One thing that always struck me as odd about Tappan was that we never saw his picture. Gun writers tend to be the sort of people who love to have their pictures published - I knew what they all looked like, but not Tappan. But I figured maybe it was a survivalist thing.
Anyway, back then I attended a shooting/survivalism school in Missouri several times. During one of my early stays I guess I quoted Tappan's opinion about this or that maybe a hundred too many times and got on the instructor's nerves. He took me aside and said something like, "Look, I know Mel Tappan. He knows a lot about guns, he shoots a lot of guns and he's a good writer. But every story he ever told about something he did, he either made up or got from somebody else. He couldn't have done any of those things, because he lives in a wheelchair. So don't get too wound up about Mel Tappan."
That came as quite a surprise at the time. I didn't have any way to check the story (this was WAY pre-Internet), and eventually moved on and sort of forgot the whole thing - including Tappan. Tappan died a few years later, fairly young and apparently of long-standing health problems, and that seemed to verify what my instructor had said.
For some reason I just now got to wondering about it. I did what anyone in need of deep, incisive research does, I went to Wikipedia.
Tappan spent the last years of his own life using a wheelchair, after initially incurring a severe foot laceration from a broken drinking glass in his swimming pool and then developing debilitating leg failure, due in part to the obesity developed during his convalescence from the laceration. This eventually led to congestive heart failure.Whatever grain of truth this story may hold, it sounds like bullshit to me. A far-gone survivalist guru lets his whole body fall apart and die because he cuts his foot? How long does it take to get so obese that it threatens your life, and how long does it take to kill you? I'm guessing decades, not years. I got my foot cut off, and I'm in better shape than that.
Several search terms brought me absolutely no further information. And now it's kinda bothering me. Anybody out there know the real story? I know at least parts of Tappan's claims were bullshit, that's fairly obvious. And it really doesn't matter. But I'd like to know just how much I was being conned, back in my twenties.