Tom Wolfe, Author of 'The Right Stuff' & 'Bonfire of the Vanities,' Dies at 88

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Tom Wolfe

Wolfe's agent Lynn Nesbit says that Wolfe died in a New York City hospital.

Author Tom Wolfe, who chronicled everything from hippies to the space race before turning his sharp eye to fiction, has died. He was 88.

Wolfe's agent Lynn Nesbit told The Associated Press that Wolfe died in a New York City hospital. Additional details were not immediately available.

The "new journalism" reporter and novelist insisted that the only way to tell a great story was to go out and report it. His writing style was rife with exclamation points, italics and improbable words.

Among his acclaimed books were The Right Stuff and The Bonfire of the Vanities, a satire of Manhattan-style power and justice that became one of the best-selling books of the '80s. Wolfe, known for his signature three-piece suits, was an unlikely interloper into the heady LSD parties hosted by Ken Kesey and the Grateful Dead in the mid-1960s, turning his examinations of those bacchanals into 1968's The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.

As Wolfe began re-imagining traditional magazine journalism with his signature mix of reporting and novelistic writing, he came to the attention of the then-nascent Rolling Stone magazine, whose founder, Jann Wenner, was a fan of his writing. The pair teamed up for an assignment that began with Wolfe covering the 1972 launch of Apollo 17 -- the last manned moon landing -- but expanded into the author delving into the personal lives of the astronauts, resulting in the pioneering four-part series "Post-Orbital Remorse." That series was later expanded into the 1979 book, The Right Stuff, which was turned into a hit 1983 movie starring Fred Ward, Ed Harris, Scott Glenn, Lance Henriksen and Sam Shepard, Dennnis Quaid and Barbara Hershey.

He re-teamed with the magazine for another series, which Wolfe presented in 5,500-word installments for more than a year, the florid novel about contemporary New York, The Bonfire of the Vanities, later released in a slightly different version as a novel in 1987 and a a legendarily messy satirical film version directed by Brian de Palma and starring Tom Hanks, Bruce Willis, Melanie Griffith and Kim Cattrall.