Writer Tom Wolfe, author of “The Right Stuff”, “The Bonfire of the Vanities”, dead at 88

Photo by Gary Gershoff/WireImageAuthor Tom Wolfe, whose novels The Right Stuff and The Bonfire of the Vanities were made into feature films, has died at age 88. 

Wolfe’s agent confirmed his passing to ABC News, saying he died Monday in a Manhattan hospital after being admitted for an infection.

Trained as a journalist, Wolfe was equally adept at non-fiction and fiction in a career that spanned over half a century.  He first came to wide notice with the 1968 novel The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, an account of counterculture icon Ken Kesey and friends, aka the Merry Pranksters, traveling the country in their painted bus and the adventures they experienced .  The novel featured Wolfe himself as a subjective participant and is celebrated as one of the seminal examples of what came to be known as New Journalism.

The Right Stuff, Wolfe’s 1979 account of the early days of the U.S. space program and the test pilots recruited for it, remains his best-selling work.  It was made into a film in 1983 that lost money at the box office — perhaps due to its more than three-hour run time — but was a critical and Oscar-winning hit that was included in the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry five years ago.

Wolfe’s other big-screen adaptation, the 1990 comedy The Bonfire of the Vanities, was based on his 1987 novel about amorality and excess in 1980s New York City.  Starring Tom Hanks, Bruce Willis and Melanie Griffith, it was a commercial and critical flop.

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