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The Hunters
James Salter
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The Hunters

4.1  ·  Rating Details ·  1,048 Ratings  ·  157 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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May 17, 2011 Eric rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Philippe Malzieu
Jun 15, 2015 Philippe Malzieu rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
After the triumph of "All that is" in France, L'olivier, the french editor decided to translate the first Slater's novel.
Just in time.
Salter is really a geant. In Japan, he will be considered as a "lived historical monument"
All his genius is in this first book.
Sep 02, 2010 Tom rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: american-novel
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
Daniel Villines
Feb 05, 2016 Daniel Villines rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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. The Hunters satisfies.

At face value, Salter tells the story of jet fighter pilot who volunteers for a tour of duty during the Korean War. The ground story takes place at an Air Force base in South Korea where interceptor missions are flown routinely into the North to destroy North Korean fighter jets.

The story tells of a unique time in our history with fig
Jan 22, 2014 Keith rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, 2014
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
Sep 15, 2008 Leslie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: flying
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
Nov 29, 2014 Justin rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adventure
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
Apr 21, 2012 Ron rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 11, 2013 P rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 15, 2015 GymGuy rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: military, koreanwar
This book proves to me that there is far more to a book than prose or profundity. I will have to admit that the prose and flow was beautiful. People have compared Salter to Hemingway. I'm not going to go nearly that far. As the review from Justin indicates, this story has a rather weak plot and is no more than a beautifully written pissing contest between a bunch of guys seeking to be ace pilots. Perhaps that's the goal: to say that there is little heroism in war and only hell and death. I'm not ...more
Tyler Jones
Jul 28, 2014 Tyler Jones rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: war-fiction
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
Dec 07, 2015 Scottnshana rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I am fascinated by MiG Alley. We have an airport in my hometown named after Colonel James Jabara, one of those F-86 aces that this novel describes so richly. I am also fascinated by John Boyd, who I regard as one of the greatest thinkers the U.S. Air Force ever produced, and many historians believe he collected many of his insights flying the Wingman position on these missions over the Yalu. Honestly, I didn't know this superb novel existed until it appeared on the Air Force Chief of Staff's 201 ...more
This debut novel about an Air Force fighter pilot in the Korean War was heavily based on Salter's own experiences. He flew a hundred F-86 missions during his 1952 tour and kept a detailed diary, which he drew heavily upon for the book. The story revolves around a seasoned pilot with a good reputation who is assigned to a combat zone for the first time. Although confident of his abilities and eager to prove himself, it's hard to become an ace (a designation awarded after five confirmed "kills") w ...more
May 28, 2013 Paul rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 04, 2013 Edward rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 16, 2013 Dave rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
John Alt
May 05, 2013 John Alt rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 22, 2015 Nick rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I ordered this praying to a god unknown that it not be as terse as Hemingway, and I was happy to find that Salter isn't afraid of a little polish. I'd seen Salter's writing referred to as "spare and elegant" and that's spot-on. It's a lean little book, but he doesn't skimp at all on pretty descriptions of cities, countrysides, and of course bad-ass jet fighters.

At first I was bored with the characterization, but 2/5 of the way in, the pilots really started to shine. By the end of the book, the s
Hetal Shah
Jan 24, 2014 Hetal Shah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 22, 2013 Rich rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Rich by: Bash
James Salter's The Hunters is a very good book. Unfortunately, I picked it up just prior to moving, but if my time were mine it would have been read quite quickly. Salter was a previous Air Force pilot and officer, but even still I was surprised to find The Hunters so genuine and free of unrealistic banter. I particularly liked this...
Being in a squadron was a digest of life. You were a child when you joined. There was endless opportunity, and everything was new. Gradually, almost unknowingly, t
Sep 02, 2015 James rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 12, 2016 Brian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was a pleasant surprise. I read it after reading an obituary of the author, who died last year. The Hunters is a clearly written story about fighter pilots in Korea, their skills and insecurities, and the desire to become an "ace" who has shot down five enemy planes.

The main character is an experienced pilot, considered one of the best, who is surpassed by a callow jet jockey until he gets his moment. It's a great read and a revealing look at the world of pilots at war.
Feb 27, 2013 Michael rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Geoffrey Benn
Feb 16, 2015 Geoffrey Benn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
“The Hunters,” by James Salter, is a beautifully written novel about American fighter pilots during the Korean War. The lead character, Captain Connell, comes to the war already a distinguished pilot, albeit one with no combat experience. Much of the book is concerned with his experiences and mental struggles with integrating into a new squadron and trying to uphold his reputation as a top pilot. While it does have a few exciting combat sequences, the book is primarily about developing the chara ...more
Pam Fraker
Sep 09, 2015 Pam Fraker rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting and unique book

Learned a lot about the human side of fighter pilots and the importance of kills to their self image.Generally quite interesting. A little longer than needed to capture a fighter pilots world.
Apr 12, 2015 Casey rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Written from the vantage of someone who's seen combat, "The Hunters" displays many of the emotions and self-doubt that can plague you.
Gregory Lamb
Jul 08, 2015 Gregory Lamb rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When Jets Were Young

It has been over sixty years since American pilots deployed to Korea to engage in aerial 174621combat at the dawn of the jet age. BBC aired a taped interview of author James Salter in memorial of his passing last month. During the interview, there was mention of the editorial review from "Washington Post Book World" about Mr. Salter's prose, "The contemporary writer most admired and envied by other writers. . . . He can . . . break your heart with a sentence." Having heard th
Nov 27, 2014 John rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
May 27, 2007 Casey rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
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James Salter (1925 - 2015) was 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 earned him acclaim from critics, readers, and fellow novelists. His novel A Sport and a Pastime ( ...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.” 1 likes
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