By creepy coincidence, the book arrived in the mail just as Washington had a real-life "shotgun stalker" on the loose, driving around shooting people in the head.

"Hunter," the novel, begins with a guy named Oscar Yeager cruising Washington area parking lots with a rifle by his side, looking for people to shoot in the head. He has a talent for this. Six shootings, 12 victims, in 22 days. The cops are clueless.

But this fictional drive-by killer is quite different from the man D.C. police eventually arrested. The real-life suspect is black, and police believe he chose his targets randomly. Oscar Yeager, however, is white and very picky. He is after interracial couples. Specifically, black men with white women.

Oh yeah ... and he's the good guy.

"How should an honorable man confront evil?" the paperback asks on its back cover. The answer lies just inside, in Chapter 1. He should aim true.

"The mulatto's body was sprawled out into the roadway; the woman apparently had fallen backward, beside the van, and was not visible. ... Oscar was quite certain both the man and the woman were dead. He had seen their skulls literally explode into showers of bone fragments, brain tissue, and blood."

Awakened while in Vietnam to the "innate differentness" of whites, blacks and Asians, Yeager -- an intellectual -- has since become deeply frustrated by "America's sickness," which he sees all around him. Threats to the future of white civilization -- drug use, open homosexuality, race mixing, craven politicians ... He decides to do something about all this. "Oscar was not only a man of few words, he was a man of action." Stalking and sniping, he figures, might inspire white copycat killers nationwide. And by Chapter 5, he's happily proven right; no black man who dares to seek the company of a white woman is safe.

Soon, Yeager works his way up to assassinating Jews.

The book, by Andrew Macdonald, is dedicated to "Joseph Paul Franklin, the Lone Hunter," who, we are informed, "saw his duty as a White man." That would probably be Joseph Paul Franklin, the firebomber of synagogues who's now serving multiple life sentences for the sniper murders of black men.

You won't see "Hunter" in your neighborhood library or bookstore, but you can find it if you try, for a mere $5.95 plus shipping and handling. It is marketed though a white supremacist mail order underground that has found its way into at least one legitimate catalogue of fringe literature.

You can dismiss "Hunter" as intellectual pornography, laughably extremist, ultimately harmless. But what does it mean if it's true that this novel has sold nearly 35,000 copies since its publication in 1989 -- the year in which the Pulitzer Prize winner for nonfiction sold 11,000? The sales figure for "Hunter" sounds reasonable, but I'm taking the word of the author. I've got him on the phone.

Andrew Macdonald, it turns out, is a pseudonym. The pleasant-sounding man on the other end of the line is William L. Pierce, once an assistant professor of physics at Oregon State University, now a reclusive guy in his late fifties living in a West Virginia mountain compound. His home is the headquarters of the National Alliance, his own white-power party and propaganda mill.

How would Pierce feel if a reader of "Hunter" decided to take a rifle, drive around and shoot mixed-race couples in the head for real? With a gentle voice, he says, "I suppose I really have no objection."

He adds one pragmatic concern. He'd rather people not engage in "premature activity that gets them in trouble."

Do it right. Don't get caught.

"A modern-day Goebbels" is how someone described William Pierce to investigative journalist Scott Klug -- now a Republican congressman from Wisconsin -- for a 1987 newspaper article. It's easy to see why.

"Hunter" is Pierce's second novel, and in his own mail order catalogue it's offered as a "more restrained" alternative to his 1978 book, "The Turner Diaries." This is undeniable. The first and most notorious American racist thriller, "The Turner Diaries," includes an all-out race war on American soil (complete with blacks butchering and barbecuing white children); strategic nuclear bombings by the white revolutionary heroes (targeting Jews in Miami Beach, New York City and Israel); and a triumphant "final purge of undesirable racial elements" from North America, and then from Europe ("... blood flowed ankle-deep in the streets ...").

In the 1960s, Pierce was a chief lieutenant to American Nazi leader George Lincoln Rockwell, and even then he was a skilled propagandist, editing Rockwell's "National Socialist World." Why start fooling around with fiction?

That polite voice explains:

"Novels reach a much broader audience than nonfiction political writing," he says. "Because of that, they have the potential for being much more effective, especially in the development of a social or political movement."

"The Turner Diaries," he says, has sold 160,000 copies. Remarkable, if true. But what is beyond question is that this apocalyptic fantasia has had a life of its own. It inspired a man named Robert Mathews to start a white revolutionary gang in Washington state in the 1980s. Mathews would hand out copies of "The Turner Diaries" to new recruits. The gang raised money through bank and armored-car robberies and counterfeiting, netting several million dollars, and eventually landing 23 members in prison.

Having declared war on the U.S. government, Mathews was killed in late 1984 after a machine gun battle with the FBI. His Puget Sound island hideout was burned to the ground, with him in it.

"Do you have a friend who needs our message?" William Pierce's catalogue says. "Perhaps an adventure story is the best way to reach him."

Pierce is free to write and distribute whatever he wishes. The government he despises ensures that right. And we shouldn't want it any other way. For one thing, Canada has banned "The Turner Diaries," and Pierce is using that as a selling point.

His prose style is dense, flat, artless. His imagination is bloodthirsty yet drained of passion. His ideology is insane. It's hard to imagine Pierce ever capturing the hearts and minds of the American masses.

Yet I can't help but be reminded that the fundament of Pierce's philosophy -- belief in the innate superiority of the white man -- is not very far removed, historically, from the mainstream of Western thought. "Mentally the negro is inferior to the white. ... {T}he mental constitution of the negro is very similar to that of a child, normally good-natured and cheerful, but subject to sudden fits of emotion and passion during which he is capable of performing acts of singular atrocity ..." That's not William Pierce. That's Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1911.

The world has changed a lot in 82 years. But thousands of people are buying Pierce's books. Why are they? Where are they?

"I would very much like to write more novels," he says. "It's a medium that suits me well."

A pause.

"Have you seen our New World Order Comix?"

Yes, William Pierce has branched out yet again, writing and publishing his first comic book -- "The Saga of ... White Will!!" Obligingly, he sent me a free copy.

I have it here, and it's not cheaply done. The story is set in a nightmarishly "multicultural" high school of the present, where " 'groids" shake down white boys for their lunch money and grab white girls on the butt, all the while protected by a school administration that kowtows to powerful, sinister Jewish interests. Eventually, the truth comes out, thanks to gutsy, blond-haired White Will: "Blacks have done nothing at all significant, either in Africa or in America. ... The reason blacks are wrecking our civilization in America is that ALL civilization is ALIEN to them!"

New World Order Comix is targeted at 15-to-18-year-olds. An ad on the inside cover features White Will saying, "Hey kids! Help me get the word out! Together, we can blow the lid off this rotten system! Order extra copies of this book for your friends. Spread them around your school."

One copy is $3. Five copies are $7. Twenty-five copies are $30. And if you order 100, kids, they're a mere dollar apiece.