- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 14, 2009

ST. AUGUSTINE, FLA. (AP) - Author Jack D. Hunter, whose World War I aviation novel “The Blue Max” was made into a film in the 1960s, has died. He was 87.

The Florida Times-Union, where Hunter had worked as a writing coach, said he died Monday in St. Augustine after a battle with cancer.

“The Blue Max,” published in 1964, was his first novel. It was about a German infantry corporal who joins that country’s air corps. He sets out to shoot down 20 enemy planes and win its highest honor, nicknamed “The Blue Max.”

The book was made into a 1966 movie starring George Peppard, James Mason and Ursula Andress.

The New York Times review of “The Blue Max” from March 1964 called the work a “briskly interesting first novel.”

“Jack D. Hunter, who served as an American agent behind the German lines in World War II, writes with impressive authority about Germans and with absolutely astounding authority about the combat airplanes of World War I,” the review stated. “His story moves fast and includes much tersely eloquent conversation.”

Hunter wrote 16 more novels and was honored as a “Literary Legend” by the Florida Heritage Book Festival. He also coached writers at the Times-Union and St. Augustine Record.

His final novel, “The Ace,” about American pilots in World War I was published last fall.

His own dreams of flying were thwarted because he was colorblind. But his fluency in German led the Army to send him to postwar Germany as a counterintelligence agent, an experience that became the basis of his second novel, “The Expendable Spy.”

After military service, Hunter went to work in Wilmington, Del., as a newspaper and radio reporter and later as a congressional aide. Eventually he joined DuPont, the Delaware-based industrial conglomerate, in public relations.

In 1961, the year he turned 40, he picked up a pen and started writing.

In 1980, he and his wife, Shirley, whom everybody called Tommy, moved to St. Augustine. While she operated a gift shop named The Blue Max, he wrote novels and turned his hobby of sketching vintage aircraft into a successful second career. He liked to call himself the “Grandma Moses of aviation art.”

Tommy Hunter died in November 2006. After her death, he wrote “The Ace” and started a regular blog on his Web site, https://www.jackhunter.com.

Hunter announced his retirement on his blog on March 27.

“It’s been a real trip, folks, but I’m hanging up my spurs. I’ve enjoyed writing my blog, as I hope you’ve enjoyed reading it. But, due to my increasing physical weakness, it has become more of a burden than a pleasure, and it’s time, as the old cliche says, to exit stage right.”

Hunter 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 are incomplete. The funeral will be private.

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