“I was at my best with a rifle in my hand. I always loved rifles. So I decided to live in such a way that the rifle would be all I needed. And I succeeded.” Bob Lee Swagger.
Above is just one of many great lines from Stephen Hunter’s masterpiece “Point of Impact”, the first book about his iconic hero Bob Lee Swagger. This is the book the dreadful movie with Marky Mark was based on. And I use the term loosely.
Bob Lee is a disabled and retired former USMC scout sniper and Vietnam war vet. Bob sustained a career ending wound in the hip just before his partner was killed on a sniper mission in the later years of the war. Bob is clearly a fictionalized version of the Ultimate Sniper Carlos Hathcock in the universe of the book. Bob is famous after the war and is well known in the gun culture, though he is bitter and seeks no lime lights. Because of his exploits and skill during the war, he was nicked names “Bob the Nailer”. While he is obviously close to the real life master sniper, Carlos himself is represented in the book as the character Carl Hitchcock as a nod to the real life sniper.
As the story opens, Bob is shown to be a recluse who has had a tough life after he is medically retired from the Marines. He collects his pension and lives alone in his trailer in the mountains with no one but his dog. He spends his days shooting and reloading and avoiding people. Ever day he shoots his rifles, handloads. workds on his guns and reads gun books. He had trouble with booze in the years before the start of the story and had a wife that left him before he went into his voluntary solitude.
Much like the movie, he is found and set up in a plot that looks like he tries to kill the US POTUS. He goes on the run eventually meeting up with his dead spotters wife and falling in love with her and teaming up with a FBI agent who helps him through the rest of the story.
As tiresome as it is to hear it again, the book is far better than that abortion of a movie. Bob is not arrogant and cocky. He is a Vietnam vet and much more clever than his movie counterpart.
One thing we learn in the book is that Bob is living a life of quite desperation, just waiting to die. When he is set up and sets out on the run to clear himself, we learn that he is once again alive for the first time since the war. He is fully engage again now that he has a war to fight. And the the climax and gun fights of the book do not disappoint.
Unlike the vast majority of writers, Stephen Hunter is a gun guy. The book is full of gun talk and details and is accurate to weapons type and ballistics. Indeed one rifle pretty much becomes a character in the book. Knows as the “tenth black king” a Pre 64 Model 70 winchester target rifle 1 of 100 that is The number 1 of that special run. It is a 300 H&H magnum with a Unertl target scope used for the kill that sets Bob up and has a long history back to the death of JFK and it is essential to driving the plot.
This great book set off the popularity of Bob Lee and his adventures that are still ongoing to this day, And even some side books about Bob’s father Earl who is even more deadly and impressive as well as heroic as Bob himself. Earl was a WW2 vet and received the Medal Of Honor. Earl goes on to have adventure of his own as a Arkansas state trooper before dying on duty when Bob is still a boy. Earl had a huge impact on his son to say the least.
The book is one anyone who loves guns needs to read, It is better than any action movie I have ever seen with plot twists and pacing that is truly masterful. It is never dull and is 100 percent entertaining. I read it many years ago ( it first came out around 91 or 92) and I have probably read it again every two years or so. it is really that good. Lastly, in addition to all I said, it also has some deep thoughtful things to say about life and duty and doing the right thing. It has never failed to entertain me.