Author Tom Wolfe Dies at 88, Agent Says

Author Tom Wolfe attends the 2012 Trophee Des Arts Gala at The Plaza Hotel on Nov. 30 2012 in New York City

Author Tom Wolfe attends the 2012 Trophee Des Arts Gala at The Plaza Hotel on Nov. 30 2012 in New York City

His notable works include "The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test", "The Right Stuff", "The Last American Hero", and "The Bonfire of the Vanities", the last three of which were adapted into movies.

The author had been hospitalised with an infection.

Tom Wolfe, the innovative writer who chronicled the early days of the USA space program, American surf culture and the rise of 1960s counterculture before becoming a novelist with his classic Bonfire Of The Vanities, died Monday night.

In his use of novelistic techniques in his nonfiction, Wolfe, beginning in the 1960s, helped create the enormously influential hybrid known as New Journalism.

He was born and raised in Richmond, Virginia, and went to college at Washington and Lee University and received his PhD from Yale.

In 1962, he was hired by The New York Herald Tribune, where his editor, Clay Felker, encouraged him to try new avenues in journalism that broke with standard objective reporting.

After graduating, Wolfe started working at The Washington Post. He told CBS News that when he was starting out in his career, he was interested in fiction, but quickly found himself captivated by nonfiction.

A scathing takedown of greed and excess in NY, it was recognized as an essential American novel of the 1980s and was made into a film starring Tom Hanks. The film version of "The Right Stuff", about the Mercury Seven astronauts, was directed by Philip Kaufman in 1983.

Wolfe's first novel, The Bonfire of the Vanities, was a series of essays for Rolling Stone magazine and came out as a book in 1987.

Even more controversial was Wolfe's 1975 book on the American art world, "The Painted Word", which outraged many artists.

Tom then became a world-renowned author, thanks to non-fiction titles including The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, published in 1968. He laughed about his trademark "feistiness" in the book to CBS News and said, "Well, I just try to bring truth". He'd never leave the city, making a home there with his wife Sheila and their two children until his death.