Is the Story of ‘Hit Man’ Inspired by True Events?


The story of “Hit Man,” both in its novel and film adaptations, is inspired by true events, but with notable fictional embellishments.


The original book, “Hit Man: A Technical Manual for Independent Contractors,” was written by Rex Feral and published in 1983 by Paladin Press. The book is presented as a how-to manual for would-be contract killers, offering detailed instructions on various aspects of murdering for hire. Despite being intended as fiction, it gained notoriety when it was linked to actual crimes. In a high-profile legal case, a man who murdered three people claimed to have used the book as a guide. This led to a lawsuit against Paladin Press, which eventually settled out of court, and the book was taken out of print.


The film “Hit Man” by Richard Linklater, inspired by an article from Texas Monthly titled “Hit Man” by Skip Hollandsworth, also draws from real-life elements. The article details the life of Gary Johnson, an undercover police officer who posed as a hitman to catch people soliciting murders. Johnson’s work led to numerous arrests and highlighted the darker aspects of human nature and crime.

Fiction vs. Reality

While both the book and the film draw from real-life elements, significant creative liberties have been taken in their portrayal. The book, although used in a real crime, was not intended as an actual guide. The film, though based on true stories, dramatizes events for entertainment purposes.

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