Tom Wolfe, Pyrotechnic Nonfiction Writer and Novelist, Dies at 87


Wolfe, 88, had been hospitalized with an infection and died Monday, according to his agent Lynn Nesbit.

Wolfe was born in Richmond, Virginia and got into writing early as editor of his school newspaper.

"We are incredibly saddened to hear about the passing of Tom Wolfe", his publisher Picador said. What was the cause of death?

A gifted amateur baseball player, Wolfe tried out in 1952 for the then-New York Giants, but he ended up getting cut and eventually landed at Yale University, where he pursued a graduate degree in American studies.

During his several years in Washington, he also experimented with enriching features with fiction techniques. He moved to New York in 1962 to join the New York Herald-Tribune and remained in the city for the rest of his life.

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The book became a bestseller, and established Wolfe as a leading figure in the "New Journalism" movement, which also included in its ranks Hunter S. Thompson, Norman Mailer and Truman Capote.

Multiple outlets credit Wolfe as a creator of "New Journalism", a style that combined traditional reporting and immersive writing. "The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test", an account of his reportorial travels in California with Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters as they spread the gospel of LSD, remains a classic chronicle of the counterculture, "still the best account - fictional or non, in print or on film - of the genesis of the sixties hipster subculture", press critic Jack Shafer wrote in the Columbia Journalism Review on the book's 40th anniversary.

Wolfe's first novel, The Bonfire of the Vanities, was a series of essays for Rolling Stone magazine and came out as a book in 1987.

He once told NPR about his method: "I looked at the whole city first". He was a star pitcher in high school and in college at Washington and Lee and unsuccessfully tried out for the New York Giants. And at the low end, there would be what you find caught up in the criminal mechanism in the Bronx.

"The Bonfire of the Vanities" hit the big screen in 1990, directed by Brian De Palma and toplined by Tom Hanks, Bruce Willis, and Melanie Griffith.