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The Third Bullet: Concluding the Saga of Bob Lee Swagger, American Gunman

An alternative history of the Kennedy assassination animates Stephen Hunter's new thriller coming in January.

by
Richard Fernandez

Bio

August 28, 2012 - 1:30 pm

The real attraction of Bob Lee Swagger, something Hunter would occasionally forget — but not for long –  was not in the action scenes he featured in, but in who he was. To follow the Swagger character in those times before the Internet was to participate in an act of vicarious rebellion against the Narrative; to secretly hum the literary equivalent of that once popular song whose refrain went “take this job and shove it. I ain’t working here no more.”

Although all of the Bob Lee Swagger novels are entertaining, only two reach the level of Point of Impact. There is Time to Hunt, which is arguably the best and again a return to the lost threads of the Vietnam War, and then there is his latest novel, The Third Bullet, due out in January, 2013 of which I have an advance copy.

Although set in the approximate present, The Third Bullet is more about the 1960s than any other of Hunter’s recent books. It is a return as it were to the Origin of Everything. The dramatic hook is nothing less than the central mystery of modern American history, the JFK assassination.  What happened on That Day in Dallas, the day which had such fateful consequences for Bob the Nailer’s generation?  And who better to answer the question and unravel its final mysteries than Bob Lee Swagger himself?

“Bob the Nailer” understands guns, and in Hunter’s view the key to decoding what happened in Dealey Plaza in 1963 is to know what guns are capable and not capable of doing.  So about a quarter of the book is spent watching Swagger being forced to think through the problem afresh and driven to conclude by the timeline, history, and above all ballistics that not only were the Warren Commissioners wrong but nearly all the conspiracy buffs were as well.

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