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James Jones (author)

James Jones
Born James Ramon Jones
(1921-11-06)November 6, 1921
Robinson, Illinois, U.S.
Died May 9, 1977(1977-05-09) (aged 55)
Southampton, New York, U.S.
Occupation Novelist, author
Nationality American
Period 1951 - 1975
Genre World War II fiction
Notable awards National Book Award
Military career
Allegiance  United States of America
Service/branch  United States Army
Years of service 1939-1944[1]
Rank Corporal
Battles/wars World War II
Awards Purple Heart

James Jones (November 6, 1921 – May 9, 1977) was an American author known for his explorations of World War II and its aftermath. He won the 1952 National Book Award for his first published novel, From Here to Eternity, which was adapted for the big screen immediately and made into a television series a generation later.


  • Life 1
  • Work 2
  • Bibliography 3
  • Adaptations 4
  • Notes 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7


James Ramon Jones was born and raised in Robinson, Illinois, the son of Ramon and Ada M. (née Blessing) Jones. He enlisted in the United States Army in 1939 and served in the 25th Infantry Division 27th Infantry Regiment before and during World War II, first in Hawaii at Schofield Barracks on Oahu, then in combat on Guadalcanal at the Battle of Mount Austen, the Galloping Horse, and the Sea Horse, where he injured his ankle. He returned to the US and was discharged in July 1944[2]He also worked as a journalist covering the Vietnam War.

His wartime experiences inspired some of his most famous works, the so-called war trilogy. He witnessed the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, which led to his first published novel, From Here to Eternity (1951). The Thin Red Line (1962) reflected his combat experiences on Guadalcanal and Whistle (posthumous, 1978) was based on his hospital stay in Memphis, Tennessee, recovering from surgery on an ankle he had reinjured on the island.[3]

Jones was the father of two children including Kaylie Jones, an author best known for A Soldier's Daughter Never Cries, a thinly veiled memoir of the Joneses' life in Paris during the 1960s. (The son Jamie Jones was adopted in France.) Ms. Jones' novel was made into a film starring Kris Kristofferson, Barbara Hershey and Leelee Sobieski in 1998. The release of this film, along with the 1998 release of a new film version of The Thin Red Line, directed by Terrence Malick and produced by Robert Michael Geisler and John Roberdeau, sparked a revival of interest in James Jones' life and works. In 2011, Ms. Jones was instrumental in publishing an uncensored edition of James Jones' From Here to Eternity.[4][5]

Jones assisted in the 1950 formation of the Handy Writers' Colony in Marshall, Illinois, by his then-lover Lowney Handy and her husband Harry Handy. It was funded partly by Harry and, after the financial success of From Here To Eternity, partly by Jones. Originally conceived as a Utopian commune where budding artists could focus exclusively on their writing projects, the colony dissolved after only a few years, because James Jones relocated to France following his marriage to Gloria Mosolino after a fight with Lowney leaving the colony back in a financially compromised situation in 1957.[6]

Jones died in Southampton, New York of congestive heart failure and is buried in Poxabogue-Evergreen Cemetery, Bridgehampton, New York. His papers are now held at the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin. His widow, Gloria, died on June 9, 2006.[7] Many of James Jones's books are still available in digital format including excerpts from "They Shall Inherit the Laughter," published as "To the End of the War."[5]


Jones called his first novel They Shall Inherit the Laughter. It was a thinly disguised autobiographical novel of his experiences in Robinson immediately after World War II. After several rejections —with various complaints and claims about the work being too shrill and lacking perspective— he abandoned it and began writing From Here to Eternity.

Charles Scribner's Sons published Eternity in 1951, and it won the annual U.S. National Book Award for Fiction.[8][1] The Modern Library Board later named it one of the 100 best novels of the 20th century.[9]

His second published novel, Some Came Running (1957), had its roots in the abandoned first effort. In contrast to Eternity, it was savaged by critics. They were especially harsh about the frequently misspelled words and punctuation errors; they didn't recognize that such elements were a conscious style choice by Jones to evoke the provinciality of the novel's characters and setting. Jones apparently played around with this style in several short stories written at about the same time as Some Came Running (later collected in The Ice-Cream Headache and Other Stories), only to abandon it by the time he finished The Thin Red Line in 1962, in favor of the blunt but more grammatically sound style most associated with him today. Some Came Running was immediately adapted as a film starring Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Shirley MacLaine, which was critically acclaimed and nominated for several Oscars.

His novella The Pistol (1959) was drawn from his military experience, unlike From Here to Eternity and The Thin Red Line.

Jones did not live long enough to see the completion of his last novel, Whistle. (He knew he was dying of congestive heart failure while writing it.) However, he left behind copious notes for Willie Morris to complete the final section after his death, and Whistle was published a year later, in 1978. That completed Jones' war trilogy (the first parts being From Here to Eternity and The Thin Red Line), of which he wrote: "It will say just about everything I have ever had to say, or will ever have to say, on the human condition of war and what it means to us, as against what we claim it means to us."[10]



From Here to Eternity was adapted as a film of the same name in 1953; as a television miniseries of the same name in 1979; as a TV series of the same name in 1980. A musical adaption of the book opened in London in 2013.[11]

Some Came Running was adapted as a 1958 film of the same name.

The Thin Red Line was adapted as 1964 and 1998 films of the same name.


  1. ^ Accepting a National Book Foundation Medal in 1993, Gore Vidal recounted (read by Harry Evans in his absence):
    "I did attend one of the first National Book Award Ceremonies 40 years ago. That was also my last experience of book prize giving. ...
    The Winner in fiction, was my old friend James Jones, From Here To Eternity. His victory was somewhat marred by Jean Stafford, one of the [five] judges, unlike our present distinguished company, who moved slowly, if unsurely, about the room, stopping before each notable to announce in a loud voice, "The decision was not unanimous."
    "National Book Awards Acceptance Speeches: Gore Vidal ...". National Book Foundation. Retrieved 2012-03-12.

2. Referenced in the novel "Deadeye Dick" by Kurt Vonnegut.


  1. ^ "Cpl James Ramon Jones". TogetherWeServed. 2015. Retrieved 2015-05-22. 
  2. ^
  3. ^ ''James Jones on Guadalcanal'' by RJ Blaskiewicz (PDF). Retrieved 2011-08-27. 
  4. ^ "Profanity and more to be found in uncensored 'From Here to Eternity' e-book". LA Times. 2011-04-05. Retrieved 2011-08-27. 
  5. ^ a b c Bosman, Julie (April 4, 2011). "Author’s Heirs Uncensor a Classic War Novel". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-08-28. 
  6. ^ The Handy Writers’ Colony, p. 2
  7. ^ Gloria Jones, 78, Hostess to the Literati, Dies, New York Times
  8. ^ "National Book Awards – 1952". National Book Foundation. Retrieved 2012-03-12.
    (With essay by Harold Augenbraum from the Awards 60-year anniversary blog.)
  9. ^ Modern Library. "100 Best Novels". Random House. Retrieved 2012-03-31.
  10. ^ Frank Trippett Books: G.I. Wounded Time, Mar. 13, 1978
  11. ^ "Tim Rice musical set for West End".  

External links

  • The James Jones Literary Society
  • James Jones Papers. Yale Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.
  • James Jones' Collection at the Harry Ransom Center at The University of Texas at Austin
  • Handy Writers' Colony Collection. Archives/Special Collections, Brookens Library, University of Illinois at Springfield.
  • "James Jones".  
  • Read Jones's interview with The Paris Review
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