Christopher Hitchens made his name by making enemies.
Over the course of his career the self-confessed contrarian gleefully picked fights with political opponents, Nobel Peace Prize winners and religious believers of all faiths.
He fired his trademark put-downs and scathing critiques at figures such as Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and Mother Teresa who he described as "a lying, thieving Albanian dwarf".
Family ties were no barrier either. He famously fell out with his brother, Mail On Sunday journalist Peter, though the pair were reconciled.
Hitchens published scores of books, thousands of articles and made countless television appearances where he could always be relied upon to provide a stream of serious but witty put-downs.
The publication of his 2007 book God Is Not Great made him a major celebrity in his adopted homeland of the United States, and he happily took on the role of the country's best-known atheist.
He maintained his devout atheism after being diagnosed with cancer in 2010, telling one interviewer: "No evidence or argument has yet been presented which would change my mind. But I like surprises."
The Anglo-American iconoclast - he became a United States citizen in 2007 - had very traditional English beginnings. The son of a naval officer, he was born in Portsmouth and educated at private school and Oxford University.
His student days set the pattern for the rest of his life and he freely admitted living a split existence, spending his days as a campaigning left-wing socialist and his nights wining and dining with the great and the good of Oxford.
Strong drink and political argument would remain among his chief pleasures for the rest of his life.
His early career in journalism saw him write for left-wing weekly The New Statesman where he became associated with a group of young writers including Martin Amis, Ian McEwan and Salman Rushdie.
Those friendships endured but many old comrades turned their back on him when he supported the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
He famously traded insults with George Galloway who described him as "a drink-soaked former Trotskyist popinjay".
Hitchens was promoting his memoirs, Hitch-22, when he was diagnosed with cancer.
He did not stop working, telling one interviewer: "I was very afraid that it would stop me writing. I was really petrified with fear about that because I thought that would, among other things, diminish my will to live.
"Being a writer is what I am, rather than what I do."
Hitchens is survived by his wife and three children.