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Friday, June 10, 2016

Craftsmanship of the highest order

“Man was very fortunate to have invented the book. Without it, the past would completely vanish, and we would be left with nothing, we would be naked on earth.” James Salter

Born on this date in 1925, James Salter was the pen name for James Arnold Horowitz.   He later adopted Salter as his legal name.  A writing “craftsman” of the highest order, Salter wrote both novels and short stories and was renowned for his ability to write beautiful prose.  His friend and fellow author, the Pulitzer Prize-winner     
Richard Ford, noted, "It is an article of faith among readers of fiction that James Salter writes American sentences better than anybody writing today."

Also known as a great “selector” of character names, Salter once noted, “There are writers for whom names mean nothing; everybody could be called John and Elizabeth, and the writing would be just as good.  But, to me, a name is like a piece of clothing.   It gives you an impression right away.”

The son of a career military officer, Salter followed his father to West Point and moved to the Air Force when it became a separate military branch in the late 1940s.  He flew over 100 combat missions in the Korean War and wrote about it in his first novel, the best-selling The Hunters.  Made into a highly acclaimed movie, it also made actor Robert Mitchum a star.

Salter, who died at age 90, wrote 20 best-sellers, including All That Is, at age 88, and Solo Faces, that grew out of a film script rejected by Robert Redford.  Salter was a fairly successful screenwriter, including the film Downhill Racer, but he preferred writing books, and noted,  “The writers of books are companions in one's life and, as such, are often more interesting than any other companions.”  

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