Tuesday, November 6, 2012

James Jones wrote From Here to Eternity

James Jones
It is the birthday of writer James Jones (1921), whose first published novel, From Here to Eternity (1951), was an instant bestseller and won the National Book Award in 1952. The book was based on Jones' experiences in Hawaii just before the beginning of World War II. It was adapted as a film in 1953 starring Burt Lancaster, Montgomery Cliff, Deborah Kerr, Frank Sinatra, and Donna Reed.

The book was the first part of a war trilogy Jones planned to write. The second book, The Thin Red Line (1962) was based on his combat experiences on Guadalcanal during the war. Jones had killed off one of the four main characters in the first book, so he changed the names of the characters and continued the story. The book was lauded for its realistic portrayal of life on the front lines. The title comes from Rudyard Kipling's poem Tommy. it was adapted for film twice: first in 1964, starring Keir Dullea and Jack Warden, and then in 1998, starring Sean Penn and Nick Nolte.

The final book in the trilogy, Whistle (1978), was published after Jones' death. The final chapter was completed by Mississippi writer Willie Morris based on extensive notes by the author and taped conversations with him. Though, once again, the characters have different names, it is the continuation of Jones' narrative from the beginning book. Whistle is set in a fictional veterans hospital in Tennessee and is based on Jones' experience after the war.

Critics brutally attacked Jones' second published novel, Some Came Running (1957), which told the story of an Army veteran who returns to his hometown after World War II. Jones experimented with a colloquial narrative style that apparently didn't sit well with critics. The work was based on an unpublished first novel, They Shall Inherit the Laughter, he had abandoned before starting From Here to Eternity. Still, Some Came Running was adapted as a film as well, starring Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Shirley MacLaine.

Jones also wrote The Pistol (1959), Go to the Widow-Maker (1967), The Ice-Cream Headache and Other Stores (1968), The Merry Month of May (1971), A Touch of Danger (1973), Viet Journal (1974), and WW II (1975).

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