I’ve tried to do everything the characters in my books do. I’ve roamed the alleys of Bethlehem’s refugee camps. I’ve had clandestine meetings with gunrunners in Gaza. I’ve risked diabetes to eat syrupy Palestinian desserts and made them key to the plot of “The Samaritan’s Secret.” I learned piano for “Mozart’s Last Aria.” I picked up oil painting and dueled with a rapier for the forthcoming “Caravaggio’s Madonna.”
The manuscript I’m about to start will include a little gunplay. So it was time I learned how to shoot. Naturally, I’ve had a blast. (Okay, that’s the only gun pun I’ll allow myself.)
I’m not sure how many crime writers actually shoot a gun. Perhaps it depends on their location. Growing up European, I’d be as likely to have experience with a gun as I would to have owned a Rembrandt. Perhaps it’s different for American writers. In any case, I live in Jerusalem, and there are plenty of guns around here.
I’ve watched people fire guns, as a foreign correspondent covering wars in the Middle East. I’ve had guns pointed at me by masked Hamas men. But when it comes to touching guns, I’ve barely done so. Near the Jerusalem bus station some years ago, I saw a bullet from an assault rifle on the ground. I picked it up gingerly and gave it to a nearby soldier as if it might go off in my hands. He regarded me with the look macho men give to sissies.
So I went along to the range with my pal Alon Tuval, an Israeli whose hobbies appear to be on the macho end of the scale (knives, high-speed go-karting, smoking), and an American foreign correspondent who shall go unnamed here due to the fact that he doesn’t work for Fox News and therefore might be considered somewhat suspect if his liberal-media-elite bosses discovered that he liked guns.
The “range” is something of a misnomer. It was a moderately large basement in the area of Jerusalem where I go to shop for cheap furniture and on the very street where I take my wife’s 15-year-old Toyota to bribe someone to pass it as roadworthy each year. (This is the Middle East, after all.)
We loaded our magazines with a rather expensive selection of bullets. Then the instructors, Elliel and Dani, gave me a rundown on the guns I had planned to shoot: a small Beretta, a Glock, an Israeli Bul, and Dirty Harry’s Colt Magnum. Elliel liked us so much that he gave us a special treat. He ran off to get a Tabor – an Israeli invention which turns a Glock handgun into a laser-sighted assault rifle.
I assumed the position – legs bent, weight forward, elbows locked – and started to fire. I moved steadily up in caliber until the Magnum’s kick started to bruise my left thumb. (Sissy!) My shots were a little high and left at first, but I must say I started to cluster around the bullseye pretty quickly. Quicker than I’d have expected. When Elliel changed the targets so that they now appeared in the shape of a man’s upper body, I felt the blood lust awaken in me. I almost charged the target, emptying my magazine as I went.
I didn’t, because they take safety seriously on a gun range, for some reason.
Then Elliel handed me the Tabor. And I put 30 shots, all within an inch of the bullseye. It seemed hard to miss. All I had to do was get the red laser dot in the right place and squeeze slowly on the trigger. Like a fine automobile or an expensive whore, it took away all the effort and left only the pleasure.
I suspect I might use that line in my next book. But I won’t have the hero say it.