Thomas Harris, Knife Fighter’s Mange, and the Flicket

Wednesday, February 27, 2013
By Phil Elmore

Graham looked thoughtfully at the marred muscular forearms, the dot of adhesive in the crook of the elbow, the shaved patch where Randy had tested the edge of his knife. Knife fighter’s mange.

I’m afraid of Randy. Fire or fall back.

“Did you hear me?” Randy said. “Butt out.”

Graham unbuttoned his jacket and put his identification on the table.

“Sit still, Randy. If you try to get up, you’re gonna have two navels.”

“I’m sorry, sir.” Instant inmate sincerity.

“Randy, I want you to do something for me. I want you to reach in your left back pocket. Just use two fingers. You’ll find a five-inch knife in there with a Flicket clamped to the blade. Put it on the table. . . . Thank you.”


That prose belongs to Thomas Harris, whose 1981 book Red Dragon (which gave the world Dr. Hannibal Lecterl as a literary supervillain) also introduced me, as a young reader, to the “Flicket.”

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Knife fighting lore from the Seventies and the early Eighties always fascinates me because it was just before I got into knives as weapons. The landscape of martial arts instruction was still recovering from an absurd “kung fu” boom in the Seventies that was as ridiculous as the Eighties ninja fad would become.  Publishing houses like Desert Publications, Loompanics, and others turned out a steady stream of pefectly ridiculous “knife fighting” junk, with lurid titles such as “Prison’s Bloody Iron” (a favorite of mine, by Jenks and Brown. Harold Jenks was very representative of the genre back then.)

By the late Eighties, tactical folding knives equipped for one-hand opening had yet to become widely known.  I bought my first Spyderco one-hand folder in the early 1990s, but as recently as 1993 or 1994, my daily carry was a Buck knife with a One Armed Bandit affixed to the blade.  The One Armed Bandit is a successor to the Flicket.  It’s just a screw-on thumb stud that lets you open the blade with only one hand.

The Flicket did it first and, while it’s a little clunkier than a thumb stud, something about it just screams 1970s martial nostalgia.  Harris’ Red Dragon brings that home nicely.  Back then, if you had a Flicket on your knife, you were the sort of fellow who kept his knife razor sharp and who tested it frequently by shaving hair off his forearm. You were, in short, a tough guy, or at least you thought you were.

I must be getting old.  Stuff like this puts a smile on my face.

 

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