June 23rd, 2015

Husky Airways

Salter Buys the Farm

I have only just found out that author James Salter died on Friday.

He was so full of life when I saw him at the South Bank a couple of years ago that I was surprised and shocked by this news, even though he was 90.

I read an interview with an author recently in which she described attending the same event, and observed that almost everyone in the signing queue was also an author. (Including me! Obviously!) To be a writer respected and looked up to by other writers is to be something very special, and Salter was.

I enjoyed his swansong, All That Is, which has possibly the highest sex content of anything ever written by an author in their late 80s, but it is The Hunters, his story of the Korean air war, steeped in sweat and oxygen, that I will be revisiting over a drink.

From my account of seeing him in 2013:

"Have you had that much sex?" asked the interviewer.

"More," Salter replied.

Then he read a passage about blow jobs which was easily the best depiction of oral sex in literature I have ever encountered.

Afterwards I queued to have my paperback Hunters signed. Handing it over, I blurted out "What was it like flying Sabres?", a topic mysteriously not covered during the interview or subsequent Q&A.

"Oh, I can't tell you in one word," he said. "It's a kick, that's what it is. It's wonderful."

What a guy.