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Leading article: Last of the great American cosmopolitans


With the death of Gore Vidal, the US tradition of the great man of letters passes into history. Sexual iconoclast, name-dropper extraordinaire, self-appointed chronicler of America's decline; in a career spanning nearly 70 years of public life, Mr Vidal's irrepressible intellectual energies scoured everything from Hollywood to religion to international relations.

Alongside a staggering output of 25 novels and any number of memoirs, essays, plays and film scripts, he was as renowned for his outspoken critique of his country's "imperialist" foreign policy as for his venomous public spats with Norman Mailer and Truman Capote.

Ever irascible, famously unsentimental ("Every time a friend succeeds, I die a little"), uncompromising to the end – Gore Vidal was the voice of an age, a vastly influential contributor to America's understanding of itself. Love him or loathe him, none can replace him.