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The 47th Samurai: A Bob Lee Swagger Novelby Stephen Hunter
Synopses & Reviews
In The 47th Samurai, Bob Lee Swagger, the gritty hero of Stephen Hunter's bestselling novels Point of Impact and Time to Hunt, returns in Hunter's most intense and exotic thriller to date.
Bob Lee Swagger and Philip Yano are bound together by a single moment at Iwo Jima, 1945, when their fathers, two brave fighters on opposite sides, met in the bloody and chaotic battle for the island. Only Earl Swagger survived.
More than sixty years later, Yano comes to America to honor the legacy of his heroic father by recovering the sword he used in the battle. His search has led him to Crazy Horse, Idaho, where Bob Lee, ex-marine and Vietnam veteran, has settled into a restless retirement and immediately pledges himself to Yano's quest.
Bob Lee finds the sword and delivers it to Yano in Tokyo. On inspection, they discover that it is not a standard WWII blade, but a legendary shin-shinto katana, an artifact of the nation. It is priceless but worth killing for. Suddenly Bob is at the center of a series of terrible crimes he barely understands but vows to avenge. And to do so, he throws himself into the world of the samurai, Tokyo's dark, criminal yakuza underworld, and the unwritten rules of Japanese culture.
Swagger's allies, hard-as-nails, American-born Susan Okada and the brave, cocaine-dealing tabloid journalist Nick Yamamoto, help him move through this strange, glittering, and ominous world from the shady bosses of the seamy Kabukicho district to officials in the highest echelons of the Japanese government, but in the end, he is on his own and will succeed only if he can learn that to survive samurai, you must become samurai.
As the plot races and the violence escalates, it becomes clear that a ruthless conspiracy is in place, and the only thing that can be taken for granted is that money, power, and sex can drive men of all nationalities to gruesome extremes. If Swagger hopes to stop them, he must be willing not only to die but also to kill.
"Bob Lee Swagger, retired marine master sniper and hero of bestseller Hunter's 1993 thriller, Point of Impact (forthcoming as the film Shooter), returns in this riveting homage to the myth of the samurai. Philip Yano, the son of the Japanese officer who commanded the bunker on Iwo Jima where Swagger's marine father won the Medal of Honor in 1945, approaches Swagger about a missing sword wielded by his father, Hideki, during the battle for the island. The sword turns out to be not just a family heirloom but a national treasure that evokes echoes from the most sacrosanct corners of Japanese history. Yano's search reveals there are those who will gladly kill for the honor it bestows upon the possessor. Plunged into a Japan where honor and loyalty outweigh even one's own life, Swagger finds that an old warrior like himself still has much to understand. While the action builds to the inevitable climax, the joy of the journey will keep readers turning the pages. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Bob Lee Swagger, the hero of Stephen Hunter's 13th novel, 'The 47th Samurai,' is a type we recognize immediately: a heroic figure who might have been at home battling with Beowulf or serving King Arthur. He's with us still, scarred, abused by governments and politicians, but ever committed to a high sense of duty and conduct. D.H. Lawrence famously said that the American hero is a cold, isolate killer,... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review) and Swagger is indeed a killer, but having adapted to the more modern expectations of a hero, he also has a loving family around him to whom he is quite tender. He comes from a long line of warriors, or, as they are often referred to in this novel, samurai. Such figures are not meant to be humans like you or me, folks who've never slain scores of honorable foes in battle or sewn up our own gaping wounds with a needle and thread and nary a whimper, displaying nothing but a manly grimace and cool efficiency. That's why we want to read about them. Swagger's father, Earl, was himself a notable warrior hailing from the scrub-oak barrens of Blue Eye, Ark. In this novel, a long-ago battle that the father survived is intertwined with the quest Bob Lee embarks upon in contemporary times. During World War II there was great bloodletting on an island in the Pacific, during which Earl displayed exemplary courage and found himself face to face with a Japanese officer who displayed the same honorable qualities. Earl gains ownership of the officer's sword, and six decades later the search for that sword leads Bob Lee into a sort of violent communion with the legacy of his father, the Japanese officer and, in a sense, all warriors past and present. The sword turns out to be utterly unique. It's of great spiritual value to the Japanese, a legend thought to have been lost forever. When Bob Lee returns the sword to the son of the Japanese officer, a gesture from one warrior to another, Japanese gangsters massacre the family and steal it. Bob Lee takes the butchering of his new brother in arms personally, of course, and vows vengeance. He is willing to go into Japan alone to slay the evildoers, though he does not speak the language or know much about the culture. There is a tradition in manly writing of supplying the reader not only with a fictional experience but also with short primers on how one ought to do things: Hemingway described how best to set a grasshopper on a fishhook or bomb a bridge; Ian Fleming's Bond novels told readers how to order salmon, where the best cigarettes came from, what brand of wristwatch to wear. Hunter spends many interesting pages on the history of swords and sword fighting, the way of the samurai, the identifying marks that the great metal craftsmen imprinted on their deadly works. It all comes in handy because this present-day novel has a great deal of sword fighting, as if everyone involved had agreed to abide by archaic codes of conduct and bring back the old-time spirituality and dignity to acts of bloodshed. As in so many epics of long ago, people are split, hacked apart, dismembered while still alive. Here is a rather mild example of the graphic, even loving detail with which Hunter describes the violence: 'All limbs and necks were severed. Torsos were sundered diagonally and horizontally. In two cases, pelvic bones had been cut through, seemingly with one clean stroke. In another case, rib bones were sheared in two at roughly a forty-five-degree angle to the spine. All spines were severed. ... The cleanness with which the bones were separated at the site of each incision suggests a weapon traveling at considerable velocity.' If the wholesale violence is not a deterrent, readers will find that Washington Post film critic Hunter is a great entertainer, one of our finest practitioners of the classic blood-soaked and propulsive American thriller. With fluid, confident prose he writes big stories of a man, mostly alone, who must go forth for us all and slay the dragon. And, dear reader, there are yet dragons about, cleverly passing as rogue elements of the government, gangsters, terrorists from abroad, disguised but still with us. Daniel Woodrell is the author of 'Winter's Bone' and seven other novels. He lives in Howell County, Mo." Reviewed by Daniel Woodrell, Washington Post Book World (Copyright 2006 Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group)
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"This is the novel Hunter's fans have been waiting for....Hunter celebrates the samurai soldier while showing the appalling underside of the samurai way of life and the ideals that drive it." Booklist (Starred Review)
"Hunter is a great entertainer, one of our finest practitioners of the classic blood-soaked and propulsive American thriller. With fluid, confident prose he writes big stories of a man, mostly alone, who must go forth for us all and slay the dragon." Daniel Woodrell, The Washington Post Book World
"Hunter has shown repeatedly that he knows how to crank up the adrenaline, and for the most part, he does that here. That said, Samurai isn't his tautest or most well-executed book." Rocky Mountain News
"Although heavy on both the explanations of Japanese customs and the sordid world of incredibly savage Japanese criminals, this work is compelling, exciting, and satisfying, a dark adventure that will appeal to thriller fans." Library Journal
"The realism, the history and the understanding that informs the tale from first page to last required nothing short of immersion....Put this one on your 'must-read' list." BookReporter.com
New York Times bestselling and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Hunter combines the raw grittiness of 1945 Iwo Jima with the mystique of the samurai culture to create his best thriller to date.
About 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. He is the author of several bestselling novels, including Pale Horse Coming, Time to Hunt, Black Light, Point of Impact, and the New York Times bestseller Hot Springs. He lives in Baltimore.
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