The Third Bullet
A Bob Lee Swagger Novel
It’s not even a clue. It’s a whisper, a trace, a ghost echo, drifting down through the decades via chance connections so fragile that they would disintegrate in the puff of a breath. But it’s enough to get legendary former Marine sniper Bob Lee Swagger interested in the events of November 22, 1963, and the third bullet that so decisively ended the life of John F. Kennedy and set the stage for one of the most enduring controversies of our time.
Swagger begins his slow night stalk through a much-traveled landscape. But he’s asking questions that few have asked before: Why did the third bullet explode? Why did Lee Harvey Oswald, about to become the most hunted man on earth, risk it all by returning to his rooming house to secure a pistol he easily could have brought with him? How could a conspiracy that went unpenetrated for fifty years have been thrown together in the two and a half days between the announcement of the president’s route and the assassination itself?
As Bob investigates, another voice enters the narrative: knowing, ironic, almost familiar, that of a gifted, Yale-educated veteran of the CIA Plans Division. Hugh Meachum has secrets and the means and the will to keep them buried. When weighed against his own legacy, Swagger’s life is an insignificant expense—but to blunt the threat, he’ll first have to ambush the sniper.
As each man hunts the other across today’s globe and through the thickets of history, The Third Bullet builds to an explosive climax that will finally prove what Bob Lee Swagger has always known: it’s never too late for justice.
Stephen Hunter on his Investigative Novel, THE THIRD BULLET
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Read an Excerpt
The sidewalk before him bucked and heaved, blown askew by high winds howling through the night.
Oh, wait. No. Let’s edit that. There was no bucking and heaving. Ditto with the “blown askew” and the “high winds howling through the night.”
It just seemed so to Aptapton, because the winds that toyed with the stability of the sidewalk blew—“howled”—only through his own mind. They were zephyrs of vodka, and they’d... see more
In Cascade, everybody goes to Rick’s. Even Swagger.
He showed up every once in a while, maybe three, four times a month, preceded by myth, isolated by reputation, and cloaked in diffidence. He sat alone, if he came, at the counter, and had a couple of cups of coffee, black. Jeans, old boots, some kind of jacket, and a faded red Razorbacks ball cap. He could have been a drifter or a trucker or a rancher or a gunfighter. The body was rangy, without fat, slightly tense, also... see more
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Reading Group Guide
A Conversation with Stephen Hunter
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 see more