Remembering Tom Wolfe

Tom Wolfe

Vintage author and journalist Tom Wolfe, known for bestselling titles The Bonfire of the Vanities and The Right Stuff, has died at the age of 88.

The author of more than a dozen books, including the cult bestseller The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, Tom was a pioneer of New Journalism, which developed over the 1960s and 1970s and is characterised by an innovative subjective perspective, as opposed to more traditional objective journalism.

Born in Virginia in 1930, he worked as a journalist for The New York Herald Tribune, before finding success with his essay collection The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby in 1965, which led to a full-time job as a non-fiction writer chronicling the more eccentric side of popular culture in the Twentieth century and the ever-changing American experience. 

On the look out for colourful tales of excess, Tom practiced what he called 'saturation reporting' - where a writer shadows their subject over long stretches of time - such as his study of fellow novelist Ken Kesey's experiments with psychadelic drugs in The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test

The term 'New Journalism' itself was codified in its current meaning by Tom in the 1973 collection of journalism articles he published, which included works by himself, Truman Capote, Hunter S. Thompson, Norman Mailer and others. When he moved to fiction writing in 1987, The Bonfire of the Vanities became a bestseller, leading to a film adaptation starring Tom Hanks and Bruce Willis. In 2010, he received the National Book Foundation's Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters.

Remembering Tom, Associate Publisher Dan Franklin said: "I first fell under Tom Wolfe’s spell during my hippie days, Electric Kool Aid Acid Test being a compulsory text, then came the amazing The Right Stuff and Bonfire of the Vanities, showing that there was nothing that this man couldn’t do, and that despite his many imitators no one did it better. Indeed no one wrote a sentence like Tom Wolfe did, full of capitals and exclamation marks and begging to be read aloud. In person Wolfe was the Southern gentleman of legend, kind, funny, old-fashioned. He was a pillar of the Cape list and will be much missed."

He passed away on Monday (14 May) in his adopted hometown of Manhattan, and is survived by Sheila and their two children. Our heartfelt condolences are with his family at this sad time.

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