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James Jones Biography

(1921–77), From Here to Eternity, The Pistol, The Thin Red Line, The Merry Month of May

American novelist, born in Robinson, Illinois. Jones served in the US Army in the Pacific during 193944, an experience which informs his most famous novel, From Here to Eternity (1951), and two later novels, The Pistol (1958) and The Thin Red Line (1962). From 1958 to 1974 he lived in Paris, and wrote a novel about the May 1968 riots, The Merry Month of May (1971). Jones was never to match the authoritative intimacy and scope of his portrait of army life in From Here to Eternity, which has been compared with Norman Mailer's The Naked and the Dead (1948), and was made into a popular film, directed by Fred Zinneman, starring Burt Lancaster, Deborah Kerr, Montgomery Clift, and Frank Sinatra. The novel is set in an army barracks on the eve of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, but is not strictly a war novel. It uses the impending arena of battle as the setting for the conflict of individualism between its central characters, Private Robert E. Lee Prewitt (named after the Confederate general) and Sergeant Milton Warden, whose job it is to enforce the military orthodoxies of absolute loyalty and service to the system. It is a novel of brutal events, of moral and sexual betrayal, ending in suicide and murder. Jones's other works are the novels Some Came Running (1958), Go to the Widow-Maker (1967), A Touch of Danger (1973), and Whistle (19748); The Ice-Cream Headache and Other Stories (1968); and his diary of a visit to Vietnam in 1973, Viet Journal (1974).

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Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Tama Janowitz Biography to P(atrick) J(oseph Gregory) Kavanagh Biography