Thursday, December 04, 2008

Reading Stephen Hunter

This isn’t a book review mainly because I haven’t finished the book yet, but I’m reading Stephen Hunter’s The 47th Samurai now. I got introduced to Mr. Hunter’s novels after I saw the movie Shooter and reviewed the book here. After that, I started reading more of Hunter’s work.

In case you don’t know, Hunter is a movie reviewer for the Washington Post. He once wrote spy/war novels and then invented the character of Bob Lee Swagger and later his father, Earl Swagger. Earl won the Medal of Honor at Iwo Jima and served as an Arkansas state trooper (no spoilers, but Earl died young). Bob Lee was a master sniper in Vietnam.

Both characters are fascinating individuals and I grew to like them a lot, even though Hunter’s novels are far removed from other genres I love (literary fiction, certain chick-lit, sci-fi in particular). I waited for The 47th Samurai to come out in paper and wish now that I had just bought when it first came out in hardback.

As the title implies, Bob Lee Swagger is in Japan. Earl had captured a Japanese sword that proves to be important to a businessman who is tied to Yakuza gangsters. Swagger returns the sword to a family who is later slaughtered. He must fight the Yakuza as a blood-debt to the family. He learns rudimentary sword skills and couples that with his determination and honor.

I’m reading the book with a fine “suspension of disbelief.” Swagger is a master with guns and I doubt one could master the sword as fast as he does—even though Hunter takes pains to depict Swagger as being very lucky. That said it’s a good read and an excellent way to spend some entertainment hours.

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