Posthumously published works regularly make their way onto bookshelves: authors pass away and leave nearly finished novels and memoirs in the hands of their estates. Given the processes of publishing, it's not uncommon for a book to debut a year--or even five years--after a writer has died.
But when a collection debuts more than sixty years after it was initially written, and more than thirty years after the author's death—that is a major event.
Recognized by The New York Times as “one of the significant writers of his generation,” James Jones (1921-1977) is best known as the author of From Here to Eternity, which was reissued to great acclaim with previously censored scenes and dialogue earlier this year.
The interrelated stories and charactersin To the End of the War were initially developed by Jones as his first, unpublished novel, They Shall Inherit the Laughter. Set during World War II, the autobiographical work caught the attention of legendary Scribner editor Maxwell Perkins, who ultimately felt the reading public was not ready for such provocative themes. In the introduction to “Night Train,” Hendrick writes: “Maxwell Perkins had an inkling that Jones was giving a realistic picture of his world in late 1943, but he was unable to help Jones reshape his story. Perkins timidly believed the American public was not interested in Jones’s subject and that civilians and military people would have been insulted by the presentations. Perkins was probably wrong.”
At Perkins’s encouragement, Jones shelved the project and developed From Here to Eternity,which went on to win the National Book Award. His later novels, Some Came Running (1957), Pistol (1958), The Thin Red Line (1962), and Whistle(1978) solidified Jones’s reputation as one of the most accomplished authors of the World War II generation.
Now, some sixty years later, these stories have been published for the first time, featuring an illustrated biography of Jones that includes rare photographs from the author’s estate.
To the End of the Warcontains twelve never-before-published stories by James Jones.Edited and with introductory material by George Hendrick, stories in To the End of the War--from “Night Train” to “Johnny Meets Sandy”--stand as testaments to Jones’s remarkable talent, evident from the start of his career. His themes remain as prescient today as they were in 1943. Whether examining the mistreatment of wounded men who were declared fit for additional combat service, portraying anti-Semitism in the Army, or challenging the prevailing conventional wisdom about other large American institutions, Jones “did not worship sacred cows,” according to Hendrick.
We are fortunate to finally have the opportunity to read the first works of one of the preeminent American writers of the twentieth century.