In The 47th Samurai, Bob Lee Swagger, the gritty hero of Stephen Hunters bestselling novels Point of Impact and Time to Hunt, returns in Hunters most intense and exotic thriller to date. 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. His search has led him to Crazy Horse, Idaho, where Bob Lee, ex-marine and Vietnam veteran, has settled into a restless retirement and immediately pledges himself to Yanos quest. Bob Lee finds the sword and delivers it to Yano in Tokyo. On inspection, they discover that it is not a standard WWII blade, but a legendary shin-shinto katana, an artifact of the nation. It is priceless but worth killing for. Suddenly Bob is at the center of a series of terrible crimes he barely understands but vows to avenge. And to do so, he throws himself into the world of the samurai, Tokyos dark, criminal yakuza underworld, and the unwritten rules of Japanese culture. Swaggers allies, hard-as-nails, American-born Susan Okada and the brave, cocaine-dealing tabloid journalist Nick Yamamoto, help him move through this strange, glittering, and ominous world from the shady bosses of the seamy Kabukicho district to officials in the highest echelons of the Japanese government, but in the end, he is on his own and will succeed only if he can learn that to survive samurai, you must become samurai. As the plot races and the violence escalates, it becomes clear that a ruthless conspiracy is in place, and the only thing that can be taken for granted is that money, power, and sex can drive men of all nationalities to gruesome extremes. If Swagger hopes to stop them, he must be willing not only to die but also to kill.
Bob Lee Swagger, retired marine master sniper and hero of bestseller Hunter's 1993 thriller, Point of Impact (forthcoming as the film Shooter), returns in this riveting homage to the myth of the samurai. Philip Yano, the son of the Japanese officer who commanded the bunker on Iwo Jima where Swagger's marine father won the Medal of Honor in 1945, approaches Swagger about a missing sword wielded by his father, Hideki, during the battle for the island. The sword turns out to be not just a family heirloom but a national treasure that evokes echoes from the most sacrosanct corners of Japanese history. Yano's search reveals there are those who will gladly kill for the honor it bestows upon the possessor. Plunged into a Japan where honor and loyalty outweigh even one's own life, Swagger finds that an old warrior like himself still has much to understand. While the action builds to the inevitable climax, the joy of the journey will keep readers turning the pages. (Sept.)
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Simon & Schuster
September 11, 2007
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Excerpt from The 47th Samurai by Stephen Hunter
Showa Year 20, Second Month, 21st Day
21 February 1945
A quiet fell across the bunker. Dust drifted from the ceiling. The burnt-egg stench of sulfur lingered everywhere.
It was a private. Takahashi, Sugita, Kanzaki, Asano, Togawa, Fukuyama, Abe -- who knew the names anymore? There had been so many names.
"Sir, the shelling has stopped. Does this mean they're coming?"
"Yes," he said. "It means they're coming."
The officer's name was Hideki Yano and he was a captain, 145th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Battalion, under Yasutake and Ikeda, attached to Kuribayashi's 109th Division.
The blockhouse was low and smelled of sulfur and shit because the men all had dysentery from the tainted water. It was typical Imperial Army fortification, a low bunker of concrete, reinforced over many long months, with oak tree trunks from what had been but was no longer the island's only oak forest, the sand heaped over it. It had three firing slits and behind each slit sat a Type 96 gun on a tripod, a gunner, and a couple of loaders. Each field of fire fanned away for hundreds of yards across an almost featureless landscape of black sand ridges and marginal vegetation. The blockhouse was divided into three chambers, like a nautilus shell, so that even if one or two were wiped out, the last gun could continue to fire until the very end. It was festooned everywhere with the latest imperative from General Kuribayashi's headquarters, a document called "Courageous Battle Vows," which summed up everyone's responsibilities to the Sphere.
Above all else, we shall dedicate ourselves to the defense of this island.
We shall grasp bombs, charge the enemy tanks and destroy them.
We shall infiltrate into the midst of the enemy and annihilate them.
With every salvo we will, without fail, kill the enemy.
Each man will make it his duty to kill ten of the enemy before dying.
"I am scared, sir," said the private.
"I am too," said Yano.
Outside, the captain's small empire continued. Six pits with Nambu guns in each, each gun supported by gunner, loader, and two or three riflemen flanked the empire to left and right. In further spider holes were martyrs with rifles. No escape for them; they knew they were dead already. They lived only to kill those ten Americans before they gave their lives up in sacrifice. Those men had it the worst. In here, no shell could penetrate. The concrete was four feet thick, riven with steel rods. Out there a naval shell from the offshore fleet could turn a man to shreds in a second. If the shell landed precisely, no one would have time for a death poem.
Now that the attack was upon them, the captain became energized. He shook off the months of torpor, the despair, the terrible food, the endless shitting, the worries. Now, at last, glory approached.
Except of course he no longer believed in glory. That was for fools. He believed only in duty.
He was not a speech maker. But now he ran from position to position, making sure each gun was properly cocked and aimed, the loaders stood ready with fresh ammunition strips, the riflemen crouched to pick off the errant demon American.
A boy pulled him aside.
"Yes?" What was the boy's name? He could not remember this one either. But these were all good boys, Kagoshima boys, as the 145th was drawn from Kyushu, the home of Japan's best soldiers.
"I am not afraid to die. I am eager to die for the emperor," said the boy, a superior private.
"That is our duty. You and I, we are nothing. Our duty is all."
But the boy was agitated.
"I am afraid of flames. I am so afraid of the flames. Will you shoot me if I am engulfed in fire?"
They all feared the flamethrowers. The hairy beasts were dishonorable. They chopped gold teeth from dead Japanese, they bleached Japanese skulls and turned them into ashtrays and sent them home, they killed the Japanese not decently, with gun and sword -- they hated the blade! -- but so often from miles out with the big naval shells, with the airplanes, and then when they got in close, they used the horrible hoses that squirted flaming gasoline and roasted the flesh from a man's bones, killing him slowly. How could a warrior die honorably in flames?
"Or the sword, Captain. I beg you. If I burn, behead me."
"What is your name?"
"Sudo. Sudo from Kyushu."
"Sudo from Kyushu. You will not die in flames. That I promise you. We are samurai!"
That word samurai still stiffened the spine of every man. It was pride, it was honor, it was sacrifice. It was worth more than life. It was what a man needed to be and would die to be. He had known it his whole life; he had yearned for it, as he yearned for a son who would live up to it.