James Salter - image from JewishReviewOfBooks.com Cleve arrives in Korea eager to join the ranks of pilot aces. The Hunters tells the tale of Cleve and other Korean War pilots, the small society in which they live, what they value, how they see themselves.
The author was a fighter pilot in the Korean War. Aerial combat and the reality of getting those five hits that make you an ace are what this book is about. This is not a book about politics or why the Korean War was fought. The book can be read with both your heart and your head.
1997) is Salters first novel, published the year he resigned from the Air Force, chose writing over flying. The 1958 movie, with Robert Mitchum starring, goes with a blond love interest (the future Mrs. Sammy Davis Jr., May Britt) instead of the books Tokyo prostitutes, and tacks on a sequence in which Mitchum and the alcoholic husband of his love interest are shot down over North Korea; with pistols drawn, they must evade the Commie Hordes while Working Out Their Differencespretty hilarious given the comparative inactivity, lulling routine and spacey contemplativeness of Salters novel. (The Hunters is the novel Joan Didion would have written, had she flown fighter jets in the Korean War.) Ive read that the exacting Salter thinks Light Years (1975) his first fully achieved work; but still, The Hunters more than brings the goods: You lived and died alone, especially in fighters. I did not want this novel to end.
The Hunters is the story of Captain Cleve Connell and his fellow American pilots hunting North Korean/Chinese MIGS during the Korean War. They were each to fly a hundred missions. Cleve has many missions left and the story gracefully heads to its climax.
The most apolitical war novel I've ever read. Nothing wrong with that; just something one doesn't find too often in war Lit. Despite a few hints in that direction, Salter's vision is far removed from that of, say, Dino Buzzati's "The Tarter Steppe," a novel that exposes of the emptiness of military ambition with quiet devastation. Overall, I liked this book enough that at some point I might be tempted to read "Cassada," Salter's other novel about military pilots.
The Hunters is James Salter's first novel. The novel's setting is the air war in Korea, c. For anyone who has read the later Salter in works such asA Sport and a Pastime (1967) or 2013's All There Is reading The Hunters provides a fascinating glimpse into the raw talent that is being revealed in this, his first novel.
It's always satisfying to read stories that not only entertain, but also serve to highlight themes or subjects that reach out into real life. This part of the story, the war story, is both entertaining and insightful with respect to the history that Salter brings to life. And if you think that success can be achieved through planning, training, or desire, then Salter writes this story to say otherwise.
Salter's descriptions of daily life in an operational squadron, the sense and feel of flying and aerial combat, are as authentic as anything I've read, and could only have been written by someone who had been there. I flew F-15s from the late 1970s to the mid-1990s; though my fighter was far more advanced than the F-86s Salter flew during the Korean War, I was pleased to learn how little the basic experience has changed. Salter nails it: you may be leading a four-ship with three other pilots on your wing, but in your cockpit you are insulated and alone ... In my experience, this is dead on: it is what every fighter pilot lives for.
Much also has been said about this book as an accurate portrayal of flying and a great novel of warfare. The central character Cleve begins the novel as a well respected flyer, a cut above the rest, and admired by the less experienced men around him.