James Norman Hall Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

James Norman Hall, pilot in the famed Lafayette Escadrille, was a prolific author of fiction and nonfiction works. His and coauthor Charles Nordhoff’s most popular genre was adventure novels, many of which were serialized in magazines. The most notable, the Bounty trilogy, provided themes for three films of the same name.{$S[A]Gravel, Fern;Hall, James Norman}

Hall was one of five children born to Arthur Wright Hall and Ella Anette Young Hall in the small community of Colfax, Iowa. After graduating from high school, Hall worked in a clothing store and began writing poetry, a passion he would pursue throughout life. In 1910 he graduated from Grinnell College and moved to Boston. Working for the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, he also attended evening classes at Harvard University and continued to write.

Uncertain about a career, Hall sailed to England in May, 1914, planning to tour the countryside and seek poetic inspiration. Instead he learned on August 8 that World War I had begun. Ten days later, posing as a Canadian because the British were not accepting American volunteers, he joined the 9th Battalion, Royal Fusiliers. His unit reached France in May, 1915, and saw action in the Battle of Loos.

In November, 1915, Hall learned his father was seriously ill. Denied leave, he admitted he was an American citizen and was discharged, his commander suggesting he reenlist after visiting his family. Shortly after reaching Boston, Hall was asked by The Atlantic Monthly for a series of articles about the war. He agreed and returned to Colfax for several months. The articles later became part of his first book, Kitchener’s Mob.

Hall decided to reenlist as a stretcher bearer in the British medical corps, but Ellery Sedgwick, editor of The Atlantic Monthly, asked for three articles on the new flying corps, the Lafayette Escadrille. Although he knew little about aviation, Hall agreed and went to Paris to meet several Lafayette pilots and Dr. Edmund Gros, one of the founders of the unit. Gros suggested that Hall enlist in the...

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(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Briand, Paul L., Jr. In Search of Paradise: The Nordhoff-Hall Story. New York: Duell, Sloan & Pearce, 1966. A dual biography, primarily based on materials from Hall, his family, and friends.

Flammer, Philip M. The Vivid Air: The Lafayette Escadrille. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1981. A detailed account of this elite unit.

Gordon, Dennis. The Lafayette Flying Corps. Atglen, Pa.: Schiffer, 2000. Biographies of 269 American volunteers in the French Air Service during World War I, including Hall and Nordhoff.

Hartney, Harold E. Up and at ’em. Edited by Stanley M. Ulanoff. Reprint. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1971. Originally published in 1940. This work has important specifics, such as Hartney’s description of Hall’s last dogfight.

Hudson, James J. Hostile Skies: A Combat History of the American Air Service in World War I. Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press, 1968. Detailed account of the combat experiences of the American Air Service, of which Hall was a senior member.

Rickenbacker, Eddie V. Fighting the Flying Circus. 1919. Reprint. New York: Avon Books, 1967. Memoir by the United States’ most noted World War I ace and Hall’s colleague.