American novelist James Salter dies – BBC News

James Salter at his home in Bridgehampton, New York - 30 March 2005

James Salter was greatly admired by fellow writers but gained little commercial success

American author James Salter, who was often dubbed the “greatest writer you’ve never read,” has died aged 90.

Several famous writers were among his fans, including Philip Roth and Joseph Heller, but he never converted critical acclaim into commercial success.

A former US fighter pilot, he flew in the Korean War alongside future astronaut Buzz Aldrin, who became the second man to walk on the moon.

He died on Friday at a gym near his New York state home, his publisher said.

Salter wrote his first novel, The Hunters, in 1956 during the Korean War and became known for exploring masculine themes like conflict – provoking comparisons to Ernest Hemingway.

Speaking to the BBC in 2013, he said: “Having been to war satisfies a certain classical definition of manhood. To have seen war is some kind of pillar of manhood, and I felt that at the time.”

The Hunters was made into a Hollywood film in 1958 starring Robert Mitchum but his five later novels received far less attention.

He published his final novel, All That Is, two years ago at the age of 87. It was his first for nearly 30 years and it made the New York Times best-seller list – but only for a week.

It might have fell short of the popular success he craved, says the BBC’s Nick Bryant in New York, but the critical adulation cemented his reputation as a writer’s writer, almost without peer.

Fellow novelist Richard Ford wrote in 1975: “It is an article of faith among readers of fiction that James Salter writes American sentences better than anybody writing today.”


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