Jack D. Hunter dies at 87; author of WWI aviation novel 'The Blue Max'

Jack D. Hunter, an author whose World War I aviation novel "The Blue Max" was made into a film in the 1960s, died Monday in St. Augustine, Fla., after a battle with cancer. He was 87.

Hunter had worked as a writing coach at the Florida Times-Union and the St. Augustine Record after moving to Florida in 1980.

"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 said. "His story moves fast and includes much tersely eloquent conversation."

Hunter wrote 16 more novels. The final one, "The Ace," about American pilots in World War I, was published last fall.

Jack Dayton Hunter was born June 4, 1921, in Hamilton, Ohio, and earned a bachelor's degree in journalism at Penn State University in 1943.

His own dreams of flying were thwarted because he was colorblind. But because he had studied German as a teenager, the Army sent him to postwar Germany as a counterintelligence agent, an experience that became the basis of his second novel, "The Expendable Spy."

After his 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.

Tommy Hunter died in November 2006. After her death, he started a regular blog on his website,, where he announced his retirement 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; a brother; and three grandchildren.