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The Hunters
James Salter
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The Hunters

4.08 of 5 stars 4.08  ·  rating details  ·  642 ratings  ·  114 reviews
Captain Cleve Connell has already made a name for himself among pilots when he arrives in Korea during the war there to fly the newly operational F-86 fighters against the Soviet MIGs. His goal, like that of every fighter pilot, is to chalk up enough kills to become an ace.
But things do not turn out as expected. Mission after mission proves fruitless, and Connell finds hi
ebook, 256 pages
Published September 1st 2012 by Counterpoint LLC (first published 1956)
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In The Hunters chastened prose is never more than a few steps from religious lyricism. Salter will begin a scene with the naming of parts, the spare poetry of function, and wind it up with an epiphany, or talk of grace, or comparison of a preternaturally skilled MIG driver to “a heavy angel come down to test the valor of men.” It makes me think of the abrupt gaudiness of nose art on a sleek aluminum fuselage.


The Hunters (1956, rev. ed. 1997) is Salter’s first novel, published the year he resign
From the start I was all in and could not put the book down, though it begins simply enough with the weather.

-- “A winter night, black and frozen, was moving over Japan, over the choppy waters to the east . . . Cleve stood at the window, looking out.” --

Cleve is a fighter pilot, a captain, awaiting orders to Korea. Once there, he must wait some more before seeing combat. There are assignments to be made and in-country check flights to complete. Throughout, he listens as the other pilots talk abo
The most apolitical war novel I've ever read. No character reflects on the nature of war or his role in it, for better or worse. What they do reflect on, endlessly, obessively, is the competition for wracking up the most kills and attaining ace status. Think of Mamet's salesmen in "Glengarry, Glennross" gone to war. This lack of political dimension is not necessarily a bad thing, but in this case it creates a kind of claustrophobic insularity in mood and focus that enevelops the characters like ...more
A war book where men are really men. Frighteningly believable. The two most familiar soldierly archetypes - the noble patriotic leader who rallies his troops to greatness; the greenhorn whose innocence and morality is earnestly tested - don't exist here. These are boys undone by real passions: by jealousy, pettiness, and greed, by braggadocio and selfishness, and most of all by thwarted victory, which they want to claim not for their country but for themselves. The penultimate chapter is nothing ...more
Much has already been said here about the precision of Salter's crisp, clean style. It's Hemingway over ice with a splash of bitters. If you love language, you will read every word. Much also has been said about this book as an accurate portrayal of flying and a great novel of warfare.

What I would add to all that is how "The Hunters" is a fascinating account of the dynamics within a group of highly trained men who engage in a high-risk occupation. The central character Cleve begins the novel as
The Hunters is James Salter's first novel. It was published in 1956 and is the third Salter novel I have read in the past thirteen months. As with the others it is a magnificent piece of writing. The novel's setting is the air war in Korea, c. 1950-53. Salter served in the USAF in Korea flying fighters so the hard sheen of authenticity permeates every page. The Hunters has a reputation among connoisseurs as one of the best novels of air combat. That fact, however, should not stop anyone with an ...more
Tyler Jones
A very strong and solid novel. At least the 1997 rewrite is - I have not read it as it was originally published in 1956. It is a book similar in some ways to the classic of war fiction, The Red Badge of Courage in that it shows how within a theatre of conflict a man might wish for glory - his proof of worth - but the truth is that it is often just chance and circumstance that will determine who is the hero and who is the lesser man. Such Hemingwayesque themes are now out of vogue, but such solid ...more
Actual rating: 4.5 stars.
Friends on the outside were always asking why he stayed in [...] he had tried to find an answer sitting alone at dinner in the club filled with administrative majors and mothers talking about their children, but he never could. In his mind he carried Saturdays of flying, with the autumnal roar of crowds on the radio compass and the important stadiums thirty minutes apart and button-small, the wingmen like metallic arrows poised in the air above a continent, the last sunl
THE HUNTERS is one of the more insular novels I’ve ever read., insular in that it’s almost entirely about the self-contained world of fighter pilots during the Korean War of the early l950’s. That forgotten war of 60 years ago involved the first air battles between the newly developed American F-86 jets and the Russian MIG’s. They were both in the air to support ground troops. At that time, missiles had not been developed so planes had to get close enough to machine gun and disable the enemy air ...more
John Alt
The game was dangerous and not for the cautious. It was a hunting game, with predators suddenly becoming prey as they twisted and turned to escape MiG-15s. The war game is always dangerous and this one took place in the skies above Korea in the early 1950s. Its story is told in The Hunters, a novel by James Salter, who flew in those skies, sometimes hunting, sometimes being hunted. He bagged one kill, watching the pilot eject and bail out of a smoking MiG. It was a game about aerial glory for th ...more
Hetal Shah
I was drawn to Salter because of his reputation as the 'master stylist,' hoping to learn something. I started his latest novel, "All That Is" before this. I read 'The Hunters' for a book session on 'war literature. This was his first novel, written when he was 31. He famously said he wanted to prevent the readers' need to 'underline' sentences in his latest book (All That Is) -- he wanted it so perfect (a bold statement, but I guess you can get away with it when you are eighty nine), so I when I ...more
I read this novel about fighter pilots during the Korean War in 1998 shortly after it was published in a revised edition. It was James Salter's debut novel about USAF fighter pilots during the Korean War, first published in 1956. It is one of the best of that breed that I have read. Salter himself was a fighter pilot with the rank of Captain who saw combat from February to August 1952. He kept a detailed diary of his tour and the novel closely follows a chronology of events he experienced as an ...more
Set in Korea at the height of the Korean war, the main character Cleve Connell, from the United States, is a mature and experienced jet fighter pilot whose ambition is to engage with, and shoot down as many enemy MIG fighters as he can.
The underlying tension evolves slowly but steadily as he tries to cope with an insubordinate who will not follow orders; the frustration of flying missions and seeing no enemy aircraft; the long periods of boredom between flights; the military hierarchy who laud t
Utterly brilliant, haunting, mature...
My first book by Salter was "Solo Faces", a story of a SoCal climber who makes the big time in France. It's style was so sparse, but a perfect description of someone who trusted their own instincts above all else. His first book was "The Hunters", written about jet fighter pilots in the Korean War while he was still a pilot in the Air Force.

The story is told in such a way that you feel like you may have known the characters. It isn't really about the fear of dying in a very dangerous setting, bu
An incredible underrated prose stylist. Hunters is THE Korean
War book. There are three men I think of that write about the wars that they were involved in better than anyone. Hemingway(World War 1 and the Spanish Civil War), Tim O'Brien(Vietnam) and Salter(Korean War). Just read anything Salter wrote and revel in the beauty of his writing.
This was one of the more stunning, beautifully-written books I've ever read. Salter has an economy with prose and fearlessness in blending the mundane with the exalted that I found immensely readable. Definitely recommended, even if you're not normally a "war novel" kind of person.
James Folan
This is a very fine novel about US fighter pilots in the Korean War. The writing is beautiful and it focuses on very human and recognisable emotions. Deserves to be much better known - I'd never heard of it.
Tight, beautiful language around a story that at least for me, ebbed and flowed. The lead up to and descriptions of the fighting, as well as the tension on base as the men prepared for or debriefed after a mission, were excellent. The exoticism of mid 50s Korea and Japan, complete with young women depicted as trinkets for soldiers to win -- well, I will chalk it up to the book being 60 years old. Those interludes aside, the storytelling is strong and the language impeccable. Even if the book is ...more
very good book. it's about planes shooting at each other
This is another author who mistakes profundity with self-seriousness in a similar vein as Cormac Friggin McCarthy. Salter however, does not plumb the depths of pretension to nearly the same low as that aforementioned Pulitzer prize-winning wanker.

My expectations were part of the problem here. It was stupid of me to wish for a a Catch-22-like narrative that uses irony and paradox to point out the absurdity of war. What was I thinking, that every book about war pilots was going to be another Catch
He colado este libro entre mi lectura de Sepúlveda porque suena para ganar el Premi Príncipe de Asturias y me entró curiosidad. El año pasado empecé con Roth y cuando le dieron el premio ya estaba enamoradísima de sus obras, así que esta era la única que había en mi biblioteca. Lástima. He pedido dos más.

me ha encantado cómo está escrita. El tema no especialmente porque la guerra no es lo mío, la verdad.

Un poco difícil de explicar. Primero resulta muy curioso cómo cuenta la historia de un piloto
I read The Hunters this six weeks. It was an interesting book. I didn’t really enjoy reading it. I thought this would be a good book but it wasn’t. I wouldn’t recommend this book to young adults because it was very boring and lacked action. I would recommend this book to adults that like planes or maybe even veterans who served in that war. My favorite character was Cleve; He wanted to become an ace for a fighter pilot. My least favorite character was Carl he was not a very good pilot and he was ...more
Jason Bergman
Good, but not great. From any other author, I would probably rate this higher. But Salter's other books (most notably A Sport and a Pastime and Light Years) are so phenomenally good and brilliantly written that this pales by comparison.

And to be honest, that's not entirely unexpected. This is Salter's first work, and even though this version was revised by the author in 1997, it's not as linguistically spellbinding as I've come to expect from Salter.

It's also a very strange sort of war story (an
Based on the ratings it has gotten at least, this has to be one of the most overrated books in human history. It's about an entitled jet fighter pilot during the Korean War. I was sure to call him "entitled" because half of the book is about his insecurities and, well, this is the best way to put it -- incessant whining. There isn't a single character that is remotely interesting. There isn't a plot or subplot that is remotely interesting. Even the dogfights in the air are utterly banal. Finally ...more
Stephen Mauro
The Hunters is incredibly good. Staying true to its title, it is a story about men who go up in the air in fast planes and try to kill other men in fast planes. The whole tale is a meditation on what it takes to lead such a life. When they go up in the air they often don't find the enemy, but sometimes they do. It is a sport with deadly consequences, the pilots have the mentalities of athletes—baseball players or golfers or quarterbacks. The main character is a good pilot. He is also a good man, ...more
Colin N.
Excellent war novel about fighter pilots during the Korean War. I was shocked that this type of fighting still went on in the 50s! It resembles the air battles of WWI, since the planes were equipped only with machine guns and plane to plane missiles had not yet come into use. So planes go searching for one another in the vast emptiness of the sky hoping to engage in dogfights and shoot down the enemy. Crazy that this existed.

The novel is based on Salter's own experience in Korea and he provides
Uwe Hook
The Hunters, written by James Salter, is a gritty tale of Korean War pilots attempting to become "aces" by felling five enemy MiGs. The story is centered around Captain Cleve Connell and his fighter wing. Within the ranks there are bitter rivalries and the best of friends, but one prevailing theme is wingmanship.

The writing itself was juvenile at times and powerful yet simple in others. Every once in a while, Salter came through with a real gem of a thought, though the rest of the novel seemed t
James Salter's debut novel is miles better than most authors' magnum opera. Beautifully written, emotionally engaging.
Knowing a little bit about Salter's service as a fighter pilot in the Korean War, I assume (egotistically) many of Cleve Connell's experiences parallel Salter's own. Perhaps not (view spoiler) but the overall ambience, the fevered anxiety and the dragging boredom, the frozen
A sharply observed and psychologically incisive novel of the Korean War, The Hunters is the story of a pilot, more veteran than most of his twenty-something year old compatriots but just as novice when it comes to flying combat missions, in a war where victories are all private and for fighter pilots it’s about becoming an ace, never mind any larger tactical or strategic considerations. Five witnessed kills are what is needed to achieve that status and most missions are ripe with tension but not ...more
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James Salter (b. 1925) is a novelist, short story writer, and screenwriter. Salter grew up in New York City and was a career officer and Air Force pilot until his mid-thirties, when the success of his first novel (The Hunters, 1957) led to a fulltime writing career. Salter’s potent, lyrical prose has earned him acclaim from critics, readers, and fellow novelists. His novel A Sport and a Pastime (1 ...more
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“Miyata was fluent and intelligent. Nothing was beyond his curiosity. He seemed to be above the confusion of life, as if he had been commissioned to spend his own in undisturbed judgement of the world about him, protected always by a mandate from the gods. They spoke briefly of Korea and then of the past war with the United States. Miyata had been in Japan for its entire duration and must have been deeply affected, but when he talked about it, it was without bitterness. Wars were not of his doing. He considered them almost poetically, as if they were seasons, the cruel winters of man, even though almost all the work he had done in the 1930s and early 1940s had been lost when his house was burned in the great incendiary raid of 1944. He described the night vividly, the endless hours, the bombers thundering low over the storms of fire.” 0 likes
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