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2008 – Night of Thunder

Night of Thunder cover

From the inside dust jacket:

Talk about a ride!

Woe unto him who crosses Bob Lee Swagger, especially when his daughter’s life is at stake. Forced off the road and into a crash that leaves her in a coma, clinging to life, reporter Nikki Swagger had begun to peel back the onion of a Southern-fried conspriacy bubbling with all the angst, resentment, and dysfunction that Dixie gangsters can muster. An ancient, violent crime clan, a possibly corrupt law enforcement structure, gunmen of all stripes and shapes, and deranged evangelicals rear their ugly heads and will live to rue the day they targeted the wrong man’s daughter. It’s what you call your big-time bad career move. All of it is set against the backdrop of excitement and insanity that only a weeklong NASCAR event can bring to the backwoods of a town as seemingly sleepy as Bristol, Tennessee.

A master at the top of his game, Hunter provides a host of thrilling new reasons to read as fast as we can. When Swagger picks up peeling where his daughter left off, and his swift sword of justice is let loose, we find a true American hero in his most stunning action to date. And – in the form of Brother Richard, a self-decreed “Sinnerman” out of the old fire-and-brimstone tradition – Hunter offers up his most diabiolical, engaging villain yet. A triumph of story, character , and style, Night of Thunder is Stephen Hunter at his very best.



You can help support my volunteer website to chronicle Stephen Hunter’s writings by buying Night of Thunder from Amazon.com. You pay the same – but I get a small commission. Click the image at left to buy the paperback, and thanks for your support!

35 Responses to “2008 – Night of Thunder”

  1. david m dobin Says:

    Usual great Hunter book–but way too short!! Still not up to level of “Pale Horse” or “47th Sam” Typo/error on page 125: Usual older .45 LC lead bullet weight is 255 grains–not 230 grains as printed–proofreader may have confused earlier ref to 230 grain 45acp “hardball” bullets–very easy to do!! Already waiting for the next great Hunter book–keep ‘em coming!! dmd

  2. Gary Bond Says:

    Another great Stephen Hunter novel, but with a slip-up. There doesn’t appear to be a ’6.7 liter Hemi’ with 500hp. There are 5.7 and 6.1 liters available, but neither with 500hp. Whether you were aware or not, it seems to this reader that you believed there to be only one NASCAR race in Bristol when, in fact, there are both the April and August races. There is also an NHRA drag race in May. All bring millions of dollars to the Bristol area.

  3. Ray Says:

    On page 235 he speaks in Vietnamese to the 14 year old girl. He says, “Can on co em. co that gan da va su can dam cua co da cuu sinh mang chung toi”. Can anyone translate that? I’ve used the internet translators and it translates “Cán ơn have children. co thắt liver and skin character of the students pelt brought them toi ” Which doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.

  4. Bob Heaton Says:

    Congrats to Mr. Hunter for another slam-bang exciting Swagger story. Being just a little older than Bob Lee, I get a lot of vicarious thrills from all his adventures. Two little problems with “Night of Thunder”: 1. From page 3 as Sinnerman pushes his Dodge: “It was late, it was dark, it was quiet . . .”. Then on page 4: “. . . great whiz of dust white in the headlamp beams. . .”. And on page 5 as the action shifts to Nikki: “She knew she had to be wary, as it was full dark . . .”. But then on page 85: “The accident was at 7:35 P.M., according to the clock in the Volvo.” Perhaps the author had a sub-plot where someone altered the clock, but if so, that thread was abandoned. In that part of the world in August, 7:35 P.M. is broad daylight. 2. I can’t find where anyone from Bristol believes they are in the Shenandoah Valley. Perhaps some locals do, and I can’t find them. But go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Shenandoah_watershed.png
    which shows that the watershed of the Shenandoah ends about 200 miles northeast of Bristol; the geological valley ends about 170 miles from Bristol, and the cultural valley ends about 130 miles from Bristol, in Roanoke. No big deal, but the four mentions of the action’s being in the Shenandoah Valley were kind of grating. But these notations are insignificant compared to the overall integrity of the production values of the story. I very much hope that someone will make a really good movie from it.

  5. Michael Moynihan Says:

    Night of Thunder was both a good read and disappointing. I have come to expect precise, well structured writing and NoT did not live up to expectations. It seems as if the publisher was pushing for a new product and this was the rushed result. The action sequences were amazing as usual and it was nice to revisit old “friends” from previous novels. I realize that all stories cannot live up to 47th Samurai or Pale Horse, but this was A ball to their Major League.

  6. Shannon Branch Says:

    I think Mr. Hunter has come through again for us this time, and we have not seen grumley’s since earl shot them up in Hot Springs. Bob put them down hard just like his father, and only complaint was once it got boiling it was over thanks again.

  7. Jacob Goulden Says:

    3 words. I loved it. of course it couldnt live up to hot springs and Point of Impact but it was still great. i also agree with Michael. the book did seemed rushed and without that rush it could of had a bit more action 9even thought there was plenty).

  8. Tony Lyga Says:

    Another great Hunter book. Bob Lee is getting old, but still the best. In the book one of the Grumley’s was named Vern Pye. This name rang a bell and I kept waiting for Hunter to tie it in to a previous book, Dirty White Boys. The main character in that book was a Lamar Pye, about as bad a character as they come. I seem to remember Hunter hinting that Lamar may be the illegitimate son of Earl Swagger. I’m surprised that a tie-in wasn’t done in Night of Thunder, as it would have made the story even better. Imagine Bob Lee related to the Grumleys. Would make for another whole book.

  9. Russ Says:

    I found a translation of the Vietnamese that occurs on page 235 – here it is:

    “Thank you lady! You was really brave and your courage saved our lives.”

    This is a good story… I’m not quite through with it yet. Had to take a break to find the translation. But sadly, the book is riddled with errors, typos, at least one confused conversation in which the speakers are somehow switched. On page 225 is says 650 grains is “quarter-pound,” but 650 grains is only 0.0929 lb.

    And many more, including stuff mentioned already by others.

    Nice work, Mr Hunter – but your proofers and editor(s) fell down on the job. Next time, though, let’s do a better proofing job. I’m willing to help out in that area…

  10. David Says:

    I have just started the book and am enjoying it. Just one thing has come the Sherrif has just visted Bob in the Motel room and he says he has run him and he has no criminal record but in this day and age I would have thought he would have Googled him as well. I know I do but other than that enjoying it so far

  11. Berry Says:

    I showed that snippet of Vietnamese to a co-worker who *is* Vietnamese, and she couldn’t read it because all the accents and tone marks were missing. Was that a typesetting snafu?

    I enjoyed the book, of course.

  12. DC Says:

    This was really a creative gem. Who would of thought of a NASCAR event as a stage for Swagger violence and justice? Hunter is one of my favorite writers in this genre. The only sad thing is I am running through his books too quickly. He is much better than a lot of NYTBSs out there today.

  13. mojojackson Says:

    I loved it, loved it, loved it. Stephen Hunter has yet do wrong. It’s great when he includes characters connected to other novels he’s written.

    When are they going to adapt more of Hunter’s books to film? Shooter was a great action flick, but so much was changed in order to update it, it feels like we still have yet to see Hunter’s Bob The Nailer onscreen. Wahlberg was good as an updated version of Swagger, but I’d like to see a franchise based on a more faithful take on the Swagger universe. Tommy Lee Jones would make a great present-day Bob Lee, and Bruce Willis would be great tackling the role of Earl Swagger. If only he wasn’t dead, Heath Ledger would’ve made a perfect young Bob in Time To Hunt. It seemed he was playing a gay version of him in Brokeback. Thoughts, anyone?

  14. C.J. Benham Says:

    Guys-

    Even if the “ten thousand bottles of water” the Grumleys et al are carrying in one of the pick-ups are six-ounce bottles, that’s just a tad short of four thousand pounds. Since there are supposedly not a few other items in the same
    load, that must be God’s own pick-up truck.

  15. Maggie Says:

    this book was calling my name as this past weekend was the Bristol NASCAR races. I read it in two days and loved every minute of it. I can certainly relate to some of these people and have been to several races, Bristol not being one of them…would love to go, tho. I do have one question or observation; you mentioned that Dale Jr drove for the Joe Gibbs Team. Tony Stewart drove for the Gibbs team, not Jr. Jr has been with DEI until his recent move to Hendrick Motor Sports. Did you say that just to see how many people would catch this?
    Maggie

  16. Maggie Says:

    This book was great and I just happened to read it the week before the Bristol NASCAR race. I want to know if your statement about Dale Jr driving for the Joe Gibbs Team was in there to see if people were paying attention? Tony Stewart drove for Gibbs until this year. Dale Jr drove for DEI until he signed with Hendrick. Please let me know. Thanks, Maggie

  17. Eric Cooper Says:

    Ok, Loved this Book, I've been following the swagger series since 2002 when I randomly picked up Pale Horse Coming, and became completely obsessed the world of the Swaggers. What's great is my Hometown is Bristol, TN where this book happens to take place… and where Mr. Hunter will be doing a meet and greet tomorrow, CANT WAIT!!!!

  18. Bruce Henderson Says:

    I agree this would be a good movie, as would several of the books, but none would be better than Pale Horse Coming.

  19. Dom Says:

    It wasn't a hint. Black Light made pretty explicit that Lamar was Earl's illegitimate son.

  20. Richard Love Says:

    Just finished NoT and enjoyed it – far more so than 47th Samurai which I found to be a weak, cliched effort compared to much of SH's work. It was a treat to have the "old" Bob Lee back in a setting in which he seemed far more at home even if the novel was rather a short one. That said, I have to agree with others who have described the too numerous technical and typographical errors – most of which were pointed out in penciled comments written in the margins by whoever it was that checked the book out of the library before I did. It would make a great film, as would many of his books BUT only if a real Bob the Nailer fan directed it. "Shooter" was sooo disapppointing, joining a long list of great novels that should/could have been great movies but suffered in their treatment by Hollywood (see "Sahara" or "Raise the Titanic") two great novels destroyed by the movie machine.

  21. Richard Love Says:

    Just finished NoT and enjoyed it – far more so than 47th Samurai which I found to be a weak, cliched effort compared to much of SH's work. It was a treat to have the "old" Bob Lee back in a setting in which he seemed far more at home even if the novel was rather a short one. That said, I have to agree with others who have described the too numerous technical and typographical errors – most of which were pointed out in penciled comments written in the margins by whoever it was that checked the book out of the library before I did. It would make a great film, as would many of his books BUT only if a real Bob the Nailer fan directed it. "Shooter" was sooo disapppointing, joining a long list of great novels that should/could have been great movies but suffered in their treatment by Hollywood (see "Sahara" or "Raise the Titanic") two great novels destroyed by the movie machine.

  22. Stephen Says:

    I liked it, but as others have said before, way too short. Yet it was classic Hunter. Regardless of the length, his writing style beats anyone out there today. Thanks Stephen.

  23. Tom Says:

    I note that the Sheriff's Office had a Fugitive Apprehension Team. Where can I get a FAT shirt, white lettering on black, like the SWAT and DEA shirts? I thought the FAT reference was great!

  24. Jim Wilson Says:

    I just finished Night of Thunder, and was blown away by it. It's the first Stephen Hunter novel I've read. He skates the fine line between realistic action and over-the-top characterization. It worked well for me, though, and I'm looking forward to reading the rest of his work. I must confess, I missed most of the typos and errors because I was ripping through it so fast. But, it did occur to me, in passing, that 1/4 pound seemed pretty damn' heavy for a .50 cal AP round. That seems more like I'd expect a 20mm cannon round to weigh, although I could be totally wrong about that guess.

    Stephen Hunter is an excellent thriller writer, and this novel passes my "one-year-cycle" test. My favorite books in my permanent collection are so good that I can read them once a year, and enjoy them as much as the first time. I want to add the rest of his work to the permanent collection.

    Dan Brown doesn't come close to passing that test. I gave away his Da Vinci Code (a gift) in hardcover, after the first reading, and I donated to charity his two previous works in paperback.

    Another favorite, for similar reasons, is Carol O'Connell's "Kathleen Mallory" series of novels. If you like Hunter's work, you also will probably like O'Connell's: Close to over-the-top, but not quite. Another character aspect similar to Bob Lee Swagger, is that Mallory is quite capable of doing her own killing, and doesn't require the acquaintance, for plot purposes, of a friendly psychopath, as in the "Spenser" or "Elvis Cole" series of thrillers. Mallory's her own damn' psychopath, when she needs to be. http://www.dancingbadger.com/carol_oconnell.htm

    I consider Lee Child's "Jack Reacher" novels to fit nicely into the same category. Reacher is also ex-military (Former MP Major) who wanders around the country with only a toothbrush and the clothes on his back, as luggage. He's kind of a voluntary homeless guy hero, who finds himself in all sorts of situations requiring kicking ass and taking names. Almost over-the-top, but it works. A fascinating aspect of Child's work is that he gets the military aspects so right, in both the theory and practice. Lee Child's a Brit, and a former TV guy, but he understands the US Army's soul so well, and he gets the hardware right, too. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lee_Child

    I'm really looking forward to the rest of Hunter's catalog, as I've read all of O'Connell's and Child's work again recently. With those three, I could maybe reduce the size of my library considerably. Of course, I'd need to replace a lot of my James McClure novels. He's the exception, in that I love his work, but I keep giving his books away. I'm in the film/TV business, and when I meet a talented young director, or smart young producer, I always give them a McClure novel to consider for a film project. His novels take place in South Africa during the apartheid period ('60s-'70s). They're buddy novels about two homicide cops- Kramer and Zondi, an Afrikaaner and a Bantu, who are as close as the traditional fictional American detective teams, but can't appear to be real friends because of the racist policies of the SA government and national culture, which adds a whole other dimension to the characterization, in addition to really good "who-dunnit" plotting. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_H._McClure

  25. George Serdes Says:

    On page 42 the landmark to his daughter's apartment is a Wal-Mart, but when he returns to the apartment (about page 313) it's a Kmart. That rather surprised me, since I'd have thought that if any company was going to be bought out by the other, that the reverse would be the case… still and all, this was a great book – a lot of fun reading.

  26. Linda Perkins Says:

    I am almost finished w/Night of Thunder and found that the novel is THIN–THIN–THIN. Bob Lee is too good to be fooling around with a NASCAR drama, daughter or no daughter. I first was hooked when I read Time To Hunt. I read every word and read the book three times. I find myself skimming and not at all involved in Thunder. The Grumley's are more interesting than Bob Lee. This novel is mundane and not up to par.

  27. Jenny Says:

    NIGHT OF THUNDER. I read the book, my first introduction to Stephen Hunter. I sent a copy to my nephew in the Army in Iraq, and gave my copy to his dad, my brother, after I had finished reading the book. We all enjoyed the story. I am looking forward to finding more of the Stephen Hunter novels.

  28. Charlotte Mahoney Says:

    Thank you so much, I love them all. I don’t care about guns, or war, but the Swagger books are fascinating. I’ve read them and reread them, and this seems like a chance to thank you. I’m rereading Night of Thunder right now.
    Did I say Thank You?
    Charlotte

  29. Bill_E_8 Says:

    Just finished the “I, Sniper” novel, and to put it into one word, excellent! Couldn’t put it down and ended up staying up ’til the early morn’ reading the whole thing. I can say that Stephen Hunter has a new fan and I’m excited to read his earlier novels as well!

  30. Mike Horan Says:

    Just finished reading I Sniper, an entertaining and exciting read. My only criticism, perhaps a small one, is when he refers to Bob Lee’s father, Earl Swagger,as a Medal of Honor winner. Most veterans I know, including several MOH persons, believe that “winner” is incorrect. The correct manner of referring to these heroes is “recipient”of, or “Awarded” or “earned” the Medal of Honor. This was not a contest to see who could win the MOH. This is a small, but significant point. Keep’um coming Mr. Hunter, I love each and every one.

    Mike Horan
    C Recon, USMC, 1963/64

  31. Denny Symes Says:

    “I consider Lee Child’s “Jack Reacher” novels to fit nicely into the same category. Reacher is also ex-military (Former MP Major) who wanders around the country with only a toothbrush and the clothes on his back, as luggage. He’s kind of a voluntary homeless guy hero, who finds himself in all sorts of situations requiring kicking ass and taking names. Almost over-the-top, but it works. A fascinating aspect of Child’s work is that he gets the military aspects so right, in both the theory and practice. Lee Child’s a Brit, and a former TV guy, but he understands the US Army’s soul so well, and he gets the hardware right, too. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lee_Child

    As a former MP, I can tell you not only does Child NOT get the military aspects right, but he can’t even get the military hardware right, which is easily researched. Child does not hold a candle to Hunter.

  32. CGCronin Says:

    Inbred pedophile hillbillies? NASCAR? C’mon Mr. Hunter, you’ve done so much better in the past. The baddies in this book are more suited to the dreck William J. Johnstone writes in his “Ashes” series than a Bob Lee Swagger novel. And, maybe I’m “misremembering” things, but when did Bob lose the ability to use contractions?
    I understand that the lowest common denominator has money also, and may actually buy and read your books, but as for me, for this book, I am disappoint.

  33. Dan Kristensen Says:

    Having just finished “Night of Thunder” i found myself thinking it was one of the better Bob Lee Swagger novels since Point of Impact. However, there was on thing i never could understand. If “Point of Impact” was set in 1992 and “Night of Thunder” in 2008/2009 how come Nikki is 24 years old?

    anyway, despite this little part nagging at me, i’ve truly enjoyed this novel.

  34. Kris Says:

    I’m so willing to overlook typos, technical problems and age clashes in Hunter’s books for a gripping story, and Night of Thunder didn’t disappoint. It was the absolute funniest thing he’s ever written — the armored car’s charge through Bristol Raceway put me ROTFLMAO as well as WMP from uncontrollable laughter. Yep, Hunter nailed the attitude of young (and middle-aged and outright old) race fans toward defiance of authority.
    Please, somebody beg the man to bring the Grumleys back in future books. That’s one fascinating family. I’ll even watch NASCAR on TV if there’s a chance some of the Grumleys might be at the races, plotting chaos and discord.

  35. James Cole Says:

    I just heard this novel for the first time on audible. I am attempting to get all of Hunter’s books on audio. While this addition to the Bob Lee Swagger series is not my favorite it was an enjoyable read.

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