If you are knowledgeable about firearms and enjoy good fiction, you know how little of the latter embraces the former. This is why novelist and movie critic Stephen Hunter’s series about gun-wise protagonists, two generations of a Southern-bred military family, have become so hugely popular among us “gun people.”
My own favorites in the series include “Dirty White Boys,” “Hot Springs,” and “Pale Horse Coming.” The latter uses the device of real characters with slightly altered names when mid-20th Century lawman Earl Swagger assembles the great gun experts of the period as a posse seeking justice in the Deep South.
Hunter does something similar in his latest in the series as Swagger’s son, retired Vietnam era super-sniper Bob Lee Swagger, decides that it’s once again “time to hunt.”
Suppose that someone murdered lefty icons such as Jane Fonda, Bernardine Dohrn, and Bill Ayers with a high-powered rifle from long distance. Suppose the quintessential Marine Sniper, Carlos Hathcock, was still alive and framed for the murders, then murdered himself?
And suppose Bob Lee Swagger joined up with real-life Marine sniper Chuck Mawhinney to right the wrong?
And suppose it all wrapped up to the tune of Marty Robbins’ classic cowboy ballad, “Big Iron”?
That’s what you’re looking at in the latest novel in Hunter’s series, “I, Sniper.”
And, best of all, Stephen Hunter’s masterful writing and plotting craftsmanship allows it to happen within that rarely achieved “willing suspension of disbelief,” which is exponentially harder to achieve when technical devices and protocols are involved, and when the audience knows those devices and protocols.
The novel’s title is a play on words that derives from a piece of gear that is a key to the plot: “iSniper.” Though there’s a computer game of that name, in the book it’s a sophisticated, computerized telescopic sight that’s only a few years out from actually existing at the level it does in the novel.Clearly, Brother Hunter has done his homework.
Hie yourself hence to the bookstore and reserve yourself a copy of “I, Sniper” by Stephen Hunter via Simon & Schuster. I’ve just finished reading an advance proof copy, and I have to say it’s the best fiction I’ve read this year.