Books by Stephen Hunter


February 13, 2003, 05:09 PM
I read an interview with Stephen Hunter in a recent gun mag (maybe "American Handgunner"...can't remember) and I think I've seen some comments about his work out here. Intrigued, I checked "Black Light" out from the local library and started reading it over lunch...and very nearly forgot that I needed to get back to work before an hour was up!

This is GREAT stuff!!! :)

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February 13, 2003, 05:28 PM
You are correct, sir! Stephen Hunter is awesome. Check our Point of Impact and Time to Hunt. Two of my alltime favorites.

February 13, 2003, 06:30 PM
What are these books about?

Baba Louie
February 13, 2003, 06:34 PM
What are they about?

The Swagger clan. Arkansas shooting men, Marines, LEO, etc.

A group of men and the bad guys who torment them.

Hunter knows his firearms and writes well.

Point and Time, Hot Springs, (was it?) Dirty White Boys, Pale Horse ALL good reading and re-reading.


February 13, 2003, 06:34 PM
They are about a WWII vet which becomes a LEO and progress into his son's life, where he becomes a sniper in Vietnam and runs into assorted badguys afterward. Both won the MOH.

Very interesting, good overall plots and fairly accurate firearms handling.

Baba Louie
February 13, 2003, 06:41 PM

Didn't Earl receive the MOH? Bob Lee? Don't think so as it was a point of contention in POI (faked letter to Pres. with three exclamation points!!!). Or was it Time? No that was later.
Maybe it was Earl's daddy.

Great reading.

Does he still write Movie Reviews for paper back in DC/Balt.?

I'll hafta do a Google search on Mr. Hunter and see what comes up.


Greg L
February 13, 2003, 06:49 PM
Baba is right. It was a faked letter complaining about not getting the MOH in POI (don't you just love all the acronyms :D ) that helped put the trail/blame on Bob Lee.

All of Mr. Hunter's books have at least one character that can be found in another book or two, tying his universe together(including the lesser known earlier books). Most all of them are a great read and all of them are at least a good read.


February 13, 2003, 07:19 PM
The best thing Hunter is able to do is actually craft the story. If read in the order first published, "Dirty White Boys" has seemingly no connection to "Point." However the way he blends the two storylines in during "Blacklight" is perfect.

Hunter is, flat out, one of the best fiction writers around today.

February 13, 2003, 07:34 PM

I don't know if you care about reading books in the order they were written but just incase you didn't know, Black Light is several books into the series.

The first one is Point of Impact.

Black Light was great; they are all very good; altogether they are a great body of work; I can't wait for the next.

February 13, 2003, 07:46 PM
In order, the trilogy goes Point of Impact , Dirty White Boys , Black Light . His last one tied somewhat into the others as well and was very good--can't remember the name. He's amon my favorite authors. Knows his stuff about shooting.


February 13, 2003, 07:59 PM
Almost all of Hunter's books are great, and he knows guns.

The Master Sniper--a WWII fanatic German sniper on a secret mission at the war's end, armed with the "Vampir" sight.

The Second Saladin--An Arab infiltrates the US/Mexican border to attack America. So-so.

A Tapestry of Spy's--A Spanish Civil war spy story. So-so.

The Day Before Midnight--A take-over of an impregnable missile site, a multi-ton block of titanium, an kidnapped master metal cutting expert, and two Vietnam era tunnel experts, one an American tunnel-rat, the other a Viet Cong woman.

Point of Impact-- Retired Marine sniper Bob Lee Swagger is framed for attempting to assassinate the President. The plotter's mistake.....failing make SURE Swagger is DEAD.
Be sure to catch the Safety Deposit Box "hook" at the end.

Black Light..Bob Lee goes home to Arkansas to find out just how it was his hero State Trooper father came to die in a corn field with two punks. There were only three guns at the site, a .357, a 44 Special, and a rare .38 Super. So how come Earl died with a 110 grain .30 bullet in his heart?
Somebody doesn't want him to find out...BIG mistake.

Time To Hunt--The Russian sniper responsible for wounding Bob Lee and his partner comes after Swagger years later. Two statements to remember...."Daddy's Home" and "Front Toward Enemy".

Dirty White boys--Three escaped Oklahoma convicts go on a murderous crime spree, and the State Trooper who pursues them.

Hot Springs...1940's Hot Springs Arkansas, the gambling capital of America. Earl Swagger, retired Marine Medal of Honor winner decides to clean up the town. The town doesn't want to be cleaned up. Swagger takes out the trash.

Pale Horse Coming--Earl Swagger is asked to look into odd events at a notorious Southern Prison farm.
People don't like him sticking his nose into their business and do something about it.
As is common with the Swagger family, they sorely regret not making SURE he's DEAD.
Earl goes back to "settle up", taking along the most famous and deadly American gunmen in history. Among them, a young, baby-faced Medal of Honor winning Army vet-turned actor, who just happens to have brought something called a "MP-44" home.

February 13, 2003, 08:17 PM
You may be right Baba. Been a loooooong time since I read POI. Now that I think about it, that was the "calling card" the colonel used to get Bob to talk to him.

If I had not read any of his books, I'd read them in the story timeline. That would be (I think)

Hot Springs
Pale Horse Coming
Dirty White Boys
Point of Impact
Black Light
A Time to Hunt

February 13, 2003, 08:53 PM
Point of Impact is the BEST fiction gun book ever written!

February 13, 2003, 09:36 PM
It's certainly not my intention to hijack the thread (because I am a big fan of Stephen Hunter). But, if you like the "Swagger Series", you're almost sure to love John Ross's Unintended Consequences.

FWIW, Stephen Hunter wrote a really great tribute to Carlos Hathcock. It's my understanding that the Bob Lee Swagger character is modeled, more or less, after Gunnery Sgt. Hathcock.

IIRC, I found Hunter's piece on Carlos Hathcock via a google search "Carlos Hathcock". Dang, now THERE was a man!


February 13, 2003, 11:12 PM
Actually Hunter modeled a lot after Hathcock. Donny, Swagger's spotter is based on John Burke, Hathcock's spotter.

HK is right about reading in the timeline, I read "Hot Springs" first, on advice from others, and it really helped me understand the storyline better.

Personally of the Bob Lee books, I think "Time To Hunt" is the best. It has become my "I'm bored, this will only take a day to read" book of choice!

Ed Straker
February 14, 2003, 07:24 AM
All of his books are outstanding. One thing that sticks out in my mind is, I listened to the audiobook of Pale Horse Coming. The actor who read it, whose name I forget, did an outstanding job. Different voices for different characters, all of that. So if you don't get a chance to read, audio versions of a lot of Hunter's stuff is out there. Highly recommended!

February 14, 2003, 07:32 AM
I've read everything he's written. Not my favorite contemporary writer, but very entertaining.

"Daddy's home." <--- That cheesy line gave me chills in TTH. He must be okay. :D

February 14, 2003, 10:36 AM
Thank you, ddc and Citadel99, for supplying the order of these books for me...I'm so hooked into "Black Light" that I'm gonna finish it and then start from the beginning of the series.

Thanks, too, R-Tex12 for a reference on that John Ross novel, I'll check that out, too.

Happy reading, everybody!

February 14, 2003, 11:02 AM
I read POI in '95.. Hot Springs and Dirty White boys came out later. but of starting now.. try to read them in order. some of his books are serious page turners and i couldnt put it down , soem kinda drag. but as far as i can tell, Hunter takes the time to find the details of the guns hes talking about... all the guns in hot springs are cool... the tommy guns and BAr shootouts will have your minds eye drawing pictures... I always though they would make GREAT movies.. and you have a built in number of sequels...

David Roberson
February 14, 2003, 11:22 AM
El Toro, there was talk for a while about a movie being made based on "Point of Impact," with Tommy Lee Jones playing the role of Bob the Nailer. That may have been over on TFL -- might be worth a look to check. Haven't heard anything about that lately. Maybe I'd better do some research.

David Roberson
February 14, 2003, 12:04 PM
OK, I poked around a bit and found out that the film version of "Point of Impact," now titled "Shooter," is supposed to star Tommy Lee Jones and be directed by William Friedkin. The project has apparently run into problems and no production schedule has been set.

February 14, 2003, 12:06 PM
Swampgator wrote:
Actually Hunter modeled a lot after Hathcock. Donny, Swagger's spotter is based on John Burke, Hathcock's spotter.

Now that you mention it, 'gator, that rings a distant bell (my hearing's not all that it used to be :) ). I believe I read that somewhere a while back - had just forgotten it. Thanks!

Thumper, I have to agree. When I read that "Daddy's home." line I laughed out loud, then had to tell my wife what was so funny.

February 14, 2003, 07:27 PM
As for Hunter's technical accuracy, for the most part he gets it all right. However do a TFL search and there's a thread where several people list a few mistakes he's made. The one I remember is at the end of Hot Springs and concerns a Tommy gun.

I actually missed it and someone else pointed it out to me, that's why it is now memorable.

But never, ever, will you read, "Swagger flipped the safety off of his revolver!"

February 15, 2003, 02:17 AM
I picked up Point of Impact for $3 from the used book store this evening. Looking forward to it!

February 15, 2003, 04:02 PM
I've been told to read them in this order:

1 - Point of Impact
2 - Black Light
3 - Dirty White Boys
4 - Time to Hunt
5 - Hot Springs
6 - Pale Horse Coming

I'm up to Hot Springs. Great stuff. I think "Time to Hunt" would make an excellent movie.

He's also written some other WW2 and Cold War books I haven't yet read.

February 15, 2003, 04:06 PM

The Sniper With A Steadfast Aim
by Stephen Hunter, Washington Post Staff Writer

The academics write their mighty histories. The politicians dictate their memoirs. The retired generals give their speeches. The intellectuals record their ironic epiphanies. And in all this hubbub attending wars either lost or won, the key man is forgotten -- the lonely figure crouched in the bushes, wishing he were somewhere else: the man with the rifle.

Such a man has just died, and his passing will be marked elsewhere only in small, specialized journals with names like Leatherneck and Tactical Shooter and in the Jesuitical culture of the Marine Corps, where he is still fiercely admired.

And in some quarters, even that small amount of respect will be observed with skepticism. After all, he was merely a grunt. He was a sergeant who made people do push-ups. He fought in a bad war. He was beyond irony, perspective or introspection. He made no policies, he commanded no battalions, he invented no colorful code names for operations. But worst of all, he was a sniper.

Gunnery Sgt. (Ret.) Carlos N. Hathcock II, USMC, died Monday at 57 in Virginia Beach, after a long decline in the grip of the only enemy he wasn't able to kill: multiple sclerosis. In the end, he didn't recognize his own friends. So it was a kind of mercy, one supposes. But he had quite a life. In two tours in the 1960s, he wandered through the big bad bush in the Republic of South Vietnam, and with a rifle made by Winchester, a heart made by God and a discipline made by the Marine Corps, he stalked and killed 93 of his country's enemies. And that was only the official count.

It's not merely that Vietnam was a war largely without heroes. It's also that the very nature of Hathcock's heroism was a problem for so many. He killed, nakedly and without warning. There is something in the mercilessness of the sniper that makes the heart recoil. He attracts vultures, not only to his carcasses but also to his psyche. Is he sick? Is he psycho? The line troops call him "Murder Inc." behind his back. They puzzle over what he does. When they kill, it's in hot blood, in a haze of smoke and adrenaline. And much of the other death they see is inflicted by industrial applications, such as air power or artillery, which almost seem beyond human agency.

But the sniper is different. He isn't at the point of the spear, he is the point of the spear. He reduces warfare to its purest element, the destruction of another human being. He's like a '50s mad scientist, who learns things no man can learn -- how it looks through an 8x scope when you center-punch an enemy at 200 yards, and how it feels -- but he learns them at the risk of his own possible exile from the community.

But maybe Hathcock never cared much for the larger community, but only the Marine Corps and its mission. "Vietnam," he told a reporter in 1987, "was just right for me." He even began sniping before the Corps had instituted an official policy.

And one must give Hathcock credit for consistency: In all the endless revising done in the wake of our second-place finish in the Southeast Asia war games, he never reinvented himself or pretended to be something he wasn't. He remained a true believer to the end, not in his nation's glory or its policies, but in his narrower commitment to the Marine code of the rifle. He never euphemized, didn't call himself an "enemy troop-strength reduction technician" or "counter-morale specialist." He never walked away from who he'd been and what he'd done. He was salty, leathery and a tough Marine Corps professional NCO, even in a wheelchair. His license plate said it best: SNIPER.

"Hell," he once said, "anybody would be crazy to like to go out and kill folks. . . . I never did enjoy killing anybody. It's my job. If I don't get those bastards, then they're going to kill a lot of these kids. That's the way I look at it."

Though he was known for many years as the Marine Corps' leading sniper -- later, a researcher uncovered another sniper with a few more official kills -- he took no particular pleasure in the raw numbers.

"I'll never look at it like this was some sort of shooting match, where the man with the most kills wins the gold medal," he once said.

Ironically, the only decoration for valor that he won was for saving, not taking, lives. On his second tour in Vietnam, on Sept. 16, 1969, he was riding atop an armored personnel carrier when it struck a 500-pound mine and erupted into flames. Hathcock was knocked briefly unconscious, sprayed with flaming gasoline and thrown clear. Waking, he climbed back aboard the burning vehicle to drag seven other Marines out. Then, "with complete disregard for his own safety and while suffering an excruciating pain from his burns, he bravely ran back through the flames and exploding ammunition to ensure that no Marines had been left behind," according to the citation for the Silver Star he received in November 1996, after an extensive letter-writing campaign by fellow Marines had failed to win him the Medal of Honor for his exploits with a rifle.
But he was equally proud of the fact that as a sniper platoon sergeant on two tours, no man under his command was killed. "I never lost a person over there," he told a visiting journalist in 1995. "Never lost nobody but me, and that wasn't my fault."

Hathcock was an Arkansan, from a dirt-poor broken home, who joined the Marine Corps at 17 and quickly understood that he had found his place in the world. He qualified as an expert rifleman in boot camp and began quickly to win competitive shooting events, specializing in service rifle competition. In 1965, he won the Wimbledon Cup, the premier American 1,000-yard shooting championship. Shortly after that he was in Vietnam, but it was six months before the Marines learned the value of dedicated sniper operations and a former commanding officer built a new unit around his talents. Hathcock gave himself to the war with such fury that he took no liberty, no days off and toward the end of his first tour was finally restricted to quarters to prevent him from going on further missions.

After the war, he suffered from the inevitable melancholy. Forced medical retirement from the Corps in 1979 -- he had served 19 years 10 months 5 days -- led to drinking problems and extended bitterness. The multiple sclerosis, discovered in 1975, certainly didn't help, and burns that covered 43 percent of his body made things even more painful, but what may have saved his life -- it certainly saved the quality of his life -- was the incremental recognition that came his way as more and more people discovered who he was and what he had done. Even in the atmosphere of moral recrimination in the aftermath of the war, enough people far from media centers and universities were still attracted to the spartan simplicity of his life and battles and to the integrity of his heroism.

His biography, "Marine Sniper," written by Charles Henderson, was published in 1985; it sold over half a million copies. In the brief blast of publicity that followed, he stood still for interviews with The Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune and others. The general population may have soon forgotten about him, but in the world of target shooters, hunters and police and military shooting, he was a revered figure. And particularly as shooters came to perceive themselves under attack from mainstream culture, he became a symbol of the heroic man with a gun. He connected, in some atavistic way, to other American heroes, like Audie Murphy or Sgt. Alvin York, perhaps even Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone. They were all men like Hathcock who grew up on hardscrabble farms far from the big cities and learned early to shoot, read sign and understand the terrain.

Other gun culture enterprises kept him visible in a specialized universe unmonitored by the media, and put some money on the table. He authorized a poster that showed him in full combat regalia, crouched over his Model 70 Winchester, his face blackened, his boonie cap scrunched close to his head, the only identifier being a small sprig of feather in its band. In fact, a long-range .308-caliber ammunition was sold as "White Feather," from the Vietnamese Long Tra'ng, his nickname. He consulted on law enforcement sharpshooting, a growth area in the '80s and '90s as nearly every police department in America appointed a designated marksman to its de rigueur SWAT team. He appeared in several videos, where he revealed himself to be a practically oriented man of few but decisive words, with a sense of humor dry as a stick. He inspired several novels and at least two nonfiction books, and his exploits made it onto TV, where a "JAG" episode featured a tough old Marine sniper, and even into the movies, even if he was never credited.

In both 1994's "Sniper" and, more recently, "Saving Private Ryan," heroic riflemen dispatch enemy counter-snipers with rounds so perfectly placed they travel the tube of the enemy's scope before hitting him in the eye. In both cases, the shooters are tough Southerners (played by Tom Berenger and Barry Pepper), very much in the Hathcock mold. According to "Marine Sniper," Hathcock made such a shot, dispatching a Viet Cong sniper sent to target him specifically. Also according to that book, he ambushed a female enemy interrogator, a North Vietnamese general and a VC platoon that he took down, a man at a time, over a 24-hour engagement.

Finally, and perhaps best of all, he ascended to a special kind of Marine celebrity. The Corps named the annual Carlos Hathcock Award after him for its best marksman. A Marine library in Washington has been named after him and a Virginia Civil Air Patrol unit named itself after him. In 1990 a Marine unit raised $5,000 in donations to fight multiple sclerosis and presented it to him at his home. They brought it to him the old-fashioned way, the Marine way: They ran 216 miles from Camp Lejeune, N.C., to Virginia Beach.

It was a tribute to his toughness that Carlos Hathcock understood. According to the account in the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot, the old sniper told the men, "I am so touched, I can hardly talk."

In the end, he could not escape the terrible disease that had afflicted him since 1975. But death, with whom he had an intimate relationship, at least came to him quietly -- as if out of respect.

Originally Published in the Washington Post on February 27, 1999

Stephen Hunter, Washington Post Staff Writer

Wayne D
February 15, 2003, 07:51 PM

This is a good site to read about his books and find out what he's working on.

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