Point of Impact (Bob Lee Swagger Series #1)

( 254 )

Overview

He was one the best Marine snipers in Vietnam. Today, twenty years later, disgruntled hero of an unheroic war, all Bob Lee Swagger wants to be left alone and to leave the killing behind.

But with consummate psychological skill, a shadowy military organization seduces Bob into leaving his beloved Arkansas hills for one last mission for his country, unaware until too late that the game is rigged.

The assassination plot is executed to ...

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Point of Impact (Bob Lee Swagger Series #1)

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Overview

He was one the best Marine snipers in Vietnam. Today, twenty years later, disgruntled hero of an unheroic war, all Bob Lee Swagger wants to be left alone and to leave the killing behind.

But with consummate psychological skill, a shadowy military organization seduces Bob into leaving his beloved Arkansas hills for one last mission for his country, unaware until too late that the game is rigged.

The assassination plot is executed to perfection—until Bob Lee Swagger, alleged lone gunman, comes out of the operation alive, the target of a nationwide manhunt, his only allies a woman he just met and a discredited FBI agent.

Now Bob Lee Swagger is on the run, using his lethal skills once more—but this time to track down the men who set him up and to break a dark conspiracy aimed at the very heart of America.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Hunter passes almost everybody else in the thriller-writing trade as if they were standing still...worth every extravagant rave." —New York Daily News
Pixel Planet
It’s one of those novels that will keep you from getting up out of your favorite chair, as you just have to find out what happens next.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Bob Lee Swagger, jungle-smart hillbilly and premier shootist, explodes as a thinking man's Rambo when Hunter's ( The Day Before Midnight ) canny plot overcomes the barrage of high-tech ballistics data in this otherwise satisfying thriller. Swagger's sniper kills were legendary in Vietnam until an enemy bullet sent him into seclusion at his home in the Arkansas mountains. Retired Col. Schreck lures him back into ``the World'' on the pretense that he will be testing new bullets, but instead presses him into his special ``Agency'' unit. Swagger's job is to predict which site on the president's upcoming speaking tour a professional sniper would choose for an assassination attempt--so Schreck's unit can prevent it. Swagger calls the hit just right but is shot and framed in the assassination by Schreck's men. Only FBI agent and sniper ace Nick Memphis believes that Swagger is innocent. Memphis and Swagger trace the real assassin through the shootist network, making clever use of gun-lore magazines. They take on FBI bureaucrats, Schreck's nasties, Salvadoran death squads and local law agencies to get to the final showdown. While the novel's firearms details may be daunting to non-NRA members, the characters, plot and courtroom finale will leave readers wrung out. (Mar.)
Library Journal
Two men, one determined to maintain his reclusive life in the Arkansas mountains, the other fiercely dedicated to remaining part of the FBI, are drawn together in an effort to clear their names and stay alive during an intricate cover-up of an unauthorized mercenary maneuver in a Latin American country. Bob Lee Swagger, or Bob the Nailer as he was known in Vietnam, is a sniper par excellence. Because of a war injury, he devotes his time to maintaining his marksmanship and avoiding the outside world. These skills and his loner status make him an ideal target for a pseudogovernmental group planning an assassination as part of the cover-up. Nick Memphis, pursuing an investigation from which he has been warned by his FBI superiors, stumbles onto facts about Swagger that force him to go undercover with him. Tautly written by the author of The Day Before Midnight (Bantam, 1989), the plot makes a number of turns before swooping to a conclusion where patriotism and personal integrity triumph. Recommended for popular fiction collections.-- V. Louise Saylor, Eastern Washington Univ. Lib., Cheney
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780553563511
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 11/28/1993
  • Series: Bob Lee Swagger Series , #1
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: Reissue
  • Pages: 592
  • Sales rank: 74,524
  • Product dimensions: 4.19 (w) x 6.86 (h) x 1.25 (d)

Meet the Author

Bestselling author Stephen Hunter is a staff writer and film critic for The Washington Post and winner of The American Society of Newspaper Editors Award for Distinguished Writing in Criticism (1998), as well as the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for film criticism that is "intellectually rewarding and a pleasure to read." He has written 11 novels, including Havana, Pale Horse Coming, Hot Springs, Time to Hunt, Black Light, Dirty White Boys, and The Day Before Midnight.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

It was November, cold and wet in west Arkansas, a miserable dawn following on a miserable night. Sleet whistled through the pines and collected on the humps of stone that jutted out of the earth; low overhead, angry clouds hurtled by. Now and then the wind would rush through the canyons between the trees and blow the sleet like gunsmoke. It was the day before hunting season.

Bob Lee Swagger had placed himself just off the last climb that led up to Hard Bargain Valley, that flat splurge of tabletop high in the Ouachitas, and he sat in perfect silence and perfect stillness against an old pine, the rifle across his knees. This was Bob's first gift: the gift of stillness. He acquired it naturally, without instruction, from some inner pool where stress never reached. Back in 'Nam he was something of a legend for the nearly animallike way he could will his body reactions down, stiller than death.

The cold had fought through his wool leggings and up and under his down vest and begun to climb up his spine, like a sly little mouse. He gritted his teeth, fighting the urge to let them chatter. Now and then his hip throbbed from a wound from long ago. He instructed his brain to ignore the phantom ache. He was beyond will. He was in some other place.

He was earning Tim.

You see, he'd tell you, if you were one of the two or three men in the world he talked to–old Sam Vincent, say, the ex-Polk Country prosecutor, or maybe Doc LeMieux, the dentist, or Vernon Tell, the sheriff–you can't just shoot an animal. Shooting's the easy part. Any city dick can sit in a stand, drink hot coffee and wait till some doe goes prancing by, close enough to touch, and then put the muzzle of his Wal-Mart rifle and squeeze-jerk the trigger and blow a quart of her guts out and find her three counties away, bled out, her eyes still somehow beaming dumb pain.

You earned your shot, Bob would tell you, by letting whatever was happening to the animal happen to you and for however long. Fair was fair, after all.

Through the pines and the saplings, he could see the clearing 150 yards ahead, a little below, coming gradually into what small, low light there'd be that day. A trail ran through it, and at dawn and again at twilight he knew the animals would filter through, one by one, a buck and his harem. Last night, Bob had seen twelve, three bucks, one a nice fat eight-pointer even, and their ladies.

But he'd come for Tim. Old Tim, scarred and beat up, with many an adventure behind him. Tim would be alone, too: Tim didn't have a harem, and didn't need one anymore. One year Tim had had a prong of antler shot off by some lucky city dick from Little Rock and looked out of balance for a whole season. Tim had limped another whole year because Sam Vincent, not as spry as once he'd been, had held sloppy and put a .45-70 softpoint–too much gun, but Sam loved that old Winchester–into his haunches, and only bled him bad enough to kill any normal buck.

Tim was tough, Bob knew, and that was the kindest word he had for anybody, living or dead.

Bob was in his seventeenth hour of sitting. He had sat all night in the cold; and when, about four, sleet had started, he still sat. He was so cold and wet he was hardly alive, and now and again a picture of another time would come up before his eyes but always, he'd shake it out, keeping himself set on what lay ahead 150 yards.

Come on, you old bastard, he was thinking. I'm earning you.

Then he saw something. But it was only a doe and her fawn and in their lazy, confident, stupid animal way they came down the trail from the hill and began to move on down to graze in the lower forest, where some lucky city fool would certainly kill them.

Bob just sat there, next to his tree.

Dr. Dobbler swallowed, trying to read the mystery in Colonel Shreck's eyes. But as always, Shreck sat there with a fierce scowl masking his blunt features, radiating power and impatience and somehow scaring everybody in the room. Shreck was scary. He was the scariest man Dobbler had ever known, scarier even than Russell Isandhlwana, the dope dealer who had raped Dobbler in the showers of Norfolk State Penitentiary in Massachusetts and made the doctor his punk for a very, very long three months.

It was late. Outside the rain drummed on the tin roof of the Quonset. A stench of resting metal, old leather, dust, unwashed socks and stale beer hung in the room; it was a prison smell, though this wasn't a prison, but the field headquarters of an outfit calling itself RamDyne Security on several hundred obscure acres of untillable central Virginia.

The planners sat in front of the darkened room; the brutish Jack Payne, the second scariest man in the world, sat across the table; and that was all, such a tiny team for the immense and melancholy task that lay ahead of them.

On a small screen, four faces had been projected, now glowing in the dark. Each represented a hundred other possibilities; these men had been discovered by Research, investigated at length by Plans, watched by the pros from Operations, and then winnowed to this sullen quartet. It was Dobbler's job to break them down psychologically for Colonel Raymond Shreck's final decision.

Each of the final four had a flaw, of course. Dr. Dobbler pointed these out. He was, after all, still a psychiatrist, if now uncertified. Flaws were his profession.

"Too narcissistic," he said of one. "He spends too much on his hair. Never trust a man in a seventy-five-dollar haircut. He expects to be treated special. We need somebody who is special but has never been treated special."

As for Number 2, "Too smart. Brilliant, tactically brilliant. But always playing the games. Always thinking ahead. Never at rest."

Of the third, "Wonderfully stupid. But slow. Exactly what we need so far as certain qualities are required, and experienced in the technical area. Obedient as a dog. But slow. Too slow, too literal, too eager to please. Too rigid."

"I hear you flirting again, Dobbler," said Colonel Shreck, brutally. "Just give us the information, without the charm."

Dobbler winced.

"Well," he finally said, "that leave us with only one."

Jack Payne hated Dobbler. The softy Dobbler, with his big head, scraggly beard and long sensitive fingers, was everything pussy in the world. He had tits. He was almost a woman. He tried to turn everything into show.

Jack Payne was a dour, nasty-looking little man, tattooed and remote, with blank, tiny eyes in his meaty face. He was enormously strong, with a pain threshold that was off the charts. His specialty was getting things done, no matter what. He touched the cut-down Remington 1100 in its custom under-shoulder rig beneath his left arm. In the long tube under the barrel there were six double-ought 12-gauge shells. In each shell were nine .32 caliber pellets. He could fire fifty-four bullets in less than three seconds. Got lots of stuff done with that.

"The details are impressive," Dobbler was saying. "He killed eighty-seven men. That is, eighty-seven men stalked and taken under the most ferocious conditions. I think we'd all have to agree that's impressive."

There was a pause.

"I killed eighty-seven men in an afternoon," Jack said.

Jack had been stuck in a long siege at an A-team camp in the southern highlands, and in the last days the gooks had thrown human wave attacks at them.

"But all at once. With an M-60," said Colonel Shreck. "I was there too. Go ahead, Dobbler."

Dobbler was trembling, Jack could see. He still trembled when the colonel addressed him directly sometimes. Jack almost laughed. He smelled fear on the psychiatrist. He loved the odor of other men's fear.

But Dobbler pressed ahead. "This is none other than Gunnery Sergeant Bob Lee Swagger, USMC, retired, of Blue Eye, Arkansas. They called him 'Bob the Nailer.' He was the United States Marine Corps's second leading individual killer in Vietnam. Gentlemen, I give you the great American sniper."

Bob loved their magic. When he had hunted men, there was no magic. Men were stupid. They farted and yakked and gave themselves away miles before they moved into the killing zone.

But the deer, particularly the old Ouachita stags, appeared like ghosts, simply exploding out of brushy nothingness, as if they were superior visitors from another planet. And they were superior, in their way, Bob knew: their senses so razor keen, everything focused on the next two minutes. That was their secret. They didn't think about the last two minutes, which had ceased entirely to exist in the second after they were experienced, had evaporated entirely. They only thought about the next two minutes. No past, no real future. There was only now.

And so when Tim materialized with the force of a sharp memory out of the thin Arkansas pines, stunning Bob with his beauty, he did not quite surprise him.

Bob had learned years back in hard places that surprise was dangerous. It made you jerk awkwardly upon the first moment of encounter, and you gave away your edge.

So Bob's initial reaction to Tim was nothing that his body showed.

He was downwind, so no odors would reach Tim's keen nostrils, though Bob of course had washed yesterday with odorless soap; he'd air-dried his clothes; he'd washed his mouth out with peroxide so no tang of toothpaste could hang in the forest air.

The animal's head twitched and turned, and unerringly turned to Bob.

You can't see me, Bob thought. I know how you operate. You can see motion, you're a smart boy at picking out a flick of motion, scampering off to safety; but you can't see pattern. Here I sit, and you're looking right at me and you can't see me.

Bob let the beast's gaze wash over him, then felt it slide away. This was the part he liked the best, the exciting fragility of it all, the flimsiness of the connections that brought buck and man together through the medium of the rifle, but only for a few seconds, and knowing that in a minute, if the buck held, if the wind held, if his nerve held, if his luck held, he'd have Tim in his cross hairs.

He lifted the rifle.

It was a Remington 700 bolt action, lovingly purchased by the Marine Marksmanship Team and presented to him as a retirement gift when he'd been invalided out of the Corps in 1975. It had a heavy varmint barrel which almost neutralized vibration when he fired, though Bob had since replaced the original barrel with a stainless steel one from Hart, which he'd then finished with Teflon so the whole piece had the appearance of old pewter. The barrel, action and even the screws were bedded in Devcon aluminum into a black fiberglass and Kevlar stock. The screws were torqued through aluminum pilars, tightened to sixty pounds. The rifle was purely ugly. It was a .308 Winchester, and one of Bob's own handloads now rested in the chamber.

Bob slid the rifle up in a smooth and practiced motion, economical from long years of repetition. Under slightly less adverse conditions he would have elected the prone, the stablest shooting position, but since he knew he'd have to be still for so long he had been afraid the contact with the cold ground would chill his body numb. Instead, he drew the rifle up to his shoulder, notching his elbows inside his splayed knees, canting his shoulders, locking his arms under the rifle's ten pounds so that it was supported off bone, not muscle; he was building a bone bridge, running from the piece itself to the ground, anchoring it so that no whimsy of muscle fiber, no throb of heart or twitch of pulse, could deflect him at the last moment.

Bob's eye slid behind the scope, a Leupold 10x. The bold optics of the magnification, snatching every bit of light from the air, threw up Tim's head and shoulders ten time the size of life. Again the animal turned toward him, though this time he was projected against the intersection of the cross hairs.

With a thumb, Bob snicked off the safety and settled in to shoot.

I've earned you, you son of a bitch, he thought. And by God I own your ass. You are mine.

His heart seemed to thump a bit. Now he was trying to slip into that calm pool of near-nothingness where the little patch on the tip of his finger just took over as if on auto-pilot, reading the play of the cross hairs, matching their rhythm, anticipating their direction.

Okay, Bob thought, as he made the minute corrections and the cross hairs settled on Tim's spine as he nimbly licked ice-glazed shoots from a tree, okay now I own you.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 254 )
Rating Distribution

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(156)

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(16)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 256 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 8, 2008

    A reviewer

    I read it from start to finish non-stop. Great character development. Please don't judge this book by the movie. Read all of this authors books they are worth it. Most rate four to five stars.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 19, 2007

    A Heart Thumper

    I picked up this book when it first hit paperback in the 90's on the recommendation of an older lady at my local book store. Phenomenal read and one of my favorites ever. Proof this is not simply a macho story. I don't normally read a story more than once, but I have read this one three times and recommend it to every reader I know.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 20, 2010

    Gripping and Intense.

    Once I started reading this book, I couldn't put it down! Hunter's writing style was captivating and his description of small arms weaponry was spot-on! Loved it.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 11, 2007

    Heart pounding suspense

    This remains one of my favorite books of all time. Bob Lee Swagger is the ultimate hero, beyond cool, and the plot is a real page turner. This book made me write a letter of praise to the author, something I had never been moved to do before.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 13, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Now to watch movie!

    Throughly enjoyed this book! A couple of folks mentioned the movie "Shooter" as a pretty good movie to watch and once I realized it was based off this book I decided to read this first! Was not disappointed at all! Very quick and entertaining read! At times the dialogue got a bit redundant and cheesy but overall a page turner. My only gripe is that B&N has all the Bob Lee Swagger books in ebook format except books 2 & 3 which is crazy. Why start a series and then jump from book 1 to book 4??? I'd like to continue the series so I'll wait to see if they release them later on. Had to add this edit of my original review: DO NOT WATCH THE MOVIE!!! IT KILLS THE STORY!!! READ THE BOOK AND LEAVE IT AT THAT!!!

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 30, 2009

    A lot more than an ordinary thriller

    What could be a familiar tale of revenge and a crusade for the truth is spun into so much more. There is a chapter where our hero (Bob the Nailer) confronts the basis of the entire assassination plot, and shows why he is what he is (one of the best in the world behind a rifle), and taughtly written courtroom scene, some light romance, office politics, and even some history all thrown in.
    My favorite quote; "my men have your boyfriend on top of a hill and are going to kill him." The reply; "you don't get it do you? he loves hills if he is on the top of that hill that is where WANTS to be!"
    Foo

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 20, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Exciting Read Throughout

    I am about 2/3 into this thrilling book. This novel truly is a page-turner. I hope the ending is even better!!! I hope to rent the DVD after the conclusion of the book. BUY IT!!!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 15, 2009

    A great start to a great series

    This is one of my favorite books, and then they had to butcher it in movie form.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 24, 2009

    Exciting Movie

    This is an extremely fast paced action movie where the good guy is taken advantage of but wins in the end.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 24, 2014

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 20, 2013

    To 1 story house

    114 billion •&delta Kaitlynn &delta•

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 12, 2013

    Bruce to kyle

    Nothin

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 10, 2013

    Rose

    "Talking to yourself? Boy or girl?" Laughs.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 19, 2013

    Excellent Book.

    I have seen the movie and am now reading the book. The author has made some technical mistakes by mixing Winchester Mod70 and Rem 700 actions but otherwise is an excellent book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 27, 2012

    FOREST

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  • Posted July 15, 2012

    A terrific read!

    I loved this bookd the first time I read it and have re-read it multiple times. Very highly recommended.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 7, 2012

    One Terrific Read

    Don't give reviews, this being my first after reading hundreds of books However, without knowing anything about the intricacies of firearms, and this read was full of them, the author kept me enthralled througout and every time I forced myself to put it down, I found myself picking it up again If you like thrillers, espionage, or assassination plots, this is a must!

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  • Posted May 1, 2012

    Not only was this book better than the already incredible movie,

    Not only was this book better than the already incredible movie, it was much easier to understand and much more gripping.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 30, 2012

    Awesome

    Very good book but do not recomend for younger than 15

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  • Posted October 15, 2011

    So much better than the movie. READ IT.

    The movie though passingly entertaining... is very much overshadowed by this novel. The shooting was well researched and the characters very well developed.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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