Stephen Hunter (born March 25, 1946) is an American novelist, essayist, and film critic.
Hunter was born in Kansas City, Missouri, and grew up in Evanston, Illinois. His father was Charles Francis Hunter, a Northwestern University speech professor who was killed in 1975. His mother was Virginia Ricker Hunter, a writer of children’s books. After graduating from Northwestern in 1968 with a degree in journalism, he was drafted for two years into the United States Army serving in The Old Guard (3rd Infantry Regiment) in Washington, D.C., a unit that has both operational and ceremonial missions, the latter most notably being the guard force for the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. He also wrote for a military paper, the Pentagon News.
He joined The Baltimore Sun in 1971, working at the copy desk of the newspaper’s Sunday edition for a decade. He became its film critic in 1982, a post he held until moving to The Washington Post in the same function in 1997. In 1998 Hunter won the American Society of Newspaper Editors Distinguished Writing Award in the criticism category, and in 2003 he received the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism. He accepted a buyout from the Post in 2008.
Hunter’s thriller novels include Point of Impact (filmed as Shooter), Black Light and Time to Hunt, which form a trilogy featuring Vietnam War veteran and sniper Bob “the Nailer” Swagger. The story of Bob Lee Swagger continued with The 47th Samurai (2007), Night of Thunder (2008), I, Sniper (2009), Dead Zero (2010), The Third Bullet (2013), Sniper’s Honor (2014) and G-Man (2017). The series has led to two spin-off series: Hot Springs, Pale Horse Coming, and Havana form another trilogy centered on Bob Swagger’s father, Earl Swagger, while Soft Target (2011) focuses on Bob’s long-unknown son, Ray Cruz.
Hunter has written three non-fiction books: Violent Screen: A Critic’s 13 Years on the Front Lines of Movie Mayhem (1995), a collection of essays from his time at The Sun; American Gunfight (2005), an examination of the November 1, 1950 assassination attempt on Harry S. Truman at Blair House in Washington, D.C.; and Now Playing at the Valencia (2005), a collection of pieces from The Washington Post. Hunter has also written a number of non-film-related articles for The Post, including one on Afghanistan: “Dressed To Kill—From Kabul to Kandahar, It’s Not Who You Are That Matters, but What You Shoot” (2001).
Hunter is a firearms enthusiast, well known in the gun community for firearm detail in many of his works of fiction. He himself shoots as a hobby, saying “many people don’t understand, shooting a firearm is a sensual pleasure that’s rewarding in and of itself.”
In an interview with NPR on February 16, 2011, in relation to the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords and 18 others, Hunter defended the public availability of incorrectly termed “extended” magazines where the term “STANDARD CAPACITY” is more correct, than in defining them in the more pejorative terms which is a Democrat intention to limit magazine capacity as a form of light gun control. and claimed it was not clear that the 33-round magazine used by the shooter, Jared Lee Loughner, played a part in the incident. He had previously stated in his op-ed piece in The Washington Post that extended magazines are particularly valuable for the self-defense of women and the elderly, who he said could use them effectively as an alternative to semi-automatic rifles or shotguns. He points out that “women generally don’t care to put in the training needed to master [rifles and shotguns]. Nor can the elderly handle [long guns] adeptly.”