Glasgow journalist ANDY DOUGAN last wrote about the sharpshooters of
Dynamo Kiev FC. Now he tells Doug Johnstone how he fired off words about the men who gunned down enemy soldiers for a living.
ar. what is it good lot"? Well. quirky and
engaging books like Andy l)ougan‘s Tllt’
Hunting o/Wlun tor a kick-oil. Subtitled A Ilislorv oft/1c Sniper. this engrossing and slightly odd book. is a comprehensive look at the role ol‘ trained marksmen in military conﬂict through the ages. from ancient (ireek archers through to today‘s ['8 Delta l‘orce cotnbatants.
It‘s an intriguing look at a role that is often overlooked in warfare (and one that has in the past been sneered at by other military men). and l)ougan. a (ilasgow-based journalist in his day job. lirst came across the subject he admits to finding ‘morbidly l'ascinating' while writing his last hook. Dynamo. the tale of a Kiev football team during World War II. 'In the research l‘or that I came across the story of the Russian snipers who were kind ol' like rock stars.‘ he says. ‘In Stalingrad and Leningrad there were kids who could tell you how many people the different snipers had killed in the way that people here can tell you how many goals Henrik l.arsson has scored.‘
ln warl'are. snipers are the exact opposite of the typical ' cannon l’odder inl’antryman. and are invariably highly skilled and mentally disciplined individuals. trained as much in the arts ol~ reconnaissance and intelligence gathering as killing. They have not always been highly pri/ed by their generals. though. and tip until World War ll. it was ol'ten bizarrely thought ol~ as unsporting to shoot your enemy when he was wasn‘t looking. ‘Sincc then there‘s been a realisation that these guys can save your lil’c.‘ says l)ougan. ‘And now you‘ve
got the military tactic ol‘ what they call the sniper
shield. sending the snipers out ahead of your troops so they can do a really valuable job in taking out the
‘A COMBINATION OF DISTURBED INDIVIDUALS AND READY SUPPLY OF WEAPONS REALLY DOES THE
enemy before you get to them.’
l)ougan‘s book suggests that the art ol‘ sniping is as much about psychology as physical skill. certainly in the modern age when technological advances mean that you can often see your targets l‘ace right below you shoot. ‘lt‘s true that you can train anyone to be a sniper. but not everyone can do it.’ he says. "l‘here‘s an indelinable something that makes one person able to pull the trigger. while someone else like me couldn’t. I‘m sure I couldn't do it even it my life depended on it.’ Indeed. the latter part of The Hunting nil/Ian touches on the societal problems in recent years. specifically in America. caused by the increased number of people with these deadly skills at their disposal.
‘liven though you can train anyone there are people that you shouldn‘t train.‘ says l)ougan. ‘lt’s quite ironic that some ol‘ the quotes in the book about psychological aptitude are from Americans. because they've created more psychotic civilian snipers than anyone else in the world. It's a serious problem: what do you do with a large number of men who have been trained to do nothing but kill'.’ How do you equip them for civilian life? This is an area which is still not well funded or rcsearched.’
Add to that the insane gun culture across the pond. and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. according to l)ougan. ‘lt’s a basic question ol’ supply and demand.~ he says. "lake the two Washington snipers. they were plainly disturbed individuals. but it‘s a combination of a disturbed individual and a ready supply of weapons that really does the damage..
The Hunting of Man is published by Fourth Estate, Mon 5 Apr, £16.99.
Classic novels revisited. This issue The Grapes of Wrath. Published 65 years ago.
What’s the story The Grapes of Wrath is John Steinbeck's epic examination of the plight of migrant workers in California. The author's vision of post—Depression poverty and oppressive labour conditions is embodied in the journey of the Joad family, driven from their land in Oklahoma to take the dusty. uncertain road west. Needless to say. the Okies’ naive expectation of an American Eden is far from fulfilled and the decency and tenacity of the Joads is tested yet largely remains intact.
What the critics said Among the many accolades showered on Steinbeck's work. US Congressman Lyle Boren attacked the book. calling it ‘a lie. a black. infernal creation of a twisted. distorted mind‘. The Swedish Academy. on presenting the writer with his Nobel Prize in 1962. somewhat more diplomatically referred to the novel as 'an epic chronicle'.
Key moment The novel ends with the shocking scene in which 'Rose of Sharon', after giving birth to a stillborn child. suckles a starving man with her breast. Her name. by the way. comes from the Song of Solomon. which is merely one of many bits of religious symbolism in the book.
Postscript Despite Congressman Boren‘s reservations. the impact of The Grapes of Wrath was such that it helped effect an agricultural reform bill that included more humanitarian conditions for migrant workers. The author himself was temporarily forced to flee the USA to Mexico. worn out by the publicity surrounding the novel.
First line test ‘To the red country and part of the gray country of Oklahoma, the last rains came gently. and they did not cut the scarred earth.‘ (Allan Radcliffe)
7H Guns or mum
' JOHN 0