Gore Vidal dies aged 86
Gore Vidal's works included 25 novels including Myra Breckinridge, Burr, The City and the Pillar, and Julian, as well as more than 200 essays and several plays.
Vidal took his mother's maiden name Gore as his first name, and had a family tree that spread across American history; Al Gore was a distant cousin and Jackie Kennedy was his step-sister. His close friends included Tennessee Williams, Orson Welles and Frank Sinatra, and he was welcomed into the gliterrati of American literature, having his first novel published at 19 and garnering a cloud of controversy with his second - The City and the Pillar - which included homosexuality, meaning bookshops refused to stock it. He was forced to write under a pseudonym throughout the 1950s before working on the Ben Hur screenplay under his own name again.
Vidal was a political man, and referred to the USA as the 'United States of Amnesia'. His book Empire was based on his claim that America was forgetting its democratic and republican roots and becoming imperial, and he ran for Congress twice, in 1960 and 1982, but lost both times.
His UK publisher, Richard Beswich at Little, Brown, said of Vidal: "Spending time in his company was a little like being with his hero (and subject of one of those bestsellers), the Roman Emperor Julian, with whom he clearly identified: you felt you were in the presence of a man of extraordinary power and charisma who could be full of wit and warmth, but who might equally feed you to a passing lion if he didn't like his jacket copy. He was a great, great man."