Today, Scribd is proud to feature an excerpt for “The Third Bullet,” New York Times bestselling author Stephen Hunter’s explosive new novel published by Simon & Schuster. Bob Lee Swagger returns with a fascinating look at an alternate narrative that probes the lingering mystery of John F. Kennedy’s assassination.
Stephen Hunter discusses the roots of Bob Swagger novel dating back to its inception as well as how he worked with some of the intricacies of the plot details. You can read the entirety of this interview here.
Q: The Third Bullet has some roots in the very first Bob Lee Swagger novel you wrote twenty years ago called Point of Impact. Tell us a little about the relationship between the two books.
A: Point of Impact was a very tough book to write—one problem was that it was inspired by and set to be about the JFK assassination. When I started it everyone believed in conspiracy. Halfway through I read Case Closed by Gerald Posner and I immediately ceased believing in conspiracy. Thus I was halfway through a novel whose whole intellectual premise had just been destroyed. So I patched and changed, and abridged and diddled, and in the end separated Point of Impact from the JFK assassination. But I am sloppy and I missed stuff, lots of stuff. Twenty years passed, new ideas came to me about this and that, and suddenly I saw an opportunity to do the JFK book of my dreams. I had a researcher go back and document all the connections to JFK that remained in Point of Impact, and I used those as a foundation for The Third Bullet.
Q: How did you connect the two plots?
A: The main problem I had with Point of Impact was the villain; he was too broad, encompassing both Special Forces experience and Washington intelligence culture smarts. I couldn’t get it to work. (I had obviously never heard of Richard Armitage!) Late in the process, I broke that character into two: Col. Raymond Shreck, a court-martialed Green Beret who’d become a freelance mayhem expert, and Hugh Meachum, an elderly (to me; I was in my 40s at the time) Ivy League old boy and Intelligence sprite of mysterious connections. It saved the book and it made The Third Bullet possible, because I was able to resurrect Hugh Meachum for a large role. I had great fun with Hugh and believe me, there’d be no book at all without Hugh’s voice and my wife Jean’s coffee.
Q: Point of Impact was made into the movie Shooter, starring Mark Wahlberg as a young Bob Lee Swagger. Speaking as a Pulitzer Prize-winning film critic, who would you cast to play Swagger now, in The Third Bullet?
A: Mark was wonderful and delivered a superb performance—there was no movie without Mark. But for this book, we need someone older and wiser. I’d ideally cast Tommy Lee Jones whose face has collapsed into an Egyptian cataract of woe and melancholy. He’s the right age and in my humble opinion still vital and virile (he happens to be my age!)