Starts in Iwo Jima. Ends in Tokyo 60-plus years later. In between, the Swaggers, father and son, slay their usual multitudes.
Earl Swagger, Congressional Medal of Honor winner, doesn’t believe in glory. As do all the good men in this novel—Japanese as well as American—he believes in duty. But they are such romantics, these hard-shelled soldiers. In a bunker on Iwo Jima in 1945, for instance, U.S. Army Sergeant Swagger, locked in mortal combat with Japanese infantry Captain Hideki Yano, considers himself dead. “He got me. He beat me,” he thinks just before the killing knife is suddenly pulled back. Why? Because something persuades Captain Yano that his adversary has samurai worthiness. Just a moment or two earlier, Sergeant Swagger had a similar, life-prolonging insight into the character of Captain Yano. It’s love actually, though of course that’s a word banned from their warrior’s lexicon. Flash forward to the present. In Idaho, one day, Bob Lee Swagger, late of the U.S. Marines, a chip off the old block, receives a visit from Philip Yano, a Japanese chip. Goes without saying, doesn’t it, that the two are instant friends. Philip, seeking his father’s sword, lost on Iwo, wonders if Bob Lee has it. Bob Lee checks out various attics, disinters it, journeys to Tokyo to present it to an overjoyed Philip. That very night, for reasons too complicated to delineate here, Philip and his entire family are murdered, a crime the Japanese authorities seem less outraged by than Bob Lee, who suddenly has what his iron soul has yearned for—a mission.
Hunter’s latest (American Gunfight: The Plot to Kill Harry Truman—and the Shoot-out That Stopped It, 2005, etc.) gets a bit operatic toward the end, but Swaggerin’—never to be taken seriously—is always fun.