Sergeant Salinger – Jerome Charyn

Published By: No Exit Press
Pages: 290
Released On: 21/10/2021

J.D Salinger, mysterious author of The Catcher In The Rye, is remembered today as a reclusive misanthrope. Jerome Charyn’s Salinger is a young American WwII draftee assigned to the Counter Intelligence Corps, a band of secret soldiers who trained with the British. A rifleman and an interrogator, he witnessed all the horrors of the war – from the landing on D-Day to the relentless hand-to-hand combat in the hedgerows of Normandy, to the Battle of the Bulge, and finally to the first Allied entry into a Bavarian death camp, where corpses were piled like cordwood.

After the way, interned in a Nuremberg psychiatric clinic, Salinger becomes enchanted with a suspected Nazi informant. They married, but not long after he brought her home to New York, the marriage collapsed. Maladjusted to civilian life, he lived like a spook, with invisible stripes on his shoulder, the ghosts of the murdered inside his head and stories to tell.


Thanks to No Exit Press for the advanced copy of this title in return for an honest review.

Surprisingly, I’ve not read any of Charyn’s previous work, but from what I’ve seen, he is a literary force to be reckoned with. Combine that with JD Salinger and you’ve got the recipe for an excellent book.

This gives a fictional look into, not only JD Salinger, but names like Ernest Hemingway, Oona O’Neill, Walter Winchell, Charlie Chaplin, and Theodore Roosevelt Jr. Whilst I am aware it is a fictionalised account, it reads as truth, and you can see how Salinger’s time in the war would affect his writings. There’s a tremendous amount of research gone into this to ensure the fiction is backed up by the facts and true events.

It must be difficult to write about World War 2 in a unique way – as sad as it seems, nothing shocks us now, we’ve heard it all. But by using a point of view of the well-loved character of Salinger, Charyn gives a more personal insight into the fighting, and the aftermath. 

The middle 50-60% of the book is focussed on the actual war, and as much as that made for interesting reading and I enjoyed it, I actually preferred the chapters before and after, giving a real sense of the innocent Salinger as well as how the war affected him as a person and a writer.

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