Too many authors of thrillers paint themselves into corners from which their protagonists are unable to extricate themselves in a convincing manner. Either that, or you see the ending a mile off. I can live with the latter if the plot and writing are good, but the first is just plain lazy and I can’t abide it. The most satisfying ending in the thriller genre, one that leaves you feeling all is right with the world, is when some little detail you forgot from earlier in the novel unexpectedly resurfaces, playing an elemental role in bad guys getting exactly what they deserve.
Stephen Hunter is a good old boy who can write. He can write about guns – my God, he can write about guns – and he can write realistically about men. I mean realistically about real men, not the interchangeable faggots called men who mar every story since I don’t know when. He can tell a story and keep you holding your breath right to the ending. But best of all, he pits good against evil, and any reader worth his salt will cheer for Bob Lee Swagger as though he were the man himself.
This book ended up as source material for 2007’s Shooter, starting Mark Wahlberg, which injected the inevitable woman and ethnic into key roles, which was the equivalent of a shooter bringing down a 12-point stag and then butchering it as though he’d never held a knife. Not to put too fine a point on it, compared to Hunter’s masterpiece, Shooter is a shit show. The book is ripe for a high-quality TV series, just one season, set in the early 90s and starring someone believable in the main role. By someone believable, I mean a man, not some pretty boy with tribal tattoos and a designer stubble.
Stephen Hunter is a new find for me, and a revelation. I’m coming to him nearly a quarter-century after he published this, and if his name is unknown to you I suggest you stop reading my tripe and do something useful with your time. If this review is old news, then feel free to think of me as Nick Memphis to your Bob Lee Swagger.