David Healey, an author specializing in historical fiction and Chesapeake Bay regional history has provided us with a piece on the passing of the author of “the Blue Max,” Jack Hunter. He also maintains “David’s Blog” and he has allowed us to publish this piece here on Someone Noticed, as well. Thanks David.
by David Healey
“He took the Fokker to three thousand meters, nearly breathless with the speed of the climb. The long flat rays of the sun were deep gold, and the earth was a mosaic of sharply contrasted yellows and purples. The rich, sweet exhaust mixture coming back from the engine was, in the high coolness, an ambrosia …”
That’s a description in the 1964 novel “The Blue Max” of future German ace Bruno Stachel taking his first flight in a Fokker D-7 over the battlefields of Europe during World War I. That war, the descriptions, even the biplane are very real – it’s Stachel who is the stuff of fiction, but certainly a memorable character.
He came from the mind of Jack D. Hunter, a former Cecil County resident whose novel featuring Stachel became a 20th Century Fox movie. Local residents and visitors to Chesapeake City may be familiar with The Blue Max bed and breakfast at the corner of Bohemia Avenue and Second Street. The impressive, three-story structure was so named by Jack and Tommie Hunter, who renovated the building and opened a shop there in the 1970s. The Hunters later lived in Chesapeake Isle overlooking the water.
Sadly, Jack passed away this week in St. Augustine, Fla., where he moved around 1980. According to the Associated Press, he was 87 and had served during World War II as an espionage agent behind German lines.
I never met Jack in person, but I got to know him through phone calls and e-mails over the years, starting back when I was researching him for a series called “Cecil County’s Most Famous.” Of course, I had read his wonderful novel years before (and seen the movie starring George Peppard, James Mason and Ursula Andress – can you say hubba hubba!)
Jack had a lifelong enthusiasm for writing fiction – he continued to publish novels with major publishers into his eighties and kept a blog on writing- but his passion later in life was painting. He captured on canvas many of the dogfight scenes he imagined and that surely inspired “The Blue Max,” “The Tin Cravat,” “The Blood Order” and other novels. It almost doesn’t seem fair that such a gifted writer would also be blessed with a gift for painting. But that was Jack Hunter for you, a multi-talented individual.
The last time I talked with Jack was right around when the film “Flyboys” came out. (The film starred James Franco as an American pilot who joined the Lafayette Squadron to fight for France.) I told him it was high time for a remake of “The Blue Max” – and Jack agreed. He said there had been some talk about that happening.
Compared to “Flyboys,” his WWI story is far grittier and focused in its conflict between the ambitious Stachel and the aristocratic Wilhelm Von Klugermann. With today’s superior special effects, the original film would adapt well to a new version. If we’re lucky, we’ll see it hit the screen someday. Until then, we’ll always have “The Blue Max.” The novel is a finely told story and the film is a classic war movie.
Jack Hunter was surely one of “Cecil County’s Most Famous” and we’re lucky that some small part of his legacy lives on with the name of “The Blue Max” in Chesapeake City.