Archive of Reader Reactions & Anecdotes

Articles about Jack from The St. Augustine Record

From the Op-Ed page of The St Augustine Record:

Jack Hunter was about telling the story
Posted: Saturday, April 18, 2009

Novelist Jack Hunter was already a celebrated author when he walked into the newsrooms at The Florida Times-Union and The St. Augustine Record as the writing coach, one of the first writing coaches in newspapers around the country nearly 30 years ago.

Coach, a reader might ask? You mean you have editors and then you have coaches, too? Many of us in both newspapers asked the same thing. But once the sessions got going, we realized the great benefit of the experience. Having Hunter, the author of The Blue Max, help improve the writing, the story and the editing was the best of professional development opportunities.

Hunter took his coaching role seriously. He saw his work as helpful to the future of newspapers. He didn’t use a loud speaker or coach from a tower. He sat at the table, eye to eye with the reporter or editor, marked up copy in hand and a soothing voice. He didn’t want to invoke fear or convey disappointment. He just wanted to make each reporter and editor better for the experience to benefit the readers. He not only probed the way a story was written. He got into the “why” part. He wanted reporters and editors to think about their audiences as they tapped the keys, not writing to the big shots on the beat but rather to that everyday reader who picked up the newspaper to be enlightened, informed or just plain entertained.

He liked quotes that put the reader in the story, the action, the give and take. He groaned over general government stories that started out, “The City Commission on Monday adopted the budget based on 7 mills of taxes for next year.” He wanted action. He wanted a story. He did not want the minutes of the meeting.

Jack Hunter died on April 13 after a battle with cancer. With 16 novels published since 1964, his memory will live on with readers around the world. While his byline is not on any Record stories, those who benefitted from his coaching show it in the work they do every day.

To his family, we say thanks for sharing Jack with us and the world.


JACK HUNTER 1921 - 2009

Famous local was author of “The Blue Max”
By PETER GUINTA | peter.guinta@staugustine.com
Posted: Tuesday, April 14, 2009

U.S. Army Lt. Jack D. Hunter was driving a Jeep through the Tyrol Mountains in Germany just after World War II when he passed an American-run prisoner camp holding captured Nazi soldiers. In one corner of the fence he saw a boy of about 12 all by himself, wearing a German uniform, crying and calling for his mother.

That disturbing image remained with the kind-hearted Hunter, and that, plus the myriad other horrors he witnessed during the war, may have been the source of the sorrow, depression and emotional isolation of some characters in his 17 novels.

Hunter wrote the best-selling novel The Blue Max a few years after the war, exploring all those dark emotions.

Early Monday morning, Hunter, 87, a St. Augustine resident for 30 years, died at his Hypolita Street home after a long illness, even while another novel exploring love and war was hatching in his mind.

The Blue Max explored the effects of glory and war on a person’s psyche, and he did the same in 2008 with The Ace, his final book and the only one he self-published.

In between, several of his 15 other novels, such as Spies, Inc., were optioned to be filmed but never were.

As a result of The Blue Max being filmed and successful in 1966, Hunter was courted by Hollywood.

The film, starring George Peppard and Ursula Andress, was a hit though some reviews called it “soapy” and Hunter himself hated the script, casting, plot changes and historical accuracy of the final product.

But there was little he could do. He had turned down an offer to do the screenplay.

Stachel survives in the novel but dies in the film.

Hunter’s next two novels, The Blood Order and The Tin Cravat were to be part of the “Max” trilogy, but were never optioned.

He had many writing friends. Novelist Randy Cribbs said, “When I first met Jack, I stumbled and bumbled like the teenager I had been 40 plus years earlier when I read his first book. That’s what genuine admiration can do to you. Someone once said ‘choose an author as you would a good friend.’ I did that long ago but only became aware of it a few short years ago when Jack and I became friends. Recently when I asked Jack to sign his new book ‘The Ace,’ he wrote ‘From one warrior to another.’ It was a short phrase that impacted me beyond words. Great writers can do that, writers like Jack.”

In addition to writing, Hunter also was a self-taught artist who painted detailed and accurate scenes of World War I combat planes and aerial battles.

“Not a typical dad”

His daughter, Lee Higgins, 63, of Middletown, Del., a retired teacher, said her father took a correspondence course in art and one of his first works became the jacket cover for The Blue Max.

He was “very work-oriented. He was not a typical dad. I never saw him watch TV,” she said. “We had a fascinating childhood, and lively, colorful people and many friends came to our home. (But) the longest we (lived) anywhere is two years. Dad was always getting promoted and transferred.”

During those years, Hunter was editor of DuPont Magazine. At night, he wrote the manuscript for The Blue Max while his family slept. He later said that habit always left him sleep-deprived the next day.

Higgins said, “He told me that to be a good writer, there has to be a lot of solitary time. We all just accepted that. We were not deprived.”

Hunter was born June 4, 1921 in Hamilton, Ohio, the son of Whitney G. and Irene Dayton Hunter. According to family history, Hunter’s mother took him to a screening of the movie Wings in 1927 and Hunter’s desire to fly began at that moment. But he was color-blind and could never get a pilot’s license.

In 1943, he graduated with a degree in journalism from Penn State University, earning his way by playing piano, which he taught himself. He joined the infantry, but was transferred to counter-intelligence because he spoke fluent German.

He spent the war behind the lines.

Helped arrest 1,000 Nazis

After the war, U.S. intelligence learned that hundreds of Nazi officers had gone underground to create “a Nazi sedition” on whatever German government was installed. To find them, Hunter went underground too, disguised as a Lithuanian mobster. “Operation Nursery” was his organized sting that resulted in 1,000 Nazis being arrested in a single night. For that, Hunter was awarded a Bronze Star for meritorious service and valor.

Higgins said her father named the sting after the birth of his twin daughters while he was in Germany.

The screenplay was written by a veteran Hollywood screenwriter, Ben Barzman, who died in 1989.

During the 1980s, Hunter became a writing coach for reporters working at the Florida Times-Union and St. Augustine Record. His wife, Shirley “Tommy” Thompson Hunter, died in 2006.

Hunter was also a dedicated blogger, with 14,000 readers of the blog all over the world.

In August 2008, during a ceremony declaring Hunter, Stetson Kennedy and Patrick Smith as “Literary Legends,” Hunter felt humbled. He told the audience, “There really aren’t words that can convey my gratitude” for the honor. He called the life of a writer “isolated, lonely ... with very little understanding,” thus causing them to be “somewhat isolated.”

His administrative assistant, Jonni Anderson of St. Augustine, said, “Ever since Jack became ill, I’ve been getting e-mails from people who say Jack changed their lives. He was much more than an author. He was a truly good man. He was a class act.”

The last entry on his blog, April 8, was posted by Anderson, who told fans that Hunter was fading fast.

“Rejoice with me that we had the great good fortune to know him, to sit at his feet and learn, to groan over the awful puns, to grimace or grin at the way he twisted the English language to his own purposes,” she wrote. “He changed an awful lot of lives, and we’ll never know just how many.”

He is survived by four children: Jack Hunter Jr. and Jill Hunter of St. Augustine, Lee Higgins of Middletown, Del., and Lyn Cannon, of Solomons, Md.; three grandchildren; and his brother, Robert L. Hunter of Jacksonville.

Plans for a memorial service in Jacksonville are incomplete. The funeral will be private. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests contributions be made in Mr. Hunter’s name at the Community Hospice of Northeast Florida, 4266 Sunbeam Road, Jacksonville , Fl. 32257.

Books by Jack Hunter
The Blue Max
The Blood Order
The Tin Cravat
The Expendable Spy
One of Us Works for Them
Spies, Inc
The Terror Alliance
Florida is Closed Today
Judgment in Blood
The Flying Cross
The Potsdam Bluff
Tailspin
Sweeney’s Run
Slingshot
The Cure
Addie (written under the pen name “Lee Thompson”)
The Ace

Reader Comments

Posted by: indianatom at Apr. 16, 2009 at 5:59:50 pm

I worked with Jack on his last novel, The Ace. As his publisher it was an honor to have Jack on our list. Our editors adored him and reported that he was great to work with — a true pro. We will all miss Jack at Blue River Press.


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