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Dead Zero: A Bob Lee Swagger Novel (Bob Lee Swagger Novels) Hardcover – December 28, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* The idea that Stephen Hunter could write a Bob Lee Swagger novel in which the legendary Vietnam sniper doesn’t pull a single trigger seems inconceivable. Not that there isn’t plenty of trigger-pulling by others in this tale of a contemporary marine sniper gone rogue. Swagger, now in his 60s, is drafted by the FBI to find Sergeant Roy Cruz, who was presumed dead after his attempted assassination of an Afghan warlord went awry. The warlord has now changed sides and is being groomed as “our man in Kabul,” but the resurfaced Cruz isn’t buying the conversion and appears determined to finish his original mission. Swagger, charged with stopping any attempt on the Afghan leader’s life, soon finds himself sympathizing with his fellow sniper and convinced that CIA generals are behind a secret program to ramp up the war on terror. It’s a juicy premise, which Hunter admits adapting from Patrick Alexander’s 1977 Death of a Thin-Skinned Animal; transformed to a contemporary setting, it evokes the government-treachery themes of 24 but does so with less cartoony derring-do and a considerably more nuanced exploration of the psychology of the soldier. Only the revelation of a connection between Swagger and Cruz seems a bit artificial, but this is a top-notch thriller all the same, showing that Bob the Nailer is just as (well, almost as) compelling a hero without his guns. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: I, Sniper, Hunter’s previous Swagger novel (85,000 hardcovers in print), remained on the New York Times best-seller list longer than any of his previous novels, and this one will ride the same wave. --Bill Ott


“Stephen Hunter’s brilliantly realized action tale Dead Zero sets a sniper to catch a sniper. And it should come as no surprise that the sniper doing the catching is none other than Hunter's seminal series hero Bob Lee Swagger. . . . Once again Swagger hits the bull’s-eye and so does Hunter. Master of the modern gunfighter tale, he isn't just the best action writer of this generation, but the best of any.”—The Providence Journal

“It's probably no accident that the hero of Stephen Hunter's Dead Zero is named Bob Lee Swagger. Few authors, of any genre, write with as much swagger and verve as film-critic-turned-thriller-bestseller Hunter. . . . As expected, Hunter once again writes with a brutal beauty.”—Ft. Worth Star Telegram

“Reading a Bob Lee Swagger novel is like visiting your favorite uncle, the one with the mysterious limp, the locked gun safe, and whose wild tales are often truncated by your concerned parents…It's a complicated story with the usual twists and spinouts and double-crosses, but what lifts it above the fray is its smarts and its broad cast of decently drawn characters.”—Chicago Sun-Times

“Hunter, 64, is the longtime (and Pulitzer Prize-winning) film critic for The Baltimore Sun and The Washington Post, and the Swaggers—Bob and his father, Earl—are his most memorable creations. . . . As the latest adventure opens, Ray Cruz—a much younger and equally gifted Marine sniper—is tracking Ibrahim Zarzi, a corrupt Afghan politician nicknamed "The Beheader" . . . Armed with his SR-25, Cruz is inventive, charismatic and, in short, everything Bob the Nailer used to be. Dead Zero is at its best when Hunter has Cruz in the novel's crosshairs.” . . . I can only hope it's the novel that finally convinces Hunter to flesh out the history of a new sniper and allow Bob the Nailer the retirement he so richly deserves.”—The Oregonian

“Despite overwhelming critical acclaim for his seven-book Bob Lee Swagger series, Stephen Hunter and his novels seem to stay under the general readership radar. . . . The books are so well-crafted and expertly written that it's easy to forget they're adventure-thrillers.”—Sacramento Bee

“Stephen Hunter's Bob Lee Swagger is getting to be almost as popular as James Lee Burke's Dave Robicheaux or Lee Child's Jack Reacher series. This ‘old coot,’ as Swagger calls himself, has a staying power that won't quit. . . . Bob Lee Swagger and his marine hero dad Earl are super soldiers in the world of fiction. . . . In Dead Zero, Swagger uncharacteristically hunts with the pack. And he doesn't like it one bit. There's a marine sniper out there who just won't die. He mirrors Swagger in his talent and intensity. His name is Ray Cruz . . . Dead Zero is packed with Hunter's patented action sequences, great character studies and sinister villains working on their doctorate in Power. Here's hoping we see more of the unstoppable Ray Cruz. He'd make a fitting successor in Hunter's army elite.”—Madison County

"The only book better than a new Jack Reacher novel is a new Bob Lee Swagger adventure. Dead Zero, with a dynamite plot and riveting characters, is everything any action fan could want as Swagger, now hitting Senior Citizenhood, pits his wits against a man who could be a younger version of himself."—Toronto Globe and Mail

“[A] juicy premise, which Hunter admits adapting from Patrick Alexander’s 1977 Death of a Thin-Skinned Animal; transformed to a contemporary setting, it evokes the government-treachery themes of ‘24’ but does so with less cartoony derring-do and a considerably more nuanced exploration of the psychology of the soldier. . . . A top-notch thriller.”—Booklist (starred review)

“Stellar . . . Solid characterization complements the tight, fast-moving plot.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“In Hunter’s latest, Bob Lee Swagger stalks Bob Lee Swagger. Well, just about. If anyone could be more valorous, more skilled and resourceful, more uncompromisingly upright, and at the same time more downright deadly than Bob Lee Swagger, it would have to be Gunnery Sergeant Ray Cruz. . . . [An] intricate, interchanging game of predator to prey and prey to predator.”—Kirkus Reviews --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Series: Bob Lee Swagger Novels
  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; 1st edition (December 28, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1439138656
  • ISBN-13: 978-1439138656
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.4 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (273 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #602,406 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Related Media

More About the Author

Stephen Hunter won the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for Criticism as well as the 1998 American Society of Newspaper Editors Award for Distinguished Writing in Criticism for his work as film critic at The Washington Post. He is the author of several bestselling novels, including Time to Hunt, Black Light, Point of Impact, and the New York Times bestsellers Havana, Pale Horse Coming, and Hot Springs. He lives in Baltimore.

Customer Reviews

A well liked guy.
This is a really good book/series and I look forward to reading more books within this story-line or by this author!
D. Lovelace
Good story, losts of twists and turns, plenty of action.
Michael P. Jennings

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

86 of 90 people found the following review helpful By Thumper on December 28, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Well, Stephen Hunter finally has let it happen: Bob Lee Swagger--the sniper's sniper--has lost a step or two, and he definitely is showing his age. In "Dead Zero," the latest chapter in the BLS series, the bad guys finally get a leg up on the old retired gunnery sergeant.

The first time they get a handle on Swagger, they don't kill him. They could have had they wanted, but they were after bigger game: They wanted to nail a different guy, a possibly improved version of the old Bob Lee, when Bob Lee was in his prime.

Turns out that the bad guys and Bob Lee both want to get Ray "Cruise Missile" Cruz, but for different reasons. Cruz, a Marine Corps gunnery sergeant himself, was leading a mission in Afghanistan that was tasked with taking out a rogue Afghani big shot (nicknamed "The Beheader") when the mission went bad and Ray and his entire team were reported killed.

Trouble is--there was a survivor and he decided to finish the job no matter how long it took or where it took him, even back to the United States and a situation where "The Beheader" now became one of the good guys.

Enter Bob Lee. An older though maybe wiser Bob Lee.

So, Stephen Hunter has changed the game, and Swagger fans are in for a superb treat: He's given us what may be the end of a great run and definitely is the beginning of a new direction for his characters, old and new.

As always, Hunter unrolls his tale with the master's touch, pulling readers along, pushing them this way and that, building tensions to a breaking point, then moving to the next, higher level of eye-popping action and surprises.
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Robert E. Cook on December 28, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I'm glad to see that Bob Lee Swagger is back. I'm a gun guy and Hunter gives good gun, particularly for a film critic. The opening scene is a younger version of Swagger, a Marine sniper named Cruz, on the hunt with his faithful spotter for a bad guy, beginning in the hills of Afganistan. Hunter's character development is wonderful and the subplots are skillfully woven as the action moves around the world. The writing is superb; in the early pages, it seems you can smell the goats and their detritus. Strange it is, how Pulitzer winners are able to write so well. In any case, it is a great book from a great writer.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Alain B. Burrese TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 14, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I'm a fan of Stephen Hunter's Bob Lee Swagger character, and I was excited to learn about "Dead Zero" a number of months before it was released. After finishing it this morning, I'm hoping Hunter writes more about the characters in this latest novel of his. It was interesting that Bob the Nailer doesn't "nail" anyone in this book, at least not from behind a sniper system, but it was still an enjoyable read and I have liked seeing where Hunter takes Swagger as he ages. He's not the same man who appeared in the first novels, nor can he do what he did when younger. To fill the gap of an almost superman sniper, Hunter does introduce another sniper that could easily be featured in a future book. Sure, there were parts where reality was stretched and certain conveniences allowed the plot to progress, but when it comes down to it, this was simply a fast paced action tale that furthered the story of the memorable sniper, Bob Lee Swagger.

You can nitpick about some of the things in the novel, but I don't read this type of book for reality or as an educational text. I don't go to action movies for anything other than escapism entertainment either. I like that he had the new sniper character shooting offhand, because when I used to teach at the 2nd Infantry Division Scout Sniper School, we used to practice shooting offhand at times. Now, we didn't have the skills this superman sniper has, but it is a skill that was practiced. (We were not raising are sniper rifles and taking shots in blindingly fast "quick draw" fashion, but rather controlled shots from offhand position without being timed)

The book is fast paced with a lot of action. There are some parts that are predictable, and other twists that caught me off guard and surprised me a bit.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Brian Baker VINE VOICE on January 4, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Interestingly enough, exactly one year ago today I posted my review of Stephen Hunter's last Bob Lee Swagger novel "I, Sniper", and gave it the same 4-star rating. Also interestingly enough, the themes of the two novels bear a lot of similarities.

In both, Bob is drawn into the criminal investigation targeting a fellow sniper, this time of the younger generation, and feels compelled to try to vindicate them of charges that they've "gone rogue" and committed crimes of the highest magnitude.

In "Dead Zero" the sniper in question is Ray "Cruise Missile" Cruz, fresh out of the Sandbox and apparently obsessed with completing his last mission of blowing away an Afghan warlord with Tali and al Quaida ties - a fanatic nicknamed "The Beheader" for obvious reasons - after that mission is interrupted when Cruz and his spotter are attacked by a group of mercenary "contractors" under hire by someone with inside information on their mission and an agenda conflicting with the sanctioned orders. Further complicating matters is the fact that The Beheader has suddenly, due to political considerations, become a diplomatic "friend" to the US and its current President.

Swagger, with his usual loyalty to his beloved Marines and fellow practitioners of the sniping arts, is persuaded to get involved in the investigation in order to prevent Cruz from completing his solo rogue op, but he discovers that things definitely aren't as they seem on the surface. As he delves ever deeper into what's really going on, he finds himself to be another target of the mysterious team of "contractors".

Hunter knows how to entertain, and who his typical reader is. He makes no bones about his own conservative ideology, and using it to serve his story and characters.
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