The Hunters

AUTHOR: James Salter


PRICE: $15.95
NOTES: Softbound, 256 pages, ISBN 978-1619020542

Why review a book originally published in 1956 and a work of fiction to boot? A couple of purely subjective reasons: First is due to my concern that for many people, the only exposure they have had to "The Hunters" will have been the awful 1958 Hollywood movie loosely based on the book. Second is because, in my opinion, "The Hunters" is the best fictional account of aerial combat ever written.

"The Hunters" was written by James Salter (birth name Horowitz). Salter was a West Point Graduate who flew over 100 missions in Korea with the 4th Fighter-Interceptor Wing and was credited with one Mig 15 Victory. 'The Hunters" was Salter's first novel and was inspired by his combat experience in Korea. After selling the movie rights to "The Hunters", Salter resigned his USAF commission and pursued a full time career as a writer. Salter would enjoy critical and commercial success in his literary career and is widely considered to be one of the finest American writers.

"The Hunters' tells the story of Captain Cleve Connell. Connell is considered to be a "hot shot" pilot by his peers. He arrives in Korea anxious to test himself in combat and begin racking up Mig kills. After a brief period of additional training, followed by a few combat missions Connell is promoted to flight leader. Connell seemingly has all of the elements in place to become the next "ace", but things don't turn out as expected. Mission after mission fails to result in contact with the enemy and after fully one fourth of Connell's tour has expired he has yet to see combat. All the while his fellow pilots, some of whom he trained, are downing Migs. Connell's initial enthusiasm for pursuing his fighter pilot goals slowly turns to disappointment and fear. The corrupt military system that dictates killing Migs as the only measure of success and a corrosive rivalry with a younger pilot gradually erodes Connell's faith in himself. Finally, in the aftermath of a dramatic air battle over the Yalu, the depth of Connell's courage and Honor are revealed.

"The Hunters" has the sheen of authenticity that can only be provided by being written by someone who was there. In fact, students of the history of the air war in Korea will recognize characters based on Harrison Thyng, Walker Mahurin, James Low, and James Kasler. At 256 pages, the book is a fast read. Pick up a copy and treat yourself to some of Salter's gorgeous prose. I guarantee that you will be riveted at the end

Rob Hart

October 2021

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