The Barrel of a Gun is part and parcel of First's own story, her intellectual history as a South African communist and anti-apartheid activist who died in exile, a story that necessarily combines both biography and bibliography. This essay examines both the composition of the book--its research as told in First's correspondence at the time as well as the book's final draft--and its "after life"--in the reviews and debates it elicited on publication and in a retrospective consideration of its prophetic prescience or, perhaps, its foibled failure as not an "account devoted exclusively to fact." In other words, The Barrel of a Gun both proposes a study of coups in Africa (with special reference to the Sudan, Nigeria, and Ghana) and provides a chapter in the life of Ruth First and her own contributions to the "liberation of Africa."