The heroes in Stephen Hunter’s novels are sort of redneck Jason Bourne’s. Master killers at the bottom of the hierarchy who are screwed over by the higher-ups, and get even by changing the game from a game of politics to a game of close, personal violence.
Hunter’s best known novels (and his one movie) are about Bob Lee Swagger, an Arkansas sniper who unravels conspiracies with the help of his sniper rifle. When you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Bob Lee Swagger has a sniper rifle, and three hundred kills in Vietnam, and solves his problems accordingly.
Hot Springs is Hunter’s first novel about Earl Swagger, Bob Lee’s father, who comes home from World War II to help root out the gangster scum from a lawless town. His military experience comes in handy. As always in Hunter’s novels, the battles aren’t just people shooting at each other, they’re battles. Hunter puts great thought into his shootouts. It’s one area where his novels excel.
And you just have to love the names. The anti-hero of Dirty White Boys, a Bob Lee Swagger gone to the dark side, is called Lamar Pye. Bob Lee Swagger, Earl and Lamar. Aren’t these names fantastic?
I don’t know if Stephen Hunter is the best that macho thrillers have to offer. I don’t read enough of them to say. But when I do want to read one, he’s the author I pick up.