My only Pulitzer Prize-winning friend is Stephen Hunter, and he is also the only New York Times bestselling fiction author who regularly takes my calls. He has penned 19 novels, and I discovered his work in the 1990s when I bought a copy ofPoint of Impact; the first of his books to feature the character Bob Lee Swagger. Remember the movie “Shooter”? It is based on that novel.
Single-handedly, Hunter has created the sniper genre in contemporary fiction. He retired several years ago as the chief film critic for the Washington Post (he was at the Baltimore Sun before that) and spends his time these days writing novels. And despite his employment at liberal icons, Steve is a true gun guy. He loves guns, and his descriptions of them and their performance-especially when it comes to ballistics-are second to none. Steve also loves gun magazines, and is a fan of all of them, but especially American Rifleman. He and I have become friends, and of all the guys I know that know guns and can really, really write, he tops the list. And Steve is a class act, in memory of former NRA staffer and gunwriter J. Guthrie, who died unexpectedly last year, Steve named a character in his latest book for him. It is a special tribute that most readers will not even recognize, but for those of us who knew and miss Guthrie, it is no small thing.
On his latest work Sniper’s Honor, of which I just received an advanced copy, I let my friend down. Steve asked me if I knew anyone with a Fallshirmjaeger Gewehr 42, the extremely rare-and nearly uncontrollable in full-auto-lightweight, selective-fire machine gun created for German paratroopers during World War II. I reached out and managed to locate a couple of the legally owned machine guns (there are not that many, and the last one I saw at auction went for around $125,000). But I was unable to get back to Steve in time and go to the range with him and the gun.
Thankfully, Steve went to Dan Shea and Long Mountain Outfitters in Nevada and spent some time examining both major variants of the gun. And the description of it in Sniper’s Honoris excellent and true to the way the gun feels in the hands. I do not want to give away what other guns are built into Steve’s storyline, but he makes one of my favorite rifles as real as the characters he builds.
Combine Bob Lee Swagger with a beautiful Russian sniper, some of World War II’s coolest hardware, a mystery, a government cover up and a couple of villains, and you have a superlative novel. It cost me some sleep, but I don’t regret it one iota. Sniper’s Honor goes on sale from Simon & Shuster on May 20 and is highly recommended.
Steve has written a few times for American Rifleman, including on the National Firearms Museum's movie guns exhibit and his piece on the .38 Super was superlative. He has also helped us out on “American Rifleman Television.” In my hands now is a piece from him on the FG42. Look for it in the July issue of American Rifleman.
In the next week or two Steve and I will head to the range with Rick Smith’s semi-auto-only version of the FG42 made in Texas. A gun is sitting on my credenza (see the photo above). It is magnificent. More so because of the unopened case of 8x57 mm Mauser from the good folks at Hornady at my feet. I don’t think it will last very long.