Author, commentator and polemicist Gore Vidal dies at his home in the Hollywood Hills after complications from pneumonia. He was living alone and had been ill for some time.
His works included best-selling novels Lincoln and Myra Breckenridge and the Tony-nominated play The Best Man, revived on Broadway in 2012.
Along with contemporaries Norman Mailer and Truman Capote, Mr Vidal was among the last generation of literary writers who were also celebrities, written about in gossip columns and interviewed on talk shows.
A critic of American militarism, Mr Vidal was, ironically, born at the US Military Academy in West Point, New York, his father's alma mater. He grew up in a political family. His grandfather, Thomas Pryor Gore, was a US senator from Oklahoma. His father, Gene Vidal, served briefly in President Franklin Roosevelt's administration and was an early expert on aviation. Aviator Amelia Earhart was a family friend and reported lover of Gene Vidal.
Mr Vidal was uncomfortable with the literary and political establishment. He won an honorary National Book Award in 2009 but lost both times he ran for office. He initially declined membership into the American Academy of Arts and Letters, joking that he already belonged to the Diners Club.
Mr was widely admired as an independent thinker -- in the tradition of Mark Twain and H.L. Mencken -- about literature, culture, politics and, as he liked to call it, "the birds and the bees."
He picked apart politicians, living and dead; mocked religion and prudery; opposed wars from Vietnam to Iraq and insulted his peers, once observing that the three saddest words in the English language were "Joyce Carol Oates." (The happiest words: "I told you so").
Writer Dave Eggers received an honorary citation with Mr Vidal at the 2009 National Book Awards:
"His words, his intellect, his activism, his ability and willingness to always speak up and hold his government accountable, especially, has been so inspiring to me I can't articulate it," Mr Eggers said.
Fond of a drink
Mr Vidal wrote in the memoir "Palimpsest" that he had more than 1,000 "sexual encounters," nothing special, he added, compared to the pursuits of such peers as John F. Kennedy and Tennessee Williams.
Mr Vidal was fond of drink and claimed he had sampled every major drug. He shared a scenic villa in Ravello, Italy, with companion Howard Austen for decades and never married.
Mr Vidal dined with Orson Welles in Los Angeles and lunched with the John and Jackie Kennedy in Florida. He campaigned with Eleanor Roosevelt and Harry Truman, and he made guest appearances on everything from The Simpsons to Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In.
Vidal formed an unusual bond with Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh. The two exchanged letters after Vidal's 1998 article in Vanity Fair on "the shredding" of the Bill of Rights and their friendship inspired Edmund White's play Terre Haute.
"He's very intelligent. He's not insane," Mr Vidal said of McVeigh in a 2001 interview.
Mr Vidal also bewildered his fans by saying the Bush administration likely had advance knowledge of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks; that McVeigh was no more a killer than Dwight Eisenhower, and that the US would eventually be subservient to China, The Yellow Man's Burden.
Christopher Hitchens, who once regarded Mr Vidal as a modern Oscar Wilde, lamented in a 2010 Vanity Fair essay that Vidal's recent comments suffered from an "utter want of any grace or generosity, as well as the entire absence of any wit or profundity."