American Hero and Ultimate Marine Sniper Bob Lee Swagger is the main protagonist of the book series written by the novelist, essayist, and film critic Stephen Hunter who loosely based the character on USMC Scout Sniper Carlos Hathcock. Bob Lee Swagger is a retired Marine Gunnery Sergeant in Arkansas. He is the son of State Trooper Earl Swagger who gave him his love for firearms. Bob Lee retired from the Marine Corps in 1975 but still is one of the best living Snipers when he was framed for a murder he didn’t commit.
Swagger knows how to use his special set of skills to get himself out of the most dangerous situations, even when everybody wants him dead.
How to read the Bob Lee Swagger Series in Order?
Every entry in the Bob Lee Swagger book series works as a standalone story, but the lives of the different characters evolve from one novel to the other.
- Point of Impact – He was one the best Marine snipers in Vietnam. Today, twenty years later, all Bob Lee Swagger wants to be left alone. But a shadowy military organization seduces Bob into leaving his beloved Arkansas hills for one last mission for his country. The assassination plot is executed to perfection–until Bob Lee Swagger, alleged lone gunman, comes out of the operation alive, the target of a nationwide manhunt, his only allies are a woman he just met and a discredited FBI agent.
- Black Light – On a remote Arizona ranch, a man who has known loss, fear, and war weeps for the first time since he was a child. His tears are for the father taken from him four decades before in a deadly shoot-out. For Bob Lee Swagger, the world changed on that hot day when two local boys rode armed and wild. Swagger’s father, Earl, a state trooper, was investigating the brutal murder of a young woman that day. By midnight Earl Swagger lay dead in a deserted cornfield. Now Bob Lee wants answers.
- Time to Hunt – Although he struggles with the painful legacy of Vietnam, Swagger’s greatest wish–to leave his violent past behind and live quietly with his family–seems to have come true. Then one idyllic day, a man, a woman, and a girl set out from the ranch on horseback. High on a ridge above a mountain pass, a thousand yards distant, a calm, cold-eyed shooter, one of the world’s greatest marksmen, peers through a telescopic sight at the three approaching figures. Out of his tortured past, a mortal enemy has once again found Bob the Nailer.
- The 47th Samurai – 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. Bob Lee finds the sword and delivers it to Yano in Tokyo. On inspection, they discover that it is a legendary shin-shinto katana, an artifact of the nation. Suddenly Bob is at the center of a series of terrible crimes he barely understands but vows to avenge.
- Night of Thunder – Woe unto he who crosses Bob Lee Swagger, especially when his daughter’s life is at stake. Forced off the road and into a crash that leaves her in a coma, clinging to life, reporter Nikki Swagger had begun to peel back the onion of a Southern-fried-conspiracy. An ancient, violent crime clan, a possibly corrupt law enforcement structure, gunmen of all stripes and shapes, and deranged evangelicals rear their ugly heads and will live to rue the day they targeted the wrong man’s daughter.
- I, Sniper – Four famed ‘60s radicals are gunned down at long range by a sniper. All the evidence points to Marine war hero Carl Hitchcock. Even his suicide. The case is almost too perfect. Recruited by the FBI to examine the data, retired Bob Lee Swagger penetrates the new technology of the secretive sniper world to unravel a sophisticated conspiracy run by his most ruthless adversary yet.
- Dead Zero – A marine sniper team on a mission in tribal territories on the Afghan-Pakistan border is ambushed by professionals using the latest high-tech shooting gear. Badly wounded, the team’s sole survivor, Gunnery Sergeant Ray Cruz, is determined to finish his job. Months pass. Ray’s target, an Afghan warlord named Ibrahim Zarzi, becomes an American asset in the region and beyond, beloved by the State, the Administration, and the Agency. He arrives in Washington for consecration as Our Man in Kabul. And that brings Ray Cruz out of hiding.
- The Third Bullet – 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 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.
- Sniper’s Honor – Ludmilla “Mili” Petrova was once the most hunted woman on earth. But Kathy Reilly of The Washington Post doesn’t know any of that when she encounters a brief mention of Mili in an old Russian propaganda magazine and becomes interested in the story of a legendary female sniper who seems to have vanished from history. Reilly enlists Bob Lee Swagger to parse out the scarce details of Mili’s military service. The more Swagger learns about Mili’s last mission, the more he’s convinced her disappearance was no accident.
- G-Man – Bob Lee Swagger uncovers a strongbox containing an array of memorabilia dating back to 1934–a federal lawman’s badge, a .45 automatic preserved in cosmoline, a mysterious gun part, and a cryptic diagram–all belonging to Charles Swagger. Bob becomes determined to find out what happened to his grandfather. But as he investigates, Bob learns that someone is following him–and shares his obsession.
- Game of Snipers – When Bob Lee Swagger is approached by a woman who lost a son to war and has spent the years since risking all that she has to find the sniper who pulled the trigger, he knows right away he’ll do everything in his power to help her. But what begins as a favor becomes an obsession, and soon Swagger is back in the action.
- Targeted – After his successful takedown of a dangerous terrorist, Bob Lee Swagger learns that no good deed goes unpunished. Summoned to court by the United States Congress, Swagger is accused of reckless endangerment by a hardheaded anti-gun congresswoman. But what begins as political posturing soon turns deadly when the auditorium where the committee is being held is attacked.
Reading the Earl Swagger Books in Order:
This spin-off series is about Arkansas State Trooper Earl Swagger, a retired Marine First Sergeant and Medal of Honor recipient, and father of Bob Lee Swagger, of course.
- Black Light – The Bob Lee Swagger book that introduced Earl Swagger. Better read it if first. For more info, go back at the beginning of the Bob Lee reading order.
- Hot Springs – It is the summer of 1946, organized crime’s garish golden age, when American justice seems to have gone to seed for good. Nowhere is this more true than in Hot Springs, Arkansas. When the district attorney vows to bring down the mob, Earl is recruited to run the show.
- Pale Horse Coming – Mississippi, 1951: The last place any sane man wants to visit is Thebes State Penal Farm. Of the few who make the journey there, even fewer return. But when an old friend disappears inside Thebes, Earl Swagger takes a personal interest in the case. As he infiltrates the prison, what he experiences defies his wildest nightmares.
- Havana – Cuba 1953: The island is on fire. The Mafia-run casinos are rolling, and it’s just a 30-minute flight from Miami to a world of vice, gambling, sex, and drugs. The money is there for anyone who knows how to get it, including the Cuban government and the police, who want to keep their ally Uncle Sam happy. There’s only one threat to this corrupt utopia: Fidel Castro. With the Cold War underway, the Soviet Union has sent a sophisticated veteran agent to find and support the young upstart. To counter, the CIA has summoned Earl Swagger. But he’s not just going to find Castro…. He’s going to kill him.
- The Bullet Garden – July, 1944: The lush, rolling hills of Normandy are dotted with a new feature-German snipers. From their vantage points, they pick off hundreds of Allied soldiers every day, bringing the D-Day invasion to its knees. It’s clear that someone is tipping off these snipers with the locations of American GIs, but who? And how?
If you like the Bob Lee Swagger reading order, you may also want to see our guide to the Simon Gervais books, or the Gray Man Series. Don’t hesitate to follow us on Twitter or Facebook to discover more book series.