James Wesley, Rawles was born James Wesley Rawles in California in 1960 and attended local public schools. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism from San Jose State University.
From 1984 to 1993, he served as a United States Army Military Intelligence officer. He resigned his commission as a U.S. Army Captain immediately after Bill Clinton was inaugurated as President of the United States.
Rawles worked as an Associate Editor and Regional Editor (Western U.S.) with Defense Electronics magazine in the late 1980s and early 1990s Concurrently he was Managing Editor of The International Countermeasures Handbook.
He worked as a technical writer through most of the 1990s with a variety of electronics and software companies, including Oracle Corporation. In 2005, he began blogging full-time. He has since given up day-to-day blogging in order to devote more time to writing books.
He is now a freelance writer, blogger, and survival retreat consultant. One journalist called him a "survival guru" He was described as the "conscience of survivalism." Rawles is best known as the author of the survivalist novel Patriots: A Novel of Survival in the Coming Collapse.
Rawles published a defense of his anti-racist views in a blog entry entitled "Race, Religion, and Reason" in 2010.
Rawles believes that survivalists see a high risk of a coming societal meltdown and the need to prepare for the repercussions. Rawles said that the popular media has developed an incorrect far-right "lunatic fringe" image in part because of the actions of a radical few. He called this a distortion of the true message of survivalism. Unlike the handful of fringe proponents, Rawles focuses instead on family preparedness and personal freedom. Rawles explained that the typical survivalist does not actually live in a rural area, but is rather a city dweller worried about the collapse of society who views the rural lifestyle as idyllic. Speaking from his experience, Rawles cautions that rural self-sufficiency actually involves "a lot of hard work". In 2009, he was quoted as saying: "There's so many people who are concerned about the economy that there's a huge interest in preparedness, and it pretty much crosses all lines, social, economic, political and religious. There's a steep learning curve going on right now." In a December 2014 interview with The Economist magazine, Rawles described the survivalist movement as decentralized and full of people who value their privacy. He was quoted as saying: “You don’t want to be known as the guy who has 3-4 years’ supply of food in the basement. Because one day you could see it confiscated by the government or stolen by neighbours like hungry locusts."
Rawles is the Senior Editor of SurvivalBlog.com, a blog on survival and preparedness topics. The blog has been described as "the guiding light of the prepper movement" and "the grandaddy of survival blogs". He concentrates on encouraging family preparedness for many possible threats toward society. In his various writings, Rawles has warned about socio-economic collapse, pandemics, X-class solar flares taking down power grids, terrorist attacks, and food shortages.
As a consultant, Rawles advises his clients, primarily via telephone, on emergency preparedness, at the rate of $150 per hour.
Rawles has seven books in print that are sold by mainstream booksellers: five novels and two nonfiction survival books. His second nonfiction book, titled Tools for Survival, was published in late 2014.
His novels tend to be heavy on acronyms and technical jargon, while his non-fiction books concentrate on practical skills and tools. In the Acknowledgments note to his book Tools For Survival, Rawles credits David Brin, Algis Budrys, Tom Clancy, Bruce D. Clayton, Colonel Jeff Cooper, Frederick Forsyth, Pat Frank, Gordon Dickson, Friedrich Hayek, Henry Hazlitt, Ernest Hemingway, Dean Ing, Elmer Keith, Herbert W. McBride, Ludwig von Mises, Dr. Gary North, Arthur W. Pink, John Piper, Jerry Pournelle, Ayn Rand, Lew Rockwell, Murray Rothbard, George R. Stewart and Mel Tappan as influential to his writing. In his blog, Rawles also cites Robert A. Heinlein as an influence, and often quotes him.
His first novel was a work of speculative fiction set in a near future including hyperinflation and socioeconomic collapse. Initially titled: Patriots: Surviving the Coming Collapse, and later re-titled: Patriots: A Novel of Survival in the Coming Collapse. The book was originally released in draft form as shareware under the title "Triple Ought" in the early 1990s. It was released in a printed edition by Huntington House. After Huntington House went out of business, the book was re-released by Xlibris, a "print on demand" publisher. Starting in April 2009, the novel was published in a paperback edition by Ulysses Press. It was updated to include a glossary and index.
In early April 2009, shortly after its release, it was ranked number 6 in Amazon.com's overall book sales rankings, but fell to number 33 a week later. By the end of the month it had fallen to number 98. The book's initial popularity caught librarians unprepared because it was considered a niche title and had not been reviewed by the major book review publications. According to Library Journal, the topic struck a chord with "a small but vociferous group of people concerned with survivalism" who share a sense of societal anxiety associated with the economic recession. The journal went on to say that Patriots was "reportedly originally conceived as a nonfiction guide. According to a number of Amazon.com reviewers, the novel will not win any literary prizes; its strength lies in its practical reassurances, focus on guns, and Christian ideology." Librarians then scrambled to purchase copies of the book to meet the unanticipated demand.
Survivors: A Novel of the Coming Collapse is a contemporaneous sequel novel that parallels the events that occur in Patriots, following a hyperinflationary socioeconomic collapse and the subsequent events known as "The Crunch". The novel follows several new characters (and some characters from Patriots) as they attempt to survive in the United States following The Crunch as they deal with criminal gangs, a provisional American government, and the general breakdown of society. The book was released on 4 October 2011. It rose to #2 in Amazon's overall book sales ranks, the same day. On 23 October 2011, it was listed at #3 in the New York Times Best Sellers list in the fiction hardback category. Less than a month after publication, the novel had gone through four printings and had 52,500 copies in print. A Spanish edition (titled Superviventes), was released in 2014.
Founders: A Novel of the Coming Collapse is a contemporaneous sequel that parallels the events that occur in Patriots and Survivors. It was released on 25 September 2012. The book peaked at #4 in Amazon's overall book sales ranks, on its release day. The book premiered on the New York Times Best Sellers list at #11, but dropped to #27 a week later.
Expatriates: A Novel of the Coming Global Collapse is a contemporaneous sequel novel that parallels the events that occur in Patriots, Survivors, and Founders. This 301-page novel was released on 1 October 2013. The book debuted at #21 in hardback fiction category on the New York Times Bestsellers List.
Liberators: A Novel of the Coming Global Collapse is a contemporaneous sequel novel that parallels the events that occur in Patriots, Survivors, Founders, and Expatriates. It is the final novel in the series. This 416-page novel (the longest in the series) was released in October 2014.
His How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It: Tactics, Techniques, and Technologies for Uncertain Times is a non-fiction book drawn primarily from his posts on SurvivalBlog.com. The book was described as "The preppers' Bible", by a Reuters journalist. His blog addresses preparing for the multitude of possible threats toward society. Rawles describes how to prepare against a post-disaster society that suffers looting, armed violence and food shortages. He recommends establishing rural safe havens at least 300 miles from the nearest major city, financial planning for a future barter-based economy, water retrieval and purification, food production and storage, security and self-defense techniques and strategies.
The book received a mixed review from the New York Journal of Books:
"For a neutral assessment of the huge efforts put in by the author, the book has its own strengths and weaknesses; however, the former outweigh the latter by a huge margin. One of its crystal clear strengths is the author’s obsession with precision and a clinical eye for relevant details."
It received a favorable book review on the weblog of Orville R. Weyrich Jr. A summary of the book was published in the March–April 2010 issue of The Futurist magazine, under the headline: "Alarmingly Practical Advice For Doomsday."
Syndicated radio talk show host G. Gordon Liddy interviewed Rawles and said that his book "posits a collapse of civilization." When Rawles was interviewed by radio host Laura Ingraham, she described the book as going "through point-by-point the basics of being prepared and heightening your chances of surviving some type of major crisis." Ingraham said that "there is a thin line between order and total anarchy in time of a crisis, when peoples' lives are on the line—and all the niceties and the rules go out the door."
How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It has 14 chapters and three appendices, 336 pages, ISBN 978-0-452-29583-4. September 2009. First Printing (September 2009): 20,000 copies. Second Printing (October 2009): 6,000 copies. Third Printing (October 2009): 25,000 copies. An unabridged audiobook edition is also available (ISBN 978-1441830593), produced by Brilliance Audiobooks. It was narrated by Dick Hill. As of March 2011, there were 132,000 copies of the book in print, and it had gone through 11 printings. As of April 2012, there were 12 foreign publishing contracts in place to produce editions in 11 languages, and the book was still in Amazon.com's Top 250 titles, overall. The German edition, Überleben in der Krise was translated by Angelika Unterreiner and published in 2011 by Kopp Verlag. The French edition, Fin du Monde: Comment survivre? was translated by Antony Angrand. It was released in September 2012. The Spanish edition: Cómo Sobrevivir al Fin del Mundo tal Como lo Conocemos was translated by Juan Carlos Ruiz Franco in Spain and Javier Medrano in the United States. It was released in April 2012. A Romanian translation (Ghid De Supravietuir) from Editura Paralela 45 in Bucharest was released in November 2013. It was translated by Ioan Es. Pop, a well-known Romanian poet, political figure, translator, and academic.
His Tools For Survival: What You Need to Survive When You’re on Your Own (2014) is another non-fiction book drawn primarily from his SurvivalBlog.com posts. The publisher describes the book as "a guide to the selection, use, and care of tools." It was released on December 30, 2014, by Penguin Books, and immediately jumped to #1 in Amazon's Survival & Emergency Preparedness books category. The paperback book's ISBN is 978-0-452-29812-5. It is also sold as an e-book and audiobook.
On December 1, 2015, Rawles released the novel Land of Promise, the first book in the Counter-Caliphate Chronicles novel series. This science fiction novel is a geopolitical thriller that is a considerable departure from his previous Patriots thriller novel series. Set in the late 2130s, Land of Promise fictionally describes the world under the economic and military domination of a Global Islamic Caliphate, brought about by a fictional new branch of Islam, called The Thirdists. The novel also describes the establishment of a Christian nation of refuge called The Ilemi Republic, in East Africa. This is the first book in a planned six-novel series. It is the first release from Liberty Paradigm Publishing, a publishing venture launched by Rawles in partnership with his literary agent Robert Gottlieb of Trident Media Group.
Rawles is an outspoken proponent of family preparedness, especially regarding food storage and advocates relocating to lightly populated rural "retreat" areas. His preparedness philosophy emphasizes the fragility of modern society, the value of silver and other tangibles for barter, recognition of moral absolutes, being well-armed, maintaining a "deep larder," relocation to rural retreats, and Christian charity. In an interview in The New York Times, Rawles identified himself as a "guns and groceries" survivalist.
Rawles interprets the 2nd Amendment as supporting citizens' individual rights to bear and keep arms. He believes they should be able to take arms to public events.
Rawles is opposed to racism. He supports abolition of modern slavery in the world.
In March 2011, Rawles formulated the American Redoubt movement. Rawles proposes five western states (Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, eastern Oregon, and eastern Washington) as a safe haven for conservative Christians and Jews. The concept was endorsed by former Presidential candidate Chuck Baldwin, who had recently relocated his entire extended family to western Montana. One of its adherents, John Jacob Schmidt, started a weekly podcast called Radio Free Redoubt to help further the movement. There is no data to measure how many people have moved into the area in response to this plan.
Rawles is a strong proponent of Citizen Journalism. In April 2014, along with his son Robert, Rawles co-founded The Constitution First Amendment Press Association (CFAPA), a private free press advocacy group that distributes press credentials to any literate adult U.S. Citizen, free of charge.
In the past, Rawles has lived in San Jose, California; near Orofino, Idaho; near Smartville, California; in Fremont, California; and near New Washoe City, Nevada. An article published by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation in 2008 incorrectly asserted that Rawles lived in California, but later in that article, Rawles noted that the location of his ranch in the United States is kept secret. "We don't actually reveal our location, even at the state level. All that I'm allowed to say is that we're somewhere west of the Rockies. We intentionally keep a very low profile. We just don't want a lot of people camping out on our doorstep the day after everything hits the fan." The German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung asserts that the ranch is in northern Idaho. Others have claimed that the "undisclosed location" of the ranch is in Nevada, Utah, Wyoming or even in Central America. His mailing forwarding address is in Newcastle, Wyoming. A CNN Europe article written before his first wife died noted that Rawles "...lives on a ranch in an undisclosed location with his wife (who he refers to in his blog affectionately as 'the Memsahib') and their children. Their life is almost entirely self-sufficient: They keep livestock, hunt elk and the children are schooled at home. Stored away in the ranch somewhere is a three-year supply of food." In an article titled "The Most Dangerous Novel in America", Rawles told The Daily Beast: "I'm not at liberty to discuss where I live. It's part of an agreement I made with my wife. I really can't go into the details. We live in a very remote area. I embrace technology. We don't live in a cellphone area, but I'm online constantly. We're just prepared to live off-grid, if the power grid goes down. Because of the nature of my blog and my novel, I don't just want anonymity, I need anonymity. I could wake up some morning in the aftermath of some crisis and look out in my barnyard and see five Winnebagos and some television news crews. I don't want fans of my books to descend on my property, so I have to be perspicacious." In 2009, Rawles told an Agence France-Presse reporter: "I'm surrounded by national forest. A river runs through the back end of the property, so there's no shortage of water and no shortage of fish or game to shoot. If Western civilization were to collapse tomorrow, I'd have to read about it on the Internet. I just wouldn't notice." His U.S. mail address is a post office box in Newcastle, Wyoming, but his main web site server is in Sweden. On an appearance on a September 2013 radio show, he indicated in conversation that he was "located in the inland Northwest".