Larry Grupp appears to be an average resident of the Palouse.
He was executive director of the Moscow Chamber of Commerce from 1972 to 1977 and now runs an agriculture consulting business from his home on Paradise Ridge.But according to the nearly two dozen non-fiction books he has written under the pen name Ragnar Benson, Grupp is a globetrotting gunrunner who has been in just about every hot spot in the world.
Readers of these how-to books are led to believe the author has poached game for 40 years and is a self-taught expert on paramilitary operations including setting traps to kill people. A few titles from Grupp's arsenal:
"Gunrunning for Fun and Profit"
"Ragnar's Guide to Home and Recreational Use of High Explosives"
"The Survival Retreat"
" Hard Core Poaching"
"The Most Dangerous Game Advanced Man-trapping Techniques"
Using a pseudonym to disguise his identity, Grupp has become one of the leading authors of so-called survivalist books in the country, a fact he would rather keep quiet on the Palouse.
"My books are kind of far out anyway and I really wish you'd find someone else to write about," Grupp said in an interview. "I'm already viewed as a wild-eyed radical, and with all this neo-Nazi stuff going on, I really don't need the hassles in the community."
Grupp's books are sold as non-fiction, according to his publisher, Paladin Press in Boulder, Colo. And one of Grupp's editors says the former chamber executive is a leader in the paramilitary field because he is "a doer, not just a writer."
But Grupp discounts the authenticity of his books.
"They're kind of apocryphal," said Grupp, whose wife, Carol Grupp, is the University of Idaho's risk-management officer and director of human resources.
He declined further comment.
The Moscow man has sold about 100,000 books during the past 10 years, said Janice Vierke, marketing director for Paladin Press. Prices for Grupp's books, mainly paperbacks, run from $8 to $16.
"Larry started out writing books on survivalism probably over a decade ago, when it was really big," Vierke said in an interview. "He's very popular with our audience."
Paladin Press is the largest publisher of survivalist literature in the U.S. and its mail order catalog includes books on such topics as revenge, espionage, sniping, machine guns, guerrilla warfare, lockpicking and terrorism.
"These techniques are still incredibly useful today," the Paladin catalog says of Grupp's 1987 book, "Ragnar's Guide to Home and Recreational Use of High Explosives."
"With them, a single individual can easily dig a dry well, redirect creeks, blow up bad guys and perform a host of otherwise impossible chores of immense benefit to mankind."
Vierke says Grupp's books are "all non-fiction how-to books. He throws in a lot of anecdotes."
Take, for example, the story about Grupp killing house cats for their pelts. "Although the price may fluctuate, the skins are almost always worth between $2 and $4. I stretch them on coonskin stretchers and sell (them) along with the other hides," Grupp writes in "Survival Poaching," published in 1980. It is available at the UI Library.
In another book on the shelves of Washington State University's library, Grupp tells about the time in the late 1960s when he bought ammunition in Belgium and shipped it to Rhodesia in boxes labeled "spare parts" for printing presses. According to an anecdote in "Action Careers - Employment in the High Risk Job Market," Grupp made nearly $500,000 profit on the deal with Rhodesian rebels.
Robert K. Brown, editor of "Soldier of Fortune" magazine, says he "may have met him (Grupp) casually. He may have been to our convention in Charlotte in 1982. Back when we had `Survive' magazine, he wrote a few articles for us."
Brown, who sold his 50 percent share of Paladin Press in the mid-1970s, says he has "perused" Grupp's books but has not read any of them.
"When we discontinued `Survive' magazine (in 1983) we got out of the survivalist stuff," Brown said in an interview from his office in Boulder.
Robert Himber, former managing editor of `Survive' magazine, said he knew Grupp during those years and liked his work.