June 23, 1946 — July 24, 2012
Every fan of Jerry Ahern that I’ve talked to has a story. Either it is about how Jerry’s writings impacted their life or when they spoke to Jerry and how that impacted their life… most of the time it is a story that began when they were a reader and then spoke to Jerry. I get it; that’s how my ride with John Thomas Rourke and Jerry Ahern was. John, I met him first, and Jerry were… special—that seems like such a trite cliché but it’s true.
My story with THE SURVIVALIST began in late 1981. My father had passed away on Valentine’s Day and we had moved back from Arkansas to Bossier City, Louisiana to be closer to my mom. Not having the benefit of a lot of money and having the curse of being an active reader, I traded paperbacks a lot at the Book Rack.
One day I came across THE SURVIVALIST #1 written by someone named Jerry Ahern. I picked it up but I initially thought it looked like something dealing with militias and neo-Nazis. There had been several episodes with those folks in Arkansas; I put the book back. Over the next several months, I kept encountering that book. Finally in 1982 I took a chance and bought it; by the end of the first chapter I was hooked!
To those of us that faithfully followed John Thomas Rourke, Jerry Ahern was special! I had the privilege of meeting Jerry back in 1993. I had called Ahern Enterprises (Jerry and Sharon’s Holster Company) to order a holster for my custom .45 auto (the Widow Maker). After speaking with the “tech guy” for about 20 minutes he said, “If it doesn’t work, send it back and we’ll fix it.”
I said, “I appreciate that, but I’ve heard it before—who am I speaking to?”
“Jerry Ahern,” was his response.
“No s**t,” was mine. I was heading to the Air Force First Sergeant’s Academy for training and we made arrangements to meet in Jerry’s home town at the time—Commerce, GA. As I was sitting in a parking lot, waiting to meet Jerry I realized, I had no idea of what he looked like. Just then a black pickup pulls in and a guy wearing a dark pair of aviator sun glasses and a bomber jacket (the same garb John Thomas Rourke wore) stepped out; I knew it was him. Over the years, we developed a camaraderie I shall always treasure. He was an absolute gentleman and an absolute gentle man. Every phone conversation ended with his appellation “God Bless” and he meant it.
When Jerry first mentioned to me that he was considering bring the series back to life, I was thrilled and promised to help in any way I could. We discussed several story lines and I focused on research for him, little realizing how important that research would be to me in just a few months. To paraphrase his wife, Sharon, “Over the years, we’ve gotten a lot of people asking if THE SURVIVALIST story could continue since not all the threads have been woven shut. We were involved in so many other projects, that while the interest was there for us, the time required was not. One of the biggest hurdles involved was getting the rights back from the publisher in order to use the character names and events. This hurdle was not cleared for a matter of years; but, it finally happened. The paperwork was put into the file cabinet and we went on with our other obligations.”
She added, when “Jerry and I started talking about what the Rourke Family could be doing now that their individual families have grown in size and much of their still existing world seems to have grown more peaceful. The Rourkes were just not the type to settle into a retirement village, playing Bingo on Friday nights. Danger would follow the “Family” wherever they chose to travel. Where will they go and what type of danger are we talking about?”
It was the morning of Wednesday, July 25th, 2012 when I took a kick to the gut. I had sent a note to Sharon to check on “the Big Guy.” When she responded, she told me that Jerry had passed peacefully in his sleep the night before. She said, “Jerry died yesterday in his sleep—not what an action adventure writer envisions—but, he was a peaceful guy at heart.” Personally, I think he did it right.
Awhile later, Sharon sent me two documents Jerry had begun for #30 in The Survivalist Series. She offered me the opportunity to complete the task Jerry had begun. I don’t remember ever having such dynamic emotions sweep over me. I was intimated, I was overwhelmed reading his last writings. The task of bringing John Thomas Rourke back to life was daunting. Jerry’s story lines, several going on simultaneously in each book, his attention to detail, his knowledge of tactics and weapons all combined to form the most demanding and challenging writing assignment I ever received. Sharon added, “The new story line has some villains from the past. No, Karamatsov is not returning. At least I don’t think so! There will be some new villains, catastrophes and some far out new acquaintances that will keep the Rourkes engaged in their usual endeavor—saving humanity. Add to the mix of mayhem, politics as usual, an ever growing family base, teenagers and family ties being stretched to the limit, some really cosmic intervention… So, we’ve got the rights, lengthy story line and a cast of thousands all ready to go.”
Jerry had wanted Rourke to carry a new combat knife and we had discussed the concept. Hank Martin, of Martin Knives, and I talked. At that time, Martin Knives was in McKinney, Texas. Hank, Ed and Newt Martin took the concept and designed the John Thomas Rourke Fight Bowie; I wish Jerry had seen it… I think he would have been pleased. Come to think of it, knowing Jerry… I think he has seen it and was pleased.
Sharon, my wife Pam and I, formed Lancer Limited LLC. LANCER was a fictional company that Jerry created in the future world of the Rourke family. We settled on the name as a kind of wink at Jerry. Through LANCER we began to create Rourke memorabilia—for the first time you could own a “battered Zippo lighter” with Rourke’s initials on it. That was one of the first products created for the Rourke fans.
LANCER has just gone through a complete reorganization, removing all other products and activities so we can focus on honoring Jerry and his creations… and keeping the Rourke family alive as they continue to battle the forces that would enslave or destroy mankind. We will be honoring Jerry, honoring John Thomas Rourke and his family. With the series, continuing to bring the story back to life for past readers and trying to appeal to new readers, which can be a challenge. Sharon told me once, “Bob, relax… let the characters take you to places you would not have thought of.” She was right, many times, I found in this attempt that Bob Anderson didn’t know where the story was going. I would like to think that at those times, Jerry took over the keyboard and told the story for me.
Jerry Ahern was a gentleman that didn’t gripe or complain. I think, if I may speak for my buddy, he would say, “My only regret is not being with Sharon, my kids and grandkids.” I submit our efforts to you, Jerry’s readers and fans, and will close the way Jerry ended every phone call we ever had… God Bless.