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US author Gore Vidal dies aged 86

The US author, commentator, politician and playwright Gore Vidal has died aged 86. In a career spanning over six decades, Vidal produced 25 novels, hundreds of essays and several Broadway hits.

The author's nephew Burr Steers told the Los Angeles Times newspaper on Tuesday that Vidal died at his home in the Hollywood hill of complications from pneumonia. According to Steers, his uncle had been ill "for quite a while."

Vidal's writings covered both commentary and fiction and were famous for their acerbic observations on politics, sex and American culture.

His works included the best selling novels "Lincoln" and "Myra Breckenridge." His third novel "The City and the Pillar," published in 1948, caused a sensation for being one of the first portrayals of an openly gay character.

Vidal's writing earned him several major literature prizes including the National Book Award in 2009 for his completion titled United States Essays, 1952-1992. He also ran for political office twice and was a well-known commentator, often appearing on talk shows and in gossip columns.

He cemented his reputation as a controversial commentator with several high-profile feuds with politicians and fellow writers. His most famous literary enemies were conservative pundit William F. Buckley Jr. and writer Norman Mailer, who Vidal once likened to cult killer Charles Manson.

"I'm exactly as I appear," Vidal famously said of himself. "There is no warm, lovable person inside. Beneath my cold exterior, once you break the ice, you find cold water."

ccp/sej (Reuters, dpa, AFP)