Monday, April 09, 2007

Gunnie Book Review: Point of Impact

I haven’t seen the movie Shooter, but I’ve read reviews. They seem schizophrenic to say the least. (By the way, Les Jones liked it.)

Some reviewers called it a right-wing fantasy full of vigilantes with guns. Others describe it as a left-wing movie and point to bad guys with pictures of Republicans in their offices. One of the good guys wears a Che Guevara tee-shirt. The man leading the evil-doers is a western Senator with a Dick Cheney vibe. The hero wonders about 9/11conspiracies.

Shooter is based on Stephen Hunter’s 1993 novel Point of Impact. I just finished reading it and it’s full of gunnie goodness. For some reason, I’d never heard of it and I’ve been a gunnie since I was eight years old. Maybe it’s a girl thing—wasting all that time on chick lit.

The book is about a disaffected Vietnam War master sniper named Bob Lee Swagger—gotta love that name. He retires on a service-connected disability to a mountaintop home in Arkansas with his dog and too many guns (as he describes it). A group of men led by a former colonel convinces Swagger that they need his help.

NOTE: Spoilers below.

They tell him about a plot to shoot the President and they need a sniper’s advice to foil the plot. They hook Swagger by telling him they have identified a Russian who is a former Soviet sniper, now turned contract killer. They convince Swagger that this man wounded him years ago and killed his spotter. So far as we know, the Russian never existed.

To make a long story short they set Swagger up as a patsy. However, the target isn’t the President, it’s an El Salvadoran Archbishop who apparently embraces liberation theology.

Swagger is helped by Nick Memphis—an FBI agent and former agency sniper—after Swagger saves Memphis’ life. In movie stills, Memphis is dark-haired and slender (he’s the one wearing the Che tee-shirt). In the book, he’s heavy-set and blond and Swagger nicknames him “Pork.” There’s no mention of a Che shirt. Together, they put a hurtin’ on the bad guys. It’s a good read for that alone.

Here’s the interesting thing. The book is politically as schizophrenic as the movie. It shows Swagger as a man who’s capable of violence, but in the service of justice even if he’s the one deciding what that is. He’s a shooting master and Hunter obviously knows guns. He wrote a beautiful elegy on the passing of Winchester as an American company (our post is here and the article is still available at the Washington Post). The book is full of gun knowledge, a love and respect for guns, and what it takes to hit a small target at 1,000 yards.

The book’s bad guys are a group of former military men. They work with a spook who’s attached to the CIA, the State Department, or both. The former soldiers are part of a “military-industrial complex” business that funnels weapons, training, and advisors to South American martinets among others. One El Salvadoran general massacred a village. The Americans helped lead it even though they didn’t condone it. All are trying to keep it covered up and the Archbishop becomes too nosy to live.

If you’re as old as I am, you’ll recognize that this political background is straight from the left-wing playbook of the late 1980s and early 1990s. Reagan’s administration funneled arms to the Contras in Nicaragua. There were Americans on the ground who probably helped right-wing dictators in South America.

I don’t know what Hunter’s politics are like. But, it doesn’t matter. He’s apparently a shooter and sympathizes with gun owners. That’s enough for me.

The movie updates the political environment in ways that I don’t necessarily like, but gunnie-ism shouldn’t be just for people who vote Republican. It transcends political agendas. Any man or woman who can shoot is most often a person who’s self-reliant and can protect his/her freedom and honor.

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