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Thursday, August 16, 2012

Guns, Gals, & Good Books

Susan "Dead-Eye" Jimison
Weapon: Ruger 357
Recommends: Harlan Coben
Sherry Haney
Weapon: 38 Smith and Wesson
Recommends: Kenneth Goddard
It was the first Thursday in August in the city that never sleeps - Alpharetta - one of those days when the humidity smacks you in the face a hot fist; the rain had come down harder than a fat stockbroker out of a twenty-story window earlier that day and traffic was snarling like a pit bull that hadn't seen kibble in a week.  I was running late - no big deal - except these are the sort of dames you don't keep waiting.
Not if you know what's good for you.
Tylene Foster
Weapon: Ruger 380
Recommends: Marcus Luttrell
Guns, Gals, and Good Books meets once a month at Peerless Books to do a little target practice and discuss literature.  After I finally arrived at Peerless - they'd waited for me, thank goodness - they drove me to a nearby shooting range in Sandy Springs.  I shared a van with club founder Susan Jimison, along with Diane Smith, Tylene Foster, Sandra Dickson, and Marsha Etheridge.  I felt both jittery and utterly safe - as one is prone to feel in a vehicle with four gun-toting women.  Along the way, they showed me their firearms; Dianne - the one with the Tea Party sticker - had her gun in a black plastic case, but some of the others had fancy-shmancy purses, with a holster built right into the side.
Diane Smith
Weapon: 9 Millimeter
Recommends: Nelson DeMille
We also talked politics, and I discovered they are conservative Republicans - I've already mentioned Diane's "Tea Party" sticker - not entirely enthusiastic about Romney, but dismissive of Obama.  They are not the sort who'd ever describe themselves as feminists, but in a way, that's exactly what they are: the sort of feisty, no-nonsense, self-confident women who wouldn't think twice about picking up a good 38 Special and popping a cap in the ass of an unwelcome intruder.  These are Southern ladies of the old school: gracious, hospitable, and charming but not the sort to put up with any nonsense and who won't hesitate to cut you off at the knees if you cross the line.  I did everything I could to ingratiate myself with these women.
If anybody messes with me - so long
as he wears a shirt with a big red oval,
and stands perfectly still five yards away,
and if I can borrow a gun - he'll be sorry!
Dianne McNaughton
Borrows Weapon
Recommends: Michael Connely
It was "Ladies' Day" at the shooting range, which meant they got to shoot free.  Other parts of the country have Ladies' Nights at bars; we have them at shooting ranges.  We handed over our drivers' licenses to the man behind the counter, and he gave us paper targets, protective goggles, and ear muffs.  The targets ranged from old fashioned bull's eyes, to silhouettes of people.  (These are the ones we used.)  Some really fancy ones featured a miscreant holding the gun to the head of a female hostage in case you wanted to be prepared for an especially glamorous opportunity for heroism.  I believe I also saw some zombie targets, although these may just have been hippies.  After selecting our targets we went behind one door and then a second door into the range itself for a little fancy shootin'.
Sandra Dickson
Weapon: Smith and Wesson
Recommends: Kay Hooper
Diane and Sandra were kind enough to let me try my hand with their guns, and I'm pleased to say, I acquitted myself tolerably well.  (My target is pictured herewith.)  Sandra's is equipped with a laser pointer which makes a very cool little red dot wherever you're aiming and made me wish I'd opted for the ruffian-with-hostage or zombie-possibly-hippie target instead of the plain silhouette I was shooting at.
If you've never been to a shooting range, the way it works is, you attach your target to this doohickey, and press some buttons on a touch pad which sends it scooting down a long dark hallway, to whatever distance you desire.  While you're waiting your turn, every once in a while there's a loud wham! as someone fires a gun, which you can hear even through the ear muffs and is pretty much guaranteed to make you jump the first four or half-dozen times you hear it.  If one of these ladies were defending herself against an attacker; she wouldn't need to hit him in his vitals; the sound alone would be enough to scare him off.
Marsha Etheridge
Weapon: Smith and Wesson
Recommends: Craig Johnson
After you've fired as many rounds as you like, you press another button, and the target comes scooting back, executing a little pirouette when it reaches you, so you can examine your handiwork.  The back wall is pocked with little holes; gleaming brass shells litter the floor.
The guy shooting next to us, the quiet sort with forearms as big as my thigh, who did not seem to be having nearly as much fun as we were, solemnly loaded bullets in his chamber, and fired off one thoughtful round after another, as if dutifully eating a plateful of vitamin pills.  He very precisely put holes in his old-fashioned bull's-eye target.  My escorts, whose marks-person-ship was just as good or better, had targets shaped like humans, and cheerfully compared notes on how well they'd done when they got the targets back.  They seemed interested in which shot would have killed him, but I pointed out - quite reasonably, I think - that any of the shots would have given him second thoughts about breaking and entering.
This stylish handbag is practical,
fashionable, has a pocket or place
for everything a gal on the go needs,
including a handy little side-holster
built right in!

This sporty zebra-stripe holster
handbag is for a gal on the go
with a bold fashion sense who's
maybe going to a party
and wants a gun along.
On the other side of the shooting range is a shop where you can buy your shooting accessories, such as the holster-purses mentioned earlier and large buckets - as large as economy-sized kitty-litter buckets - of freeze-dried food you can have on hand in case society breaks down or there's a zombie apocalypse or something.
Having finished our shooting and shopping - no one bought the freeze-dried food, although Susan expressed interest - we drove back to Peerless Books, where wine and cookies were laid out in anticipation of the evening's discussion of Lisa Gardner's Catch Me.  (Guns, Gals, and Good Books exclusively selects crime fiction in keeping with their theme.)  Not having read the selection, I left before the discussion got underway, with my bullet-riddled target under my arm and a big smile on my face.  I discovered a ladies' Gun-and-Mystery Book Club is as unlikely and yet apt a combination as chicken-and-waffle restaurant, and I was left wondering what other unlikely combinations might be waiting out there to be discovered: Archery and Love Stories?  (Cupid connection.)  Nunchucks and Slapstick? (Get it? Nunchucks, slapstick?)  Nevermind.  Some things just can't be imitated, like Susan Jimison and the rest of the gals with guns.

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