The Hunters

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by James Salter

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 his ability and his stomach for combat questioned by his fellow airmen: the brash wing commander, Imil; Captain Robey, an ace whose record is suspect; and finally, Lieutenant Pell, a cocky young pilot with an uncanny amount of skill and luck.

Disappointment and fear gradually erode Connell's faith in himself, and his dream of making ace seems to slip out of reach. Then suddenly, one dramatic mission above the Yalu River reveals the depth of his courage and honor.

Originally published in 1956, The Hunters was James Salter's first novel. Based on his own experiences as a fighter pilot in the Korean War, it is a classic of wartime fiction. Now revised by the author and back in print on the sixty-fifth anniversary of the Air Force, the story of Cleve Connell's war flies straight into the heart of men's rivalries and fears.

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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.

— James Salter, The Hunters