I was 11 years old when I got my introduction to John Thomas Rourke. My dad had been shopping in Waldenbooks and came across the first few books in the series, figured they were right up my alley, and brought them home for me.
It was love at first sight.
I devoured those books and went looking for more. Over the next dozen years or so, I’d pick up the new Survivalist books as I found them. I never did manage to get the last 3-4 in the series and I’m guessing I’ll have to do without because, as much of a fan of Jerry’s writing as I am, I can’t stomach paying $100+ for a book.
Other Ahern books crossed my path over the years. I was and am a big fan of his Track series. I enjoyed The Freeman as well as his Defender series.
When we started this website, one of the things I personally wanted to do was have a blog devoted to survival fiction and non-fiction books and movies. Thus was born The Library at the End of the World. In addition to reviews, I really wanted to interview some of my favorite writers. Naturally, Jerry was at the top of that list.
It was with no small amount of nervousness that I sent Jerry an email, politely asking if he’d be willing to answer a few questions for a feature on my site. Back then, Survival Weekly was brand-spankin’-new and I figured a popular author like Jerry probably couldn’t be bothered with such trivial things.
To my utter shock, he answered very quickly and said he’d love to do an interview. Once I picked my jaw up off the keyboard, I drafted up several questions and sent them off. He responded within a few days, answering each question in great detail and sharing a lot of “inside information” regarding The Survivalist series. You can read that interview in full here.
Over the next couple years, Jerry and I traded several emails back and forth. I learned he and his wife Sharon had honeymooned at a resort literally a few miles from my home. I told him that if he and his wife ever wanted to revisit that resort, I’d gladly pay for dinner. He graciously accepted and said he looked forward to it.
Earlier this year, I finally landed my first book deal. When my editor and I discussed potential authors for the Foreword of the book, my first suggestion was Jerry. Given that the topic of the book is defense and security, I figured he’d be the perfect guy for it. When I asked Jerry if he’d be willing to write the Foreword, he said he’d be honored. Imagine that — a successful author, known around the world, honored to write a Foreword for me, a nobody. No, Jerry, I’m the one who is honored.
When I heard Jerry was ill, I didn’t think too much of it, to be honest. I figured he had caught a bug or something and would be back at it in a few days. When I emailed him a couple months ago, I told him that if he didn’t feel up to writing the promised Foreword, I would totally understand but my editor was asking about it so…. He responded almost immediately and said he’d have it for me the next week and that he was feeling much better. True to his word, I had the Foreword within a few days and I sent it over to my editor.
I will always be forever thankful that I had the opportunity to get to know Jerry as I did. He was a friend and a mentor, as well as just a damn nice guy. Very knowledgeable, he was happy to share with others what he had learned.
Jerry is the reason I and many others came to become survivalists and preppers. It was the adventures of John Thomas Rourke that both fired our imaginations as well as made us seriously think…what if? After reading that series of books, I dearly wanted my own Gerber MKII combat knife and my own AG Russell Sting. Unfortunately, thus far they’ve both been out of my reach. I did manage to get the battered brown leather bomber jacket and the dark aviator sunglasses, as well as a Rolex Submariner (well, it isn’t quite a Rolex).
We never did get that dinner together, Jerry. Someday, perhaps, though hopefully far into the future, I pray we’ll speak again.
Godspeed, my friend.