When the author, Jack Coughlin, was a kid he suffered a serious eye injury. Fortunately, it healed and thirty years later he was the Marine Corp's top sniper. Hey, what about technology and "push button" warfare? Iraq and Afghanistan is what happened! They reaffirmed that battlefield success is based on a man and his rifle.
Sure, books on shooting, hunting, guns, and military exploits have always been popular with boys and men. Charles Henderson's Marine Sniper published in 1986 was a bestseller well before 9/11. The reading attraction for boys is really quite basic -- action and military exploits. It is the pitting of one individual against another or the competition. Think of jousting, dueling, swordplay, O.K. coral, and the Red Baron. If tested, do I, the reader, have the right stuff?
Because of the type of warfare in Iraq and Afghanistan, the strategic and tactical value of snipers has greatly increased. Consequently, the "sniper" book list has greatly expanded. Although multiple copies of Snipers by Craig Cabell, A Sniper's Journey by Gary Mitchell, Long Rifle by Joe LeBleu, Sniper One by Dan Mills, and Mike Tucker's Ronin: A Marine Scout/Sniper Team In Iraq circulate briskly, Shooter seems to be the favorite with my four copies continually out.
Organized around a collection of "event" chapters, the author presents his personal combat experiences in a honest, descriptive, and compelling narrative. Right away, he states, "I never enjoy taking a human life...An experienced sniper can hate what he does when he pulls the trigger...." However, the trained soldier understands he is just doing his job. The author reiterates this throughout the book--"Snipers hate what ultimately happens when we pull the trigger." The author never glorifies his actions or resorts to unnecessary "blood & guts" descriptions. Although the fog of war surrounds the sniper, he must remain cool and keep a clear head. "Sometimes the hardest job of a sniper is not to pull the trigger...great care must be taken to determine that a target is legitimate."
At the end of his Iraqi tour, the author concludes, "I maintained a stable mental plateau by being totally convinced that I had done the right thing and that I had saved a lot of people by killing the enemy. It is much better to think of lives saved than human beings killed." Sensible advice for both returning and future soldiers?
I also picked Jack Coughlin's book because he, along with Donald A. Davis, have written a series of bestselling "sniper" novels with the character, Gunnery Sergeant Kyle Swanson. All the Arkansas City High School library's copies of Kill Zone, Dead Shot, and just published Clean Kill are currently checked out. Imagine matching him up against author Stephen Hunter's Bob "the Nailer" Swagger (Master Sniper, Point Of Impact, Time To Hunt)!
Yes, there are some who question the age appropriateness and/or even the subject of such books or even battle books or war stories--you don't see many on recommended lists. Well, the next time a high school boy or girl is at your checkout desk, consider that in a couple of years he could be a character in one of these books! Such books don't relate to students? Before he was killed in action, the sniper Sgt.Tyler Juden (ACHS class of 2004), got hours of patriotic inspiration and enjoyment reading such books. Not timely or relevant?
Recommended by Robert L. Hicks, Librarian, Arkansas City High School.