Over the weekend came the news that American novelist and self-confessed literary bad boy Norman Mailer passed away from acute renal failure at the age of 84.

Mailer’s career spanned nearly 60 years. His first novel The Naked and the Dead was drawn from his experiences in the 112th Cavalry in the South Pacific in World War 2 and was published in 1948 to great critical acclaim. His final work, the 500 page The Castle in the Forest was published in February this year.

The intervening years saw Mailer change direction a number of times and switch from novels, to essays (his most famous being his book-length account of the Foreman-Ali fight, The Rumble in the Jungle), to non-fiction reportage including ‘novels’ analysing amongst others the Vietnam war and John F Kennedy.

Probably his best known work was 1979’s The Executioner, a non-fiction novel based on the life – and death – of murderer Gary Gilmore, the first person to suffer the death penalty in the US.

6 wives (the 2nd of which he stabbed to ‘free her from cancerous cells’), 9 children, 2 Pullitzer prizes and a multitude of other literary awards combined with a much publicised drink and drugs habit and general hellraising attitude to earn him a reputation as a pugnacious and charismatic figure across America and the literary world.  

For a detailed obituary see The Sydney Morning Herald or The Guardian UK.

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