James Salter: The Hunters

James Salter: The HuntersPenguin 2007 (originally published 1956)

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A ripping yarn set among the US fighter pilots in the Korean war. Apart from the passing references to Korean houseboys, and the fact that the dogfights take place over the river Yalu, there’s nothing to distinguish this novel plot-wise from your average Commando war mag. There’s the experienced and well-meaning flight commander who never quite gets the kills he should (has he lost his edge?); there’s the insufferably cocky wingman who deserts his leader to notch up a kill of his own (is he a good egg or not?); there’s the slimy ace whose kills are doubtful but he’s awarded them anyway (it’s good for morale). And there’s the seemingly invincible enemy leader who everyone wants to shoot down.

Like all the best disaster movies, you know who’s going to get killed next (you know, the slightly older, fatter guy who’s always looking at pictures of his kids and just wants to get back home). What’s slightly different about this book is the calm interlude when the hero takes a little break in Tokyo, and the high standard of the writing. All good entertaining stuff, and written with authority by a pilot who was there at the time.

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