Austin Conrad loves his bladed weapons. At any given time, he might be carrying three to five knives on his person. His favorite of these is the Loveless Chute Knife, which he normally carries strapped to a boot, concealed under a pant leg. It’s a pretty big knife, and probably a bit ridiculous to carry it like that in real life (Loveless did make a “boot knife” model, just for that purpose). But Austin is larger than life and does things his own way.
The Chute Knife was originally made by world-renowned knife maker Bob Loveless, for a customer by the name of Harry Archer, who was a CIA operative during the 60’s and 70’s. Archer worked with Loveless to design a knife that would be perfect for covert military and special forces work. “Chute” stands for parachute, as one of the Chute Knife’s special features, the partial-length upper cutting edge, was designed to help a wayward paratrooper cut away his rigging in an emergency. These knives did indeed become popular with airborne and special forces operatives.
(Thanks to KnifePurveyor.com for these photos)
The Chute Knife shown in these photos, Number 789, was ordered in September 1976 and delivered in May of 1983. That’s a lead time of over 6 and a half years! It’s interesting to note that the lead time stated on the original invoice was to be “24 to 30 months.” There is a faint, hand written note on the bottom of the invoice that reads “10/1/82 SPOKE WITH R.W.L. AND MAY DELIVER MAY/JUNE 1983. NOT FEELING WELL, AND THEREFORE NOT MAKING MANY KNIVES.” The typed letter signed by Bob Loveless to the knife’s buyer is also interesting, where Loveless declines the buyer’s offer to sweeten the deal to speed up the wait. In 1976, the price of the Loveless Chute Knife with green canvas Micarta handle was $340.40. Today, genuine Loveless Chute Knives can fetch up to $10,000 or more, depending on the rarity of features.
The Chute Knife’s blade is 4-5/8″ long, and it is 9-1/4″ in overall length. The blade is crafted of CPM154 stainless steel, with 416 stainless used for the guard and bolts. Loveless’ signature tapered tang and red liners add beauty and balance. Each knife was hand made, on a series of cutters, grinders, sanders and buffers. Even the leather sheaths were hand made, custom fit for each knife.
The particular Chute Knife in my Austin Conrad stories, which was configured exactly like the one in the photos above, was handed down to Austin from his dad, Wayne Conrad, when Austin enlisted in the Army and was assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division. The real life Loveless shop was located in Riverside, California, not far from where the fictional Conrad family lived. I loved the opportunity to weave this piece of knife-making, and local Riverside history, into my stories. While Wayne was a veteran of the Vietnam War, he didn’t own or carry the Chute Knife during his service in the military. In my fictional account, he got to know Bob Loveless years later, in Riverside, and bought the Chute Knife from him in the late 70’s.
While Loveless knives were highly regarded at the time, they had not yet reached the status of museum pieces, never to be used. Loveless was famous for his insistence that his knives were intended to be used, not just looked at. So perhaps this was one of the reasons he felt compelled to sell, to his local friend Wayne Conrad, one of the coveted Chute Knives without the notorious long lead time (according to Wayne, the knife had come from Bob’s personal inventory). As such, it had no fancy handle material or features, just the simple, durable green canvas Micarta handle that Loveless himself preferred.
I’ve tried to portray Austin’s Chute Knife as somewhat of a famous, storied blade, along the lines of Tolkien’s Narsil/Anduril, or G.R.R. Martin’s Blackfyre. Neither Wayne or Austin ever gave the knife a name, but similar to Aragorn or Aegon Targaryen, the weapon was an important part of who the character is. Each of the Austin Conrad books reveal a little bit more of this knife’s history. But in Blood Out, the knife’s provenance plays a special role in the book’s climactic scene.