Remembering James D. Hornfischer (1965-2021)

By Candice Chaplin | June 9 2021 | AuthorsNonfiction

Bestselling author, naval historian, and literary agent James D. Hornfischer passed away on Wednesday, June 2, surrounded by his family at his home in Austin, TX.  He was 55 years old. 

Hornfischer was the author of four critically acclaimed, bestselling books of World War II naval history, the culmination of a lifelong interest in World War II in the Pacific, all published by Bantam Books: The Fleet at Flood TideNeptune’s InfernoShip of Ghostsand The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors. He had just completed the first in a planned three-volume work on the U.S. Navy in the Cold War, Who Can Hold the Sea, which will be published posthumously by Bantam in 2022.

“Jim had an unmatched ability to fuse the epic and the intimate, bringing great events thrillingly to life from the perspective of the participants, who trusted him to tell their stories with empathy and precision. His gorgeous prose was at once poetic and propulsive, authoritative and passionate. As well as missing an irreplaceable friend and author, we are mourning the brilliant books he had yet to write,” said Tracy Devine, former BBD executive editor who worked with Hornfischer on his first four Bantam titles.

The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors received the Samuel Eliot Morison Award for Naval Literature, among many honors Hornfischer was awarded for his body of work. Most recently, he received the Navy Distinguished Public Service Award, an honor presented to civilians for exceptionally outstanding service of substantial and long-term benefit to the Navy. It is the highest recognition that the Secretary of the Navy may pay to a civilian.

A native of Massachusetts and a graduate of Colgate University and the University of Texas School of Law, Hornfischer was a member of the Texas Institute of Letters, the Naval Order of the United States, and the Navy League.  A former book editor with HarperCollins, he was president of the literary agency Hornfischer Literary Management. He lived in Austin, Texas with his wife Sharon and their three children.

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