Credit: Shutterstock/J. D. Salinger

I am a kind of paranoid in reverse. I suspect people of plotting to make me happy

As the author of The Catcher in the Rye with its timeless main character, Holden Caulfield, J. D. Salinger marked his place in the literary world, and popular culture as a whole, for decades to come.

Jerome David Salinger had a privileged childhood in Manhattan, but moved schools often and struggled to fit in. He showed a flair for acting at school but his parents discouraged him from pursuing it. When they enrolled him in a military school he took to writing “under the covers, with the aid of a flashlight”. After graduating he started his first year at New York University but dropped out shortly afterwards.

He was encouraged by his father to learn about meat importing and spent time in Europe. However, he was so disgusted by visiting slaughterhouses that he had to leave the industry for good, later becoming a committed vegetarian. He flew from Austria just one month before it was annexed by Germany. He would return to Europe as part of the 12th Infantry Regiment and was at Utah Beach on D-Day, fighting at the Battle of the Bulge and the Battle of Hürtgen Forest. It was during the war that he became friends with Ernest Hemingway, who he remained in correspondence with for much of his life.

After the war, Salinger wrote numerous short stories with some success, along with the book that would make him a household name; The Catcher in the Rye. It was the story of a young man living in New York, who feared the war. His world weary, cynical attitude struck a chord with wider audiences, especially the youth of America. J. D. Salinger would later admit that it was, in part, inspired by his own life.