Under your Christmas tree, did you find gift-wrapped copies of "Gunrunning for Fun and Profit," "Take No Prisoners: Destroying Enemies With Dirty and Malicious Tricks," or "Above The Law: The Complete Guide to Obtaining Diplomatic Immunity" by an author called "Ambassador X"?
No? Then you must not be on Michael Hoy's mailing list.
Hoy, a former accountant once dubbed "Conan the Librarian," is the publisher from Hell. His company, Loompanics Unlimited of Port Townsend, Wash., claims to do a million-dollar-a-year mail order business selling 800 titles that stretch the First Amendment far enough to give the Founding Fathers heartburn.
Among its most outrageous offerings are such mayhem manuals as "Kitchen Improvised Plastic Explosives" ($7.95); "How to Get Anything on Anybody" ($30), a handy guide to bugging, tailing, tapping, tracing, snooping and reading other people's mail; "Mercenary's Tactical Handbook" ($12), and a six-volume treatise on "How to Kill" ($8 each).
The Loompanics catalogue is "an important source for anarchists, survivalists, iconoclasts, self-liberators, mercenaries, investigators, dropouts, researchers, and just about anybody interested in the strange, the useful, the arcane, the oddball, the unusual, the unique and the diabolical," Hoy declares.
"We are the lunatic fringe of the libertarian movement," he adds.
Hoy insists that his business is perfectly legal. In fact, he says the FBI, the CIA and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police are among the 20,000 names on his mailing list, along with a number of famous mystery writers and Hollywood studios.
Still, federal prosecutors in Los Angeles did a double take when a Loompanics book entitled "How to Launder Money" was found during a search of the Newport Beach home of jailed investment adviser Steven D. Wymer.
Wymer is charged with civil and criminal securities fraud and money laundering in connection with the alleged loss of more than $100 million of his clients' money. The indictment does not say where the money is alleged to have gone, but Wymer's attorney, Michael Perlis, has said it was lost through bad investments and is not "in an offshore bank account waiting for Steven Wymer."
Federal prosecutors say the money-laundering manual was found in Wymer's dresser. Perlis said it belonged to Wymer's wife. "He did not read the book," Perlis told reporters.
"Put it this way: We're not accepting that it was hers," said Assistant U.S. Atty. Jean A. Kawahara.
Written from prison by one John Gregg, "How to Launder Money" was published in 1982 and has sold several thousand copies, Hoy said. But it has been out of print--and out of the catalogue--for five or six years and its advice is now dated, Hoy said.
"Some of those loopholes have been closed," he said.
The publisher would like to update and reissue it, but Gregg died behind bars. "We used to have to send his royalty checks to an attorney because he was in prison," Hoy said. "I think it was for money laundering or some kind of money shenanigans."
Hoy describes his personal philosophy as practical anarchism. "The basic idea is you don't have to overthrow the government if you can avoid it," he said. "Rather than being oriented toward crusades on issues, personal empowerment is what it's all about."
And if it's illegal, immoral or revolting, Hoy has a book about it--and possibly three of them.
Loompanics sells the gruesome "Physical Interrogation Techniques," which instructs on "how to torture information out of an unwilling subject," and the macabre "Silent Death by Uncle Fester," billed as "the most advanced book on household manufacture of poisons we have ever seen."
The weird, the wacky and the defiant are offered along with less benign fare. "How to Start Your Own Country," "Steal This Urine Test" and "The Computer Underground: Hacking, Piracy, Phreaking and Computer Crime" are offered next to neo-Nazi, satanic and misogynist tracts. Political musings range from "Confessions of a Holocaust Revisionist" to Friedrich Nietzsche's "The Antichrist," several volumes on Ayn Rand, and a wide selection on "tax avoision," or "how to get government parasites out of your pockets."
Loompanics sells about 150 of its own titles, with the balance from other underground publishers, including Los Angeles-based AMOK, a necro-punk, cult, gonzo and gore bookstore in the Silver Lake district. For $8.95, the "AMOK Fourth Dispatch" catalogue offers "a guide to the steamy undergrowths of the well-manicured fiction garden and a thorough directory of the extremes of information in print."
Officials with the FBI, the IRS and the Treasury Department either declined comment on possible investigations of Hoy or said his operation appears to fall safely within First Amendment protections. The publisher says he pays his taxes and has never been harassed by the authorities.