A short review of “Founders, A novel of the coming collapse” by James Wesley, Rawles.

IMHO Submitted by Thomas T. Tinker.

A short review of “Founders, A novel of the coming collapse” by James Wesley, Rawles. © Simon & Schuster, Inc. ATRIA/Emily Bestler Books, 2012. 302 pages.  This posting is not in fact, inferred or implied to be an entry into any contest, competition, or plea for attention.

I am a fan of speculative fiction. I am a fan of science fiction and history. I am a fan of any work that will give me a mind’s eye to an adventure .. real or imagined. Of all these, I am a fan of the ‘Techno Novel’ .. a work that provides a plot melted and blended with present day fact, proven history, and locations I can find ala Google map/sat. This is not to be confused with writers that use a laundry list of their favorite ‘stuff’ to flesh out, what would otherwise be, a fair read.

I have sat with all the time I honestly needed and read ‘Founders’ (3) three times. Once .. Because it was new and .. hell look who wrote it and I read the first two so geezo maybe the third is as good as the first but the second wasn’t and I had such high hopes JR would calm down and put some depth and width and literary meat into this one however … however no .. but am I demanding too much .. ? Hell yes. I put my first copy in the ‘recycle’ bin at a coffee shop in Bowling Green, Ohio (Grounds for Thought) for ‘used’ book credit. But I digress. Amazon sent me another copy and here we are .. again. I read it again … then again with notes, tabs and high lites.

“Dramatis Personae”, JR’s words not mine, are an ensemble of characters that have ‘appeared’ in his first two works, “Patriots and Survivors”, interlaced with a few new names and locations. JR catches us up on what happened to many of these early-er sub-plots in finer detail. The main plot line in “Founders” revolves around his two Chicago residents Terry and Ken Layton, their rookie boo boo of leaving town to late and jumping down the rabbit hole of the City of Chicago’s storm sewer system. Nice expansions with such characters such as E-4 Watanabe and others. Action prose on the Darwood farm .. and the missile fields ( it is so very nice to have a gunship when ya need one), and more, move the story around.

I’m sorry! Somewhere between sleeping it off in a pile of corn and the constant use of prepper trivia to salt the story .. “Founders” evolved into a travel loge of two souls that should have known better in the beginning and stumble from one patch of good luck to another. Good fun, but I never really got to respect the pair.

This work has some invaluable gems in it! JR leads his chapters with meaningful quotes of some of the finest minds of man. IMHO, the most profound is that of H.L. Menchen which heads Chapter 22, pg. 228, “Belly of the Beast”. In part “The government consists of a gang of men exactly like you and me. … a broker in pillage, and every election is sort of advance auction sale of stolen goods.” The middle of this one is the real meat of it. … tease line.

“Founders” is at its best when accepted as a simple read. “Founders” is a good source of equipment lists and specs., counter Intel and OPSEC tips, amateur small unit tactics, and the prudent use of ‘Ironkey thumb drives’ (pg. 244). “Founders” is a good source of scripture and good Judeo & Christ like moral and ethic. JR is the author. JR owns the rights .. other than those sold to Simon & Schuster.

JR is an evangelical writer that forgets that his work will be read by the majority of preppers … that do not regard themselves any less Good or Evil that he. Now don’t get your prayer shawl or missile marker in a knot … This work is actually a good source of entertainment .. a good read. Born again reader .. or not, “Founders” may belong in the Scripture and Religion Section of Barns and Nobel if it were not a work of fiction. I’m not looking for the keys to the Kingdom … or the secrets of the Universe in this book… just good work. “Founders”… weighs in at a 3 on a scale of 10…. IMHO.

Tweaked a few emotions and egos there now haven’t I. Ok ‘Packers’, let the suggestions, comments, questions and calls for more wood and oil on the pyre commence. As always, your humble servant and blaspheme … On his way to the coffee shop in Bowling Green to recycle another tome.

About M.D. Creekmore

M.D. Creekmore is the owner and editor of TheSurvivalistBlog.net. He is the author of four prepper related books and is regarded as one of the nations top survival and emergency preparedness experts. Read more about him here.


  1. I didn’t read Founders because he butchered Survivors. This well written review follows the rest of the reviews I have read. I saved my 10 or so dollars bought ammo while their was still ammo to buy.
    I don’t need JWR help me correct the direction of my moral or spiritual compass. The second book had me skimming over huge sections and thinking to myself blah blah blah blah. He loves to hear himself speak. I can only imagine what his family must endure everyday.
    I loved Patriots, my copy is ratty and covered in highlighter marks. He has used to second and third to tell the same story and give sermon to the prepper masses. From what I can see on this blog, the preppers here are just fine without it.

  2. The epilogue was really depressing. If society ever degrades to the point that scavenging old fenceposts for iron is a career option, then we are done.

    Mining really isn’t that hard.

    • I don’t know where eg lives but they already scavenge old and new fence posts as a career option along with any other metal they can get their hands on. This includes live electric wires.
      Thanks Thomas T. Tinker for the review. I am getting ready to read this. I look for lots of good information in an applied manor from these kind of books. For entertainment I enjoy the fictionalized history of WW2 in W.E.B. Griffiths books. They are trueish stories with made up stories of the people involved.

      • Thomas T. Tinker says:

        Crappolla caoimhin….. if you haven’t bought the thing yet…… Don’t, I’ll send you the copy I have…… sorta a regifting thang… then you could pass it along to anyone else that has the time and patience……..

    • EG,
      LOL, I already scavange fence posts from the salavage yard to use as….. fence posts. Things aren’t hard at all. Scavenging is fun.

      Mining isn’t hard? Huh?

  3. While Rawles’ website can be useful at times, after forcing my way through Patriots, nothing could induce me to attempt to read another piece of Rawles’ fiction. I’ll read a soup can (and have) if there’s nothing else handy but I put Patriots in the fire starter pile. At least as trench candles it’ll be useful. Founders? I’ll spend the money on more TP.

    • Good to know that there are others who think “Patriots” was not worth all the hype and expense. As an instruction manual it had some interesting points, but nothing that wasn’t easily found in other places. As a novel it was pretty dificult to get through. Like you I had to force myself to finish. I’ll stick to cheap “Doomer Porn” for my Kindle. I can buy 6 – 10 books for what I’d have to pay for another Rawle’s book.

    • JeffintheWest says:

      I totally agree — wading through “Patriots” was like trying to read Emmanuel Kant. Neither one was productive or interesting, despite the hype over how “important” they were as thinkers. Frankly, JWR comes across as condescending and patronizing which to my mind reflects more his own sense of inferiority rather than any exceptional ability in either the “thinking” or “doing” departments. A friend of mine recently compared his books to “a sex manual written by celibate monks,” which I think is probably the best one-line review I’ve heard in a while. I much prefer reading this blog — at least the ideas presented are clear and have actually been tried.

  4. I like this category of fiction. At our house it’s called “Doomer Porn”. I enjoy it when the characters get into a situation and work through it. It helps me look at prepping shortfalls and a (abet fictional) solution to it.

    As far as Rawles’ books go, I liked Patriots, the others were, in my opinion, what hit the editors floor. Still there is always something to take away from all of these books.

    • LOL… I love the “Doomer Porn” label. I freely admit I’m very bad about reading too much of it. At least it’s not as bad as reading Harlequin Romances…

    • Thomas T. Tinker says:

      Copy the good……. soak the rest in water and press into a bio-brickette.

  5. I’ve read all three of them BUT it was the third book that bothered me. JR in this novel has people meet for the first or second time sometimes for friendship and sometimes for courtship and what bothered me when meeting they asked what church do you belong to as if the good guys belong to only one sect. Also the ending got me thinking NOT only did we win our war the christian right thought is best to attack other countries who did not think as we did nor pray as they did. This got me to thinking , if the books premise comes true will I have to fight my country for my constitutional rights and then have to fight the christian right to protect my other constitutional rights.

    • Thomas T. Tinker says:

      Kelley… I have a nice selection of Crusader history…… No-Body was the good guy in that shameful period. As to the the Christian Right… or Left……… 90.000.000 North, Central and South American Indians can’t be wrong……. then again their dead… I digress again. We can thank an intolerant, elitist, prudesh, biased and greedy Europe.. among others… for so many wrongs matched only by the intolerant Islamic states. Didn’t Christ say that his church could be found under every stone or board. Oh….. My Bishop would not care to read this.

  6. Sure, you can learn something from anything you read, or at a minimum brush up on something you know.
    Skipping chapters, pages, paragraphs… well that’s not how I want to read a book. Couldn’t stomach the cramming as much religion in as many spots as possible. Thank the lord everyone was so lucky….

  7. Thanks for the review and the comments. Think I will take this one off of my BTR list.
    Now, what to replace it with?

    I recently read Clan of the Cave Bear and Valley of the Horses. Greater motive survival tales. But I think I’m leaning toward a more contemporary setting for the next read.

    • JeffintheWest says:

      Those are pretty good books — in fact she’s done a good half dozen more, I think (haven’t read ’em all, because after three or four you get the basic idea and it all starts to sound the same from there on out). But there is a lot of good information in there about how our ancestors might have actually lived. I’m a history nut, of course, so maybe the appeal is more in those terms….

  8. Thomas T. Tinker says:

    J Cook….. you may like http://www.Slinging.org

  9. Tactical G-Ma says:

    Thanks for the review. Founders got bad reviews when it was released so I never bothered ordering it. I love sci-fi movies and shows but anymore my reading is all non-fiction. Guess I didn’t miss much.

    • Thomas T. Tinker says:

      TMa… I don’t know that JR didn’t have a three book deal.. or that he was trying what so many others have and that is to try and break into a series deal. A W. W. Johnstone.. JR is not.

  10. Ed in Texas says:

    An excellent and honest review TT. I too would have given it a “3” at best and maybe even a “2.” I do hate to say that, but I agree that it fell WAY short of “Patriots” and even quite a bit short of “Survivors.” I would give “Patriots” a 9 and “Survivors” about a 6 by the way. This one fell quite short even in the ability to glean valuable info from it. “Patriots” is one of the best I’ve ever seen in that regard and even “Survivors” had quite a bit of handy advice to offer.

    I have an entire huge bookshelf of survival-related books and probably upwards of 100 of them that are novels, so I’m balancing my assessment against quite a bit of research. Just fyi, whenever folks ask me about where to obtain survival information, they’re typically curious about “how to make fire from flint ‘n steel” etc. I always tell them that such info is certainly needed on your bookshelf as a reference, just as it’s nice to have a dictionary, thesaurus and encyclopedia, but it’s the NOVELS that will give a newbie prepper a much better understanding of what we might face during a catastrophic event and what to do about it. I always recommend “Patriots” and several others as a good start.

    • will e styles says:

      I always recommend “Patriots” and several others as a good start.

      Would you mind list some of the “others” I’am always looking for more books to read.


      • Ed in Texas says:

        I’d be happy to, will.
        (By the way, sorry it’s taken me so long to reply; work has kept me away)

        This would be a list of a few of my own favorite novels; although there are a LOT more that I like just fine, but including all of them that I like would exceed the scope of a simple post-reply. Basically, I rate them according to a few different factors:

        1. Plausibility – are the circumstances depicted in the novel credible? Bear in mind that even if it isn’t (eg; Lucifer’s Hammer – which is based upon an Armageddon scenario after a series of meteor strikes), if the way in which the writer depicts the ensuing lives and tribulations of the characters is plausible, then it’s worthy (Doomsday is doomsday; regardless of the underlying cause, in other words).

        2. The information that can be gleaned from the imagination of the author. Do they seem to have a truly prophetic (and once again, realistic) grasp of how “a” will beget “b” will beget “c,” etc.

        3. Overall readability. Some authors can just flat keep a reader spellbound; others can be snore-fests.

        Here’s my list of novels (in no particular order):

        1. Patriots: A Novel of Survival in the Coming Collapse by James Wesley, Rawles. Rawles is of course one of the true “gurus” of Survivalism and although I wouldn’t exactly say his writing style is all that great, the info “stuffed between the line” is absolutely invaluable.

        2. The “Domestic Enemies” trilogy by Matt Bracken. This includes “Enemies Foreign and Domestic,” “Domestic Enemies: The Reconquista,” and “Foreign Enemies and Traitors.” Bracken is a spellbinding author and every one of his novels (which continues along the same storyline) is a page-turner.

        3. “Lights Out” by David Crawford. A bit on the fringes of realism, but Crawford does have an excellent writing style and there still is plenty to learn from it, regardless of the plausibility.

        4. “One Second After” by William Forstchen. An excellent EMP based scenario. Once one starts to add up the ultimate consequences, even something seemingly as benign as an EMP burst (when compared to, say, all-out Civil War or Police State tyranny, etc.) can lead to complete chaos every bit as bad in the long run as the less “kinder, gentler” causes of collapse.

        5. “Unintended Consequences” by John Ross. Also considered one of the staples of survival novels; it’s a long and quite “deep” novel which made me realize that even though I was raised “hillbilly” and have been shooting regularly since I was a tad, I’m still a tenderfoot when compared to some of the REAL “gun culture!!” Very interesting read to be sure. This book is available as a pdf for free online by the way (just Google “unintended consequences pdf” and that should get ya’ there).

        6. “The Collapse” by Jeff Stanfield. Also with what I’d call a “modicum” of plausibility; at least in some regards. The basic premise is a Chinese/N Korean invasion via terrorism. It is well written with a good storyline though and quite a bit can be gleaned from how a military invasion could play-out.

        Like I mentioned before, there are many, many such survival related novels out there. I probably have about 100 of them total. They’ve done far more to help with getting me to think about the things that truly matter than the reference type manuals could. They’re invaluable in that regard.

        That being said, the reference manuals ARE important and obviously should be on every prepper’s shelf. Some of the staples are:

        1. The Encyclopedia of Country Living by Carla Emery

        2. Dare to Prepare! by Holly Drennan Deyo

        3. When Technology Fails by Matthew Stein

        4. Where There is No Doctor by David Werner

        5. Where There is No Dentist by Murray Dickson

        6. Ditch Medicine by Hugh Coffee

        7. (and one I have yet to really plow-through) Armageddon Medicine by Cynthia Koelker, MD

        8. It’s smart to get field guides on the edible flora as well; and make sure that it’s indigenous to your given area.

        I of course could go on and on and on practically forever on the important topics one might consider needing references for in the myriad types of collapse, but that’s really something that everybody must figure out with respect to their own situation. Some topics will be far more important in some areas and situations than in others; but you get the picture.

        I hope this gets ya’ started?


  11. Encourager says:

    I read this book….and was very glad I found it at the library and did not waste my money buying it.

    It was okay…but that is all. Kind of a recap of his other books. Actually, some of it was downright B.O.R.I.N.G…

    Thanks for the review, TTT.

  12. I stopped after Patriots. While Patriots was reasonably well written I couldn’t ever get over the fact that the group had everything they could possibly need for any situation. Then supposedly on swap meet day they had all this stuff with them for trade. Doesn’t seem reasonable so I never went on with any of his other books.

    I wouldn’t recommend Collision Course either. The author of that book turns a prepper into a predator…. and the ending will just piss you off.

  13. The problem? He is rewriting his work over again, and again, and again. His repetitious scenarios cause readers eyes to glaze over. It leads one to wonder, is he that hard up for money?

  14. Annie Nonymous says:

    Ya know… I actually do owe James a debt of gratitude – for one, he re-awakened my sense that, well, I know better than to let life go on and not be ready for the unavoidable… for two, his book, passed along, got a couple others awakened as well.

    As for a “cheap and easy” read, that’s an easy one. While his prosthletizing is at times a little long-in-the-tooth (I’m a pretty devout Christian, BTW, tho am open minded enough to realize others may not worship in exactly the way I do, but share the same values and core beliefs I do without splitting hares, er, hairs) his first book was a fun read, and while his second was a little dark, it was still a fun read. I have yet to read #3, because… well… it’s not because of his religion (I can take his prostheletizing, because I know my Savior, have prayed a *lot* over it, and both He and I are OK with it, and I’ve honestly seen more intense hardcore prosthletizing than James gives!! 🙂 ) but because he rehashes the same story over and over again. I would **love** to see him expand off his core story line – if he did (and that’s what I was hoping for) I would snap his book in a heartbeat.

    Unfortunately, he’s stuck on the same line over and over. Ya know, he mentions the whole what I call the “3rd world war”, there’s a HUGE amount of material he could both devolve into and expand his current story. If he would. Because, while when introduced his characters were believable, good, and in a way endearing, the whole world collapsing and changing doesn’t only happen in a very small slice of America.

    Anyway, if I ever get a chance to read #3, I might… but I really, REALLY wish he’d go into the future of his world. It would be good, and interesting, IF he’d give it a chance. And I might even buy that one!

  15. I have never read any of Rawles stuff. I stopped on his webpage a few times but,I did not inhale. I just get put off by x mil folks who think that they have all the answers and it is there way or the hi way. Then you throw in some christianity with that,and you get Rawles. I have heard a few interviews by Rawles on coast to coast and such stations also.I am a semiactive christian and have no beef with that I just don`t think that he is be all end all that some think he is. I used to like the survivalist series for recreational reading back in the early 80`s. I am more into Clancy now.

  16. Patriots was terrible writing, but interesting and new, at least for me, so I enjoyed reading it despite the terrible writing and downright awful plot — still trying to figure out the Keane brothers nonsense, the Templars and convenient lack of any air power for the bad guys. Disbelief can be suspended for one book so I enjoyed it. I guess its like your first car — it may have been a piece of junk that leaked oil, broke down every day and died after a year, but you still have a certain fondness for it despite those facts. So yes , I just compared Rawles’ book with my 70’s vintage Dodge Aspen…perhaps I was too kind.

    Survivors was just terrible all around, the writing, the plot, the sales tactics, did I mention the terrible writing. Seemed completely mailed in.

    I will not be reading Founders. If I were to think about it, the memory of Rawles scolding people for buying his book before the “book bomb” day is enough to make me want to barf instead. (Alright, I still mught read it, but it will be library only and I will dogear the pages.)

    For those interested, I just read “The Pulse of Allah” in the doomer fiction genre and that was good. Kind of “Red Storm Rising” meets standard doomer fare.

    One Second After and Lights out are so much better, light years ahead of Rawles works, if you are not a big reader stick to those two and you will be happy. And yes, Collision Course was awful…worse than Survivors, though the writing is probably actually better.

    • Thomas,

      The “book bomb” thing that he pushes so hard with his books is to drive up rating of the book and to get it on the Amazon.com front page where more people will see it and buy it.

    • Nice to see I wasn’t the only one that thought Collision Course was awful. I gave my copy away and told the new owner to loose it after he read it. I didn’t want it back.

  17. Thomas T. Tinker – I laughed out loud reading that you dropped the book in the book bin at a huge lib college town like BGSU. Know the town very well since it’s a neighboring city, was just there the other day. I felt similar to the Rawles trilogy, but he really lost me when Patriots was rewritten to include the two anti-gov’t brothers, the original version The Gray Ninties was great, everything else written after it has been utter crap!

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