unforgettable character'

The statement on the Paladin Press website cited its "well-deserved and hard-won reputation as a cutting-edge publisher of books that provided information on a wide range of topics that politicians, police agencies, media watchdogs, moral censors, crusading attorneys and self-proclaimed guardians of the public have worked diligently to suppress."

It added, "And sometimes they have been successful in this, but Paladin, like Nelson's flagship, HMS Victory, has endured through the decades. But, alas, all good things must come to an end, and it is time for Paladin to do so."

The statement cites the same forces that have put pressure on many businesses across the publishing industry, and also references the death of Lund, "whose unforgettable character and famous generosity provided the driving spirit of the company in both its best days and darkest ones."

Pressures of the current publishing marketplace, it noted, have "reduced the profit margins for Paladin Press to the point where it will not survive the passing of its founder."

Paladin's darker days would likely include the high-profile First Amendment battles surrounding a lawsuit stemming from its publication of "Hit Man: A Technical Manual for Independent Contractors."

Lund and Paladin Press were targeted by a lawsuit filed in Maryland in the wake of the 1993 murders of Mildred Horn, her disabled 8-year-old son Trevor, and Janice Saunders, the boy's nurse, by James Edward Perry. He had been hired by Lawrence T. Horn, Trevor's father and the ex-husband of Mildred Horn. His motive was a bid to inherit $1.7 million remaining from a malpractice settlement that had been won for his son.

A Maryland district court initially dismissed the claim that Lund was financially liable for publishing the "how-to" manual that Perry followed in carrying out the crime, ruling that Lund was protected by First Amendment freedoms.

A federal court of appeals subsequently reversed that decision, sending it to the U.S. Supreme Court, which rejected Lund's use of the First Amendment as a shield from liability. Just as the case was set to finally go to trial in district court in May 1999, Lund and Paladin agreed to a multimillion-dollar settlement, bringing the lawsuit to a close.

Reports at the time indicated that the mass shooting at Littleton's Columbine High School, just one month before, had left the plaintiff's lawyers concerned that the prevailing social climate would not be favorable to their cause before a jury. They had sought a delay in the trial, but were denied in that bid.

Legal experts at the time said that it marked the first occasion in history that a book publisher had been held financially liable for a crime committed by a reader.

Tough times for print

Brown noted Thursday that he had known Lund since 1964, and that their original venture was called Panther Press. The name change to Paladin Press was intended to prevent its being confused with the Black Panther political party, he said.

Brown didn't want to speculate on whether Paladin would have continued had Lund not died earlier this year. But he recalled that on occasion Lund had looked to sell the business.

"I don't know that it's the end of an era," Brown said. "But the whole print industry, which includes magazines and newspapers, has really taken a big hit because of the internet."

Soldier of Fortune, in fact, published its last print edition in April 2016. It exists now only on the web.

"The Fourth Estate, unfortunately, is being so eviscerated, especially the newspaper business. It's utterly tragic," Brown said.

Charlie Brennan: 303-473-1327, brennanc@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/chasbrennan