The runaway success of a sniper's gruesome memoir speaks volumes about the wars the US wishes it were in.
The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History
by Chris Kyle and Scott McEwen
$9.99 List Price
Back in the mid-1990s a marine public-information officer took me into a secret watering hole at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, that served as a private clubhouse for snipers. There was, however, one key condition: Nothing I saw and heard there could be used in a piece I was then writing for the Washington Post Magazine.
And for good reason, it turned out: The barroom walls featured white-on-black Nazi SS insignia and other Wehrmacht photos and regalia. The marine shooters clearly identified—privately, anyway—with the marksmen of the world’s most infamous killing machine, rather than with regular troops. If there was a joke in there, I missed it.
On one level, this pride of craft made a certain sick sense. Killing is a sniper’s very specific job; his mantra is “One shot, one kill.”
And by his own account in American Sniper (William Morrow, $27) Chris Kyle was extremely good at it. The ex–Navy SEAL, awarded two Silver Stars and five Bronze Stars with Valor, among other medals, is credited with more than 150 kills in Iraq, with the probable number (which includes those unconfirmed by a third party) considerably higher.
“After the first kill, the others come easy,” Kyle writes in his breezy, conversational memoir, co-authored with Scott McEwen and Jim DeFelice. (He often addresses readers as “y’all.”)
“I don’t have to psych myself up, or do anything special mentally—I look through the scope, get my target in the crosshairs, and kill my enemy before he kills one of my people,” he writes. He repeats the “I could care less” thought several times throughout the book.
REGISTERED USERS of bookforum.com and BOOKFORUM SUBSCRIBERS have access to this article, but must be logged in to view it. If you are not a registered user of bookforum.com, please create your free login here. If you are a subscriber, but haven’t activated your online account, please do so here.
SUBSCRIBE NOW for access to our online archives,* and receive the printed magazine for the discounted rate of $18 a year.**