Friday, April 12, 2013

And Our Last Gunfight

This one was submitted by writer C. J. Killmer:
My favorite fictional gunfight can be found near the end of Stephen Hunter's novel I, Sniper.
Though the novel is set in the present, the villain of the story competes in the modern-day sport of cowboy action shooting, in which participants dress up in Old West garb, arm themselves with period-accurate firearms, and shoot competitively at targets in scenarios that are often based on classic westerns.
Participants in this sport also adopt pseudonyms. The villain of the novel, a billionaire media mogul named Tom Constable (who bears more than a little resemblance to Ted Turner), goes by ‘Texas Red.’
When the novel's hero (Hunter’s recurring protagonist, Bob Lee Swagger) confronts Texas Red at a cowboy action shooting competition, Swagger is clad in the garb of an Arizona Ranger and armed with an old single action revolver. So even though it's set in the present, the scene plays out as a classic Western showdown, with both characters dressed and armed appropriately. But despite deliberately employing so many Western tropes, Hunter still manages to conclude the showdown with a clever twist that I for one didn’t see coming.
I love this scene because it's well-written, unusual, pays homage to the old TV Westerns, and especially because it repeatedly borrows phrases from the classic Marty Robbins gunfighter song "Big Iron,” in which an Arizona Ranger confronts an outlaw by the name of Texas Red (whom many men had tried to take, but those many men were dead…)

       ...Red had not cleared leather before the bullet fairly ripped, hit, mutilated, and exited. He went down hard, kicking up a puff of dust, which the wind took, just as it took the gunsmoke of the Ranger’s speedier Colt. Red curled as he fell, gun flying away in a twisted angle, the sound of the shot lost to all, so intent were all in the essence of the age-old drama.
    The moment was utter antique. Not a single thing spoke of later times that any man or woman or child could see. The white smoke and dust, teased to action by the relentless wind, seemed to lie over all for just a second, glazing and blurring all surfaces, suggesting again that this was ancient times.
But then the applause broke out. Well, who could blame them? And the chants, “Ran-ger, Ran-ger, Ran-ger!”

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