1996: Point of Impact

This book rocketed Hunter to critical and commercial bestseller stardom, and introduced readers to Bob Lee Swagger – the very embodiment of a deep and powerful national pride. And now it will be made a movie.  From the hardcover dustjacket: 

He was one of the best Marine Snipers in Vietnam. He can hit you from three-quarters of a mile away before you even hear the shot.  Some call him the most dangerous man alive. Now if he can just stay alive…  Bob Lee Swagger lives in a trailer among his native Ouachita Mountains above the town of Blue Eye, Arkansas. Back in the jungles of Vietnam he was known as “Bob The Nailer” for his eighty-seven kills. Today, twenty years later, disgruntled hero of an unheroic war, all Bob wants is to be left alone.  But he knows more about killing, one-on-one, than any other individual in America, and that makes him the perfect man for the job.  The job has been designed by RamDyne Security, a shadowy organization with ties to military intelligence and the CIA.  With consummate psychological skill RamDyne seduces Bob into leaving his hills for one last mission for his country, unaware until too late that the game is rigged.  The plan is executed to perfection until the final moment: Bob Lee Swagger, alleged lone gunman, has come out of the operation alive – and on the run.  The headlines proclaim him national hero turned murderer, and he is targeted by every law enforcement agency in the country and by RamDyne’s own killers.  In this ruthless manhunt has has only one ally, FBI agent Nick Memphis, of the New Orleans office.  But Bob is out of his shell for good now, the pursued turned pursuer – and a man who has discovered a capacity for loving that he did not know he had.  As wily as the mastermind who set him up, he is fiercely intent on revenge; as single-minded as ever, he alone sets the terms for that revenge. 

1994: Dirty White Boys

They busted out of McAlester State Penitentiary–three escaped convicts going to ground in a world unprepared for anything like them….Lamar Pye is prince of the Dirty White Boys. With a lion in his soul, he roars–for he is the meanest, deadliest animal on the loose…. Odell is Lamar’s cousin, a hulking manchild with unfeeling eyes. He lives for daddy Lamar. Surely he will die for him….Richard’s survival hangs on a sketch: a crude drawing of a lion and a half-naked woman. For this Lamar has let Richard live… Armed to the teeth, Lamar and his boys have cut a path of terror across the Southwest, and pushed one good cop into a crisis of honor and conscience. Trooper Bud Pewtie should have died once at Lamar’s hands. Now they’re about to meet again. And this time, only one of them will walk away…

Stephen Hunter on Dirty White Boys: I had a hunger – literally, a taste in my mouth – for a work that would be starker, more driven, than my earlier books. I knew also that I wanted it ‘American’ somehow. I wanted a plot that gripped like a vise, expressed in a voice of lyric plainness. I wanted lots of violence, gunfights so incandescent they felt like fever dreams and left you sweaty. And when someone died, I wanted you to feel the pain. What I saw was a modern Western lawman, a state trooper; I saw boots and Berettas; I saw his family and his struggle to be a decent man at war with his impulses to be a satisfied one. I knew his name would be Bud. And I knew he’d be hunting an escaped convict. And I saw that man, too – Lamar Pye. He was everything other men secretly admire: He was as without fear as he was without remorse. In a kinder world, he’d have been a great soldier, an athlete. In the world into which he was born, he’d become a criminal, a bad, bad boy who would know only one thing about life: what to do next. With these two men – competing priests in the cult of manhood – the book took off and wrote itself. I wasn’t its author but its recording secretary.

1989: The Day Before Midnight

This was the first of four books Hunter wrote for the Bantam publishing company. This was also the first of Hunter’s books made into Audio. From the hardcover dust jacket:

The countdown to midnight begins on a winter dawn. Doors burst open in the Hummel family home in suburban Maryland and commandos brandishing Uzi submachine guns rush inside. As his wife and children watch in horror, Jack Hummel, the local welder, is whisked away.The reason for Hummel’s abduction soon becomes clear: A sophisticated paramilitary assault team has taken control of the nearby South Mountain MX missile site. But the launch key rests within a vault behind a half-ton titanium block. Hummel must utilize his expertise to cut through the block to the key. By midnight South MOuntain will be fully operational – and the nuclear missile will be armed and ready to wreak destruction. Where? And why? Who are these men who want to turn that key? Above all, who is the mastermind who has mounted such a staggering takeover of America’s most secret missile site?

1985: Violent Screen

1995 Violent Screen (Bantam Doubleday Dell) Baltimore Sun film critic Stephen Hunter is an unrivaled master of the craft. This extraordinary collection includes the best of Hunter’s movie reviews, taking aim at the 100 most important (or notorious) violent films released since 1982. With an incisive, machine-gun style of writing, Hunter pulls no punches when he bashes Blue Velvet, Tombstone, and Legends of the Fall. And he doesn’t hold back in his praise of The Wild Bunch, GoodFellas, and Reservoir Dogs. Commenting on movies and society, Tarantino, Stone, and Peckinpah, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sly Stallone, and Glenn Close, Hunter cuts right to the bone in exposing our flaws, fantasies, and flat-out love affair with blood and gore. His reviews are classics, and this collection is a straight shot of pure adrenaline – an electrifying jolt of truth and insight no moviegoer can ignore.

1985: Target

An anomaly in the biblio-history of Stephen Hunter. This paperback-only book is a novelization of the movie “Target” which starred Gene Hackman and Matt Dillon, and was produced by Zanuck Brown and Arthur Penn. It is a surprisingly good book, written at at interesting ‘turning point’ in Hunter’s novelist career. Although he was under contract to merely ‘novelize’ a movie, he wove in characters (in supporting roles) that you’ll recognize from his other books. Target is long out of print, and copies are expensive, when you can find them.

Walter Lloyd. Middle-American. Easy-going Texan. Soon to face the biggest test of his life when his past comes to haunt him with a vengeance.Donna Lloyd. Housewife. Kidnapping victim. She’d do anything for her family. Now she’ll learn that they’ll do anything for her. Chris Lloyd. Twenty years old, he though he knew the old man inside and out. Now, hunted by hit-men and mysterious agents across the face of Europe, he’ll discover who and what his father really is…

1985: The Spanish Gambit

Hunter switched publishers to Crown for this book and moved to another publisher for his next hardback four years later. It was re-released as a paperback with the new title “Tapestry of Spies” in January 1997 by Island Books. Hunter sets this tale of spies and counterspies in the Spanish Civil War. Interestingly, the inside cover of the paperback re-release attributes the short review “Constantly surprising” to the Washington Post! From the back cover of the ’97 edition:

Julian Raines was a golden boy from Eton, a renowned young poet who fled into the Spanish Civil War. Robert Florry was once Raine’s friend. Now he is being blackmailed by British Intelligence into hunting down his old friend in Spain. MI-6 says Julian Raines has turned KGB spy.The whorehouses of Barcelona are jammed. The bars are filled with laughter, and the streets are running with wine and blood. In the chaos, Robert Florry will find his old friend, unaware that a noose of espionage, psychological terror, and murder is being tightened around them by masters of the craft. A Soviet agent named the Devil Himself has gone rogue; an American mobster turned secret policeman is after a missing gold shipment; and all the rules have changed. Now there’s only one way out of Spain: on a path of terror, lies and blood.

1982: The Second Saladin

1982 – The Second Saladin This was Hunter’s second – and last – novel for William Morrow & Company, and was set in a much more modern environment. From the back cover of the paperback:

A second chance…In the windswept sands of the Middle East, Paul Chardy fought side by side with Ulu Beg: one, a charismatic, high-strung CIA covert warrior, the other a ferocious freedom fighter. Then Chardy fell into the hands of the enemy, and Beg was betrayed. Now the two men are about to meet again.

A second gun… Beg has come over the Mexican border under a hail of bullets–determined to assassinate a leading American political figure and avenge his people’s betrayal. The CIA wants Chardy to stop the hit. Chardy wants to save Beg’s life.

The Second Saladin… Between the two men is a tragic past, a failed mission, and a woman who knew them in war–and who knows their secrets now. Around both men is a conspiracy of lies and violence that reaches back to the Cold War. But as Beg moves in for his kill and as Chardy breaks loose from his handlers, a terrible truth begins to emerge: somewhere, someone wants both men to die.

1980: The Master Sniper

Hunter’s first – and most sought after by fine book collectors – novel was based on his fascination with World War Two events. Every few years he would set a major swath of a novel within those events, clear up to 2021’s WWII war thriller Basil’s War.

This book was published by William Morrow and Company, then re-released as a paperback in 1996 by Island Books. From the dust jacket:

London, 1945. It has become evident to an office-bound American intelligence analyst, James Leets of the OSS, that deep within the Third Reich one last operation is being planned. Leets doesn’t know much but what he does know terrifies him: it will involve a special man and a special rifle. The man is Repp, of the Waffen SS, of Totenkopf, the Death’s Head Division – Repp, whose bravery and resolve are legendary, and who is called the “Master Sniper.” Repp is the very best in his profession. But the stakes involved are huge, even for Repp.”He’s going to kill somebody. Somebody big,” Leets tells his boss, Tony Outhwaite of British Intelligence. “He’s going to snipe him.”But who?”

Thus begins an extraordinary suspenseful journey across the face of a war and into the deep part of the human heart where the will to murder lurks…