100 Deadly Skills book review

Posted by Belligerent Digger on

Book Review: 100 Deadly Skills by Clint Emerson. 

 I first heard about 100 Deadly Skills by Clint Emerson (Navy SEAL, Ret.) in SOFREP last August after I finished reading I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes, a book about a former CIA operative that foils a terror plot after writing a book about forensic pathology, and was immediately intrigued. I Am Pilgrim's fictional pathology book is the clean, clinical reference used by a serial killer. 100 Deadly Skills is the equivalent of the hood-rat kid at TAFE who likes breaking locks and wearing Oakley’s.

In an interview with the Elliot In The Morning radio show, Clint Emerson explains how he learned the skills in the book: “The skills in the book are kinda mine. The beauty of being in special operations is your leadership relies on you to adapt and be creative... So they're not going to train you in everything... Hopefully the screening and the selection process gives them good men and they can figure things out. This is a compilation of things I've figured out.” 

When you start the book, it's difficult to put it down, not just because it's entertaining (which it is) but also because it's just so easy to read. All the language is very easy to understand, similar to a pam or manual where if the language is too verbose, you're going read it and then forget it when stressed. All of the skills can be done with very cheap and low tech equipment such as turning your Honda Odyssey in to a surveillance rig with black sheets and a box cutter or turning your home speakers in to microphones by merely switching the polarity of the wires (changing which wire goes where, in short).

What's that? Can't visualise how to make body armour from telephone books, the tiles from your shitty safe house patio and some duct tape, well, never fear. Here are some well drawn, annotated pictures of a guy showing you what they mean by “increase integrity”. Can't figure out how to clone keys? Here is a picture of a bar of soap and a photocopier. Every skill has a drawing on the opposite page to the text. You've got a choice between reading the Tom Clancy-esque explanation and background and checking out the illustrations for clarification or just go straight for the illustrations and get pretty much the same amount of information without the depth.

The book, in short, is the manual for getting stuff done with few resources. Prior to this, I personally have never found any compendium like it. You had to crawl lock picking communities or have an engineering background or have piratical contractor friends. A lot of these skills just aren't that accessible because you had to look too damn hard, invest too much money or your skill set was made for, say, working in insurance or making coffee and your dad never taught you to make silencers out of water bottles. Mine didn't.

It's maligned in some places because a lot of this stuff is known in specific circles, say for example guys who's job might be human exploitation or working in non or semi permissible environments and that a lot of the information is old anyway. I tend to agree in some parts, but that shouldn't ruin the book for people or be seen as a rip off. Some people just don't know where to look because they have crappy Google-fu or they've always wanted to learn these skills and because it's such a broad skill set, they don't know where to start and this is ultimately what this book is. A starting point to be expanded upon. Skill number 76 is “Wage psychological warfare” and covers driving your opposition bat shit crazy with threats and Dennis the Menace crap like throwing rocks at windows that they feel a need to act in a way that may benefit you. That is a small scale, limited version of PSY OPS, a discipline that covers everything from countering propaganda with leaflet drops to the incident where a Chinese senior colonel came to Australia to tell the then Rudd government to pick either China or America as a big daddy.

100 Deadly Skills is a fantastic, entertaining, easy to pick up book for the everyman and while the skills will probably make you feel like a Cold War spy, it's the absolute bottom floor for a variety of skill sets that will immediately make you more independent and can be done on a shoe string budget.

Would I recommend it to soldiers? It depends. If you're seeing this as the way to get in to SF or intelligence, you really don't understand either of those roles and you need to stop watching TV. If you view it as a way to be the multi-tool you've always wanted to be, you've come to the right place, kiddo.


Hannibal Presley is an ex infantryman who currently writes and has some PI experience who’s worked humanitarian jobs with DVM/HASF (dvmhasf.org) in Iraq and in the Americas.

← Older Post Newer Post →

Leave a comment