Saturday, November 08, 2008

Night of Thunder -- Stephen Hunter

Having recovered from his adventures in Japan, Bob Lee Swagger is doing so well that he knows something bad is going to happen. Sure enough, his older daughter, a reporter in Bristol, Tennessee/Kentucky, is the target of a hired killer who calls himself Sinnerman and who specializes in killing by auto. She survives the accident, but she's in a coma. You don't mess with Bob Lee's daughter and get off lightly. Bob Lee goes to Bristol, where everybody underestimates him. They think he's just some hapless gray-haired old goober. Boy, are they wrong.

This book is Stephen Hunter's love song to NASCAR. Lots of car stuff along with the usual ton and a half of gun stuff. Hunter, what with his having been a movie critic for so long, must just naturally think visual terms. The climactic firefight in the novel is definitely made for the big screen. He even casts the movie: Clint Eastwood as Bob Lee, Kevin Costner (the evil one) as the Sinnerman, Tommy Lee Jones as Papa Grumley.

This book is a far cry from Point of Impact, the first one with Bob Lee. It's not just that Swagger is older. It's a whole different thing, so far over the top that it's hard to suspend disbelief. It's also comic. The Grumleys might be a criminal clan, murderous and deadly, but they're also funny, especially Papa. Hunter appears to be trying to conceal the identity of "the boss" behind the goings-on, but anybody who's read a single thriller or mystery novel will have it figured out almost instantly. There are some "surprise" developments that come pretty much out of left field, so obvious that they seem like last-minute additions.

Fans of Hunter and Bob Lee Swagger probably won't be disappointed in the book, but, as I said, it's a far cry from Point of Impact.


Anonymous said...

I don't know if it's in the book or just the review, but Bristol is a border town of Tennessee & Virginia, not Tennessee & Kentucky.

Bill Crider said...

I suspect it's the dumbass reviewer.

Anonymous said...

I think Bob Lee is a great character but I was really disappointed with this book. Mr. Hunter does seem to write his books visually and that's why I liked Point of Impact so much (although I thought the movie was terrible.)

Don't get your hopes up if you are a NASCAR fan or a Bob Lee fan.