NIGHT OF THUNDER By Stephen Hunter / Review by David Bischoff
It’s always fun when a posh critic falls flat on his face, so you might enjoy Stephen Hunter’s NIGHT OF HUNTER to witness the carnage. Hunter’s full time job was film critic for THE WASHINGTON POST and his work won him a Pulitzer. Heck, I always thought he was a great film reviewer. He wrote well and had interesting opinions.
It’s obvious that Hunter draws upon film allusion for this book. First and foremost, he certainly was inspired Robert Mitchum’s THUNDER ROAD. (Witness the title. And hey! What was that other Mitchum Southern Gothic classic? NIGHT OF THE HUNTER! Get it?) And Hunter seems to be about the right age to have read that immortal YA boy’s classic by Henry Gregor Felson, HOT ROD.
Too bad he didn’t emulate THUNDER ROAD and HOT ROD a bit more.
Okay, so there’s this baaaad-ass ex-marine named Bob Lee Swagger. (I’ve got to go back to read the previous Bob Lee Swagger books, just to see if he’s as annoying in those.) And you see, Bob Lee’s journalist daughter Nikki gets herself hurt by this Southern outlaw named Brother Richard, self-styled “Sinnerman” in his souped-up vehicle. Right, so in vroom-vrooms Brother Richard’s Pappy, the Reverend Alton Grumley and his in-bred gangster clan, an evil crystal meth ring — and, for golly’s sake, NASCAR racing and what do you have? A potboiler of cornpone and moonshine, by cracky!
Now, it might be fun to see Mammy Yokum a stirrin’ this potboiler. In fact, Al Capp might have made this nonsense fun. Unfortunately, Hunter has about as much a sense of humor as Chuck Norris in mid-vengeance karate chop. Moreover, the language of his writing is so hyperventilating and overblown, it trips up the book again and again. Some simple hard-boiled action writing would sure have been more appropriate.
Stephen Hunter is a good thriller writer.
Let’s hope he writes just one more Bob Lee Swagger book– the one where Bob Lee chokes to death on a piece of okra — and then moves on pastures less overgrown with kudzu.