James Salter Biography


James Salter (born James Horowitz) moved with his family to New York City when he was two. His father had attended West Point and later the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and became an engineer and real estate broker. James went to a number of city schools but spent his high school years at Horace Mann, a prep school in Riverdale. He was accepted at both MIT and Stanford but also took the exam for West Point as a favor to his father. He was accepted and entered West Point in 1942. He graduated in 1945 and missed action during World War II. He joined the Air Force and for the next dozen years remained in the service, at first flying routine assignments in the Pacific but later serving in the Korean War as a fighter pilot, in which he flew more than a hundred missions. After the war he was stationed both in the United States and in Germany with a fighter squadron.{$S[A]Horowitz, James;Salter, James}

In 1951 Salter married Ann Altemus (they were divorced in 1975), and the first of their four children, a daughter, Allan, was born in 1955—she died in an accident in 1980. Another daughter, Nina, was born in 1957 and finally the twins, Claude and James, in 1962. In 1957 Salter resigned his commission—he was a major—to devote himself to writing, which with some brief interludes he was able to pursue more or less full time.

In 1976 Salter began living with Kay Eldredge, with whom he had a son, Theo, in 1985, and whom he married in 1998. In 1997 he published Burning the Days, a series of recollections. Salter received a number of literary awards, including the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters Award in 1982, the PEN/Faulkner Award in 1989, and the John Steinbeck Award in 1989.

Salter’s first two novels were based on his years in the Air Force, first his experiences as a combat flyer in Korea (The Hunters) and later his tour of duty in peacetime Germany (The Arm of Flesh). The Hunters follows the brief career of Cleve Seville (Connell in the later edition), an F-86 pilot who must confront his ambition for personal glory and honor against the backdrop of aerial combat in the Korean skies. Frustrated by the easy achievements of a fellow pilot, Ed Pell, Seville discovers a more authentic vision of himself. After he is shot down, Seville does win a kind of fame when, during an interview on getting his “ace,” Pell acknowledges that Seville taught him everything he knew.

The Arm of Flesh was originally written as a novel told from multiple perspectives, rather like William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying (1930). Salter used seventeen different narrators, most of whom speak only once....

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(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

James Salter was born James Horowitz on June 10, 1925, in New York City. He attended Georgetown University and graduated from West Point. After graduation, he became a U.S. Air Force pilot and served on active duty from 1945 until 1957, when he resigned to devote his time to writing. Salter married Ann Altemus in 1951; they had four children before divorcing in 1975. He began living with Kay Eldredge in 1976, and in 1985 they had a son; Salter and Eldredge married in 1998.

With his first novel, The Hunters, Salter drew directly on his military experience in describing Air Force fighter pilots during the Korean War. In 1961, his next novel, The Arm of Flesh, returned to the milieu of fighter pilots, but its protagonists are a lost pair of pilots in peacetime in a troubled Germany. In 1967, Salter published A Sport and a Pastime, which is set in a very different world—that of the French bourgeoisie; it deals with two young lovers and stresses the inevitability of fate. In 1975, he published an ambitious and different type of novel: Light Years is an analysis of the breakup of a supposedly perfect marriage, done in the manner of F. Scott Fitzgerald. In Solo Faces Salter returned to his studies of aloof warriors who live by a very specific code, but this time the area of action is mountain climbing.


(Short Stories for Students)

James Salter was born James Horowitz on June 10, 1925, in Passaic, New Jersey, but he was raised in New York City. Educated at the U.S....

(The entire section is 452 words.)