Saps, Blackjacks and Slungshots: A
Saps, Blackjacks and Slungshots
by Robert Escobar
Catoblepas Press (2018)
Saps, Blackjacks and Slungshots: A History of Forgotten Weapons has a subject that may seem banal at first blush… things people once hit other people with, but that is not the case. Sir Christopher Ricks is arguably the most eminent English literary critic alive and called its research, “extraordinary.” Dr. Thomas Jodziewicz, professor of American History said, “Simply delightful… I cannot believe that this would not be a best seller.” These tools had no notice in the popular imagination, the book had no marketing and the author no experience. Still, it debuted as an Amazon.com #1 New Release in three separate categories.
This work is about tough objects, wielded by rough men and women who were equally lacking in polish. This isn’t the story of aristocrats fighting with elegant, gleaming swords. It’s a tale of the law and the lawless in taverns, ships at sea, boxcars and frontier towns, where materials at hand were used to create a unique and completely overlooked martial tradition. Following their surprising trail throughout history illuminates a dizzying number of places, peoples and times. The reader learns forgotten tidbits about medieval duels, Shakespeare, Teddy Roosevelt, the Moulin Rouge, Peaky Blinders, Native American warriors, Frank Sinatra, Hank Williams and much more. These implements appear in Hemingway, film noir and classic detective fiction but until now there was practically nothing written about them, they received no regard even within weapons literature and the last generation to remember their common use is rapidly aging. This story couldn’t be found, it had to be stitched together. In that it is much like a hand sewn leather sap carried by a fedora wearing shamus or bowler festooned Plug Ugly, denizens of worlds that no longer exist, but once did.
Robert Escobar has always been fascinated with the past and particularly with objects evocative of bygone eras. Growing up he liked to be alone and read but when coaxed outside he and his friends explored their environment recklessly. They skateboarded on the roofs of houses, jumped from moving freight trains and trained (badly) to be ninjas. That combination of intellectual curiosity and physical foolishness has stayed with him for life. He still practices martial arts and skateboards much to his middle aged peril. Conversely, he researches overlooked aspects of history and seeks out things that most will never see, like a lock of Abraham Lincoln’s hair. It was the equal fascination with liberal arts and martial arts, old physical objects and brute physicality that led to his 1st book. He lives with his wife and children in Irving, Texas.
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