A review of Jim Ward’s book, “Running The Gauntlet”

At times, it is humbling to me that I am writing for Modblog on this site that, many years ago, introduced me to new aspects of body modification, and for that matter, a whole new world. Several years ago (no doing of mine, mind you) Jim Ward, the father of modern body piercing, shared some of his tales on BMEzine with a feature called “Running The Gauntlet“. These articles exposed many readers to the early days of (modern professional) body piercing. They were a must read for any piercing aficionado and chock full of interesting tidbits from our modern history……….and then a few years later Jim announces he is going to take these stories and dozens more like them, and write an entire full length book chronicling his life, his passion and the modern history of body piercing.

Needless to say, I was thrilled at the prospect to be able to read more of his stories. However, I must be honest, I was a bit apprehensive. His short stories on BME were awesome, but could he possibly fill an entire book with material of the same caliber? For that matter, could he even write a book that would so captivate my ADD having self, that I would even be able to finish it?

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For the full review, keep on keeping on.

I can honestly say that Jim went well above and beyond my expectations and he most certainly kept my attention from the first page to the last. I was worried, that there would be a lot of stories I had heard time and time again and that the rest would be filler. Of course, there were several parts I was vaguely familiar with, but seeing them presented in this much detail and in chronological order shed new light upon them. As a body modification history buff, I have become pretty jaded when it comes to learning new bits of history. That is why it is such a true thrill for me when opportunities to continue my learning arise and this book was chock full of them.

The way Jim tells his story is so honest and heartfelt, I feel as though I now know him as only a close friend or lover normally would. He may not know me from Adam, but after reading this I almost feel as if I have known him forever. A lot of that feeling can be credited to the sharing of every intimate detail. When I every intimate detail I truly  mean “every”. The book starts off primarily focusing on his childhood and progresses to his current.  From humiliating tales of urinating himself to extremely personal tales of his first time masturbating or his sexual escapades with a priest, he truly tells all.

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As the book progresses so does his life. He goes into great detail about his early piercing techniques, his business relationship with Doug Malloy and learning proper technique by trial and error. For instance, we all take for granted the fact that piercing guns are not acceptable for even a basic lobe piercing. However, this knowledge didn’t come without some experimentation, such as the piercing gun contraption he used to use for  piercing (like the nipple piercing pictured below).

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He explains all about the founding, expansion and eventual demise of The Gauntlet. He doesn’t just tell his tale either, from Sailor Sid to Howie and dozens if not hundreds of piercers and mod artist in between, he truly does an outstanding job of documenting our modern history. As most of our readers should know, Jim’s contributions to the piercing world certainly were not limited to the work coming out of his shops. In fact, more people probably discovered piercing from his publication PFIQ then from any other source at the time.

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The real shame in this book is that it is being marketed almost purely as a book for piercing aficionados, which is really a limited demographic. While piercing is a huge part of the book, there is so much more to it then just that. It is the story of a gay male coming out in  a time when that was a far bigger deal then it is today. It is the story of a man taking his fringe interest and turning it not just into a business, but an entire industry….and if that’s not the American dream, I don’t know what is.  This book has so much to offer to so many people, I’d like to see it far outreach our little community.

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This book is now added to my “required reading” list for my current and any future apprentices. For who we are now as a community is a direct result of Jim’s passion, his work and his innovation, so anyone learning under me damn well better appreciate that. I encourage all of our readers to purchase this book and if you can’t afford it, perhaps get together with some friends and throw in for it. One way or the other, if you have even the most minimal interest and respect for body piercing, you NEED to read this book.

The book is for sale on Amazon.com and elsewhere. However, do me a favor if possible, and buy it directly from Jim rather than supporting some mega-corp. Also, if you are a piercer who orders from Anatometal, Barry is being generous enough to sell the book (which you can include in your regular orders) and give 100% of the proceeds back to Jim.

5 thoughts on “A review of Jim Ward’s book, “Running The Gauntlet”

  1. It looks like an awesome book, and like ModCon, will no doubt bece a collectors item. My only qualm would be the price. I think the target demographic will be those who are dedicated enough to spend at least US$49.95 for the book. I haven’t spent that much on a single book for a long, long time and hardbacks really are a format for dedicated book lovers. Paperbacks are where it’s at with prices around US$20 max. So I’ll be giving this one a miss because I’ve not got the discretionary income necessary to spend at least US$49.95 on a single book but I do hope those who can part with the cash do so. Also, as far as collectors editions go, a signed bookplate for international customers barely makes it a collectors item. Bookplates only do so much for a books value. Nice thought though!

  2. Yeah, I’d love to read it but $85 to get it where I am living now is just too much. =(

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