Death of An American Sniper

by Anthony Swofford


Reviewed by Howard Polskin

Legend had it that American sniper Chris Kyle killed more men than smallpox during his tours of duty in Iraq.  Slight exaggeration.  In truth, more than 160 enemy soldiers fell from his deadly marksmanship, possibly many more. Kyle survived several tours of duty.  Yet he didn’t survive his post-Army life in Texas where he was gunned down at a shooting range, probably at the hands of another veteran. In “Death of an American Sniper,” Anthony Swofford, author of the best-selling long-form book Jarhead, examines the life of Kyle before, during and after his tours of duty. It’s a moving story that’s hard to put down.

It’s easy to see what drew Swofford to this tale.  What kind of person turns into such a lethal soldier able to dispatch the enemy with one pull of the trigger from more than 1,000 yards?  How does such a person acclimate himself to civilian life?  Can a person like that function in a family setting? Swofford offers some details.  We learn a little about his marriage (fraying but he was working on it).  Swofford tells us about the company he formed upon returning to Texas, Craft International, which trains police officers and private security forces.  (Company motto:  “Despite what your momma told you, violence does solve problems.”)  Kyle had little desire for the politics of growing the company.  He enjoyed meeting with Armed Forces veterans, swapping stories and helping where he could.

Readers wanting to dive deeper into Kyle’s story, should probably pick up “American Sniper,” his autobiography.  Swofford relies on a fair amount of information from that book to fill in the gaps about Kyle’s time in Iraq.  But the power of Swofford’s effort lies in its brevity.  In a fast-paced 40 pages, we get the enormity of Kyle’s accomplishments, the challenges of his return to the United States, and the tragic waste of his untimely death.  If you were a betting man, you would have taken odds on Kyle meeting a grim fate while on active duty.  The biggest hole in the book is that inexplicably, Swofford never provides any narrative or details about exactly what happened that day on the north Texas shooting range.  Perhaps the answers will come soon.  It’s been reported that Steven Spielberg is directing “American Sniper” and Bradley Cooper will play Kyle. 

Buy at:  Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBookstore

1 reed=poor; 2 reeds=average; 3 reeds=good; 4 reeds=excellent

1 reed=poor; 2 reeds=average; 3 reeds=good; 4 reeds=excellent
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