Book Review: The Little Black Book of Violence

listen-to-the-subtle-and-not-so-subtle-warnings-coverOne does not simply review a book like this without pausing – for one moment – to appreciate the attention-grabbing power of its title. A moment of silence, please.

[crickets]

Good? Good. Oh, and any pacifists who may be reading this are welcome to the smelling salts; just look in the cabinet on the left. Good? Good. You’ll need them again before I’m finished.

The Little Black Book of Violence is written by two guys who know what they’re talking about. A strange (some would say silly) observation, perhaps, but one I believe is worth making. These men have experience. (One could say they have ‘a history of violence,’ but I think that conveys the wrong idea.) This isn’t just a bunch of theory for them; it’s down-to-earth, nitty gritty, keep-your-head-from-getting-torn-off practical. And that’s Reason #1 why they deserve a hearing.

The book is divided into three sections. The first (Before Violence Occurs) details the importance of identifying and avoiding conflict to begin with. According to the authors, “fighting is what you do when you’ve totally screwed up your self-defense.” Concepts like awareness and de-escalation are given plenty of attention, with the aim of convincing you that such skills are even more vital than whatever butt-kicking skills you have or think you have.

Of course, if you are forced into a fight, you should be prepared to do just that: fight. Teddy Roosevelt’s advice comes to mind: “Don’t hit at all if it is honorably possible to avoid hitting; but never hit soft.” The second section (During a Violent Encounter) focuses on a series of self-defense tips and techniques. Nothing fancy, just no-nonsense advice on how to keep the other dude from stomping a mud-hole through your face. It’s an insightful read, but there’s only so much you can explain on paper, and it’s difficult to practice the techniques unless you’re working with a trainer. (My siblings weren’t exactly thrilled at the prospect of being subjected to a neck joint crush. Go figure.)

The final section (Aftermath of Violence) is probably the most sobering, as the authors make it clear that surviving a violent encounter is only the beginning. After that, you’ve got another battle to fight: legal, physical, psychological, financial, or a combination of all four. Topics like first aid, creating witnesses, and talking to the police are discussed here.

In the end, what Kane and Wilder manage to do – very effectively, I might add – is deglamorize violence and make it seem very uncool. Necessary in certain cases? Yes. Something to be engaged in lightly? Not on your life.

Postscript: It’s worth noting that this book does contain a smattering of language and some graphic images (most of these are related to the aftermath of violent encounters, but there is one partial nude shot). This isn’t a book for youngsters by any stretch of the imagination.
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8 thoughts on “Book Review: The Little Black Book of Violence”

  1. Corey, you are very well rounded to be reading Jane Eyre on the one hand and The Little Black Book of Violence on the other! :) Great and fun review – I think Thomas would love this book.

  2. My wife has followed your blog for a while so I came here to see if you had blogged about Andrew Klavan’s Homelander Series. I was a little surprised to see the blog about The Little Black Book of Violence. I think it would serve your blog readers well to point out that this book contains many pictures from the aftermaths of actual violent encounters (there’s at least one photo inside of a fully naked woman).

    Let me defend myself first against any charge that my objection is rooted in being weak-stomached or a pacifist. I have seen people with gun shot wounds to the face and head. I’ve seen people with bits of their brains hanging out, etc. I have been a student of fighting arts and violence for many years and this includes being an instructor in different related disciplines.

    I just think that while the Little Black Book is a good book for some purposes, I would not recommend it without reservations. This is not a book for the under-18 crowd for sure. I believe kids should learn self-defense. I’m all for kids learning about violence and how to deal with the threat of it. But, training in these subject areas should, I think, conform to development and maturity. As a dad, I would guess that many others would not want their younger kids to read this book because of the illustrations.

    But we should really consider why the pictures are there in the first place. They are there, I think, because the authors believe they will better be able to achieve their goal of deglamorizing violence. But this may only be necessary because they doubt that their readers (they intend their book for young American males probably between 16 and 25) will avoid violence or high-risk behaviors and contexts that often become scenes of violence, for moral reasons.

    I admit that I have not found any bad information in this book. The authors have a good understanding of the issues from legal, tactical, and technical perspectives. However, the book does not provide a strong moral foundation for a righteous use or avoidance of violence. Pictures of people whose flesh has been flayed open in knife fights have some instructional value at some point. However, deglamorizing violence in this way may also have the unintended consequence of causing some people to shrink from fighting when fighting is the only appropriate course.

    For a better approach–one that does not come from a post-Christian perspective and one that explicitly elevates American and Western values about crime, violence, and freedom–I would recommend any of the writings of Jeff Cooper, especially his Principles of Personal Defense. Cooper was a Marine and a World War II combat veteran. He offers much more to any young American male who will take the time to read him.

    1. Excellent thoughts, sir. I admit, I took it for granted that readers would realize this is not a book for younger readers; I will add a note to my review for anyone who may come across it in future.

      Thank you for the recommendations. I’ve added Cooper’s book to my reading list and look forward to picking it up.

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