Michael Herr, author of Vietnam War memoir ′Dispatches,′ dies at 76 | News | DW | 25.06.2016
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Michael Herr, author of Vietnam War memoir 'Dispatches,' dies at 76

American author and journalist Michael Herr, best known for exposing the harsh realities of the Vietnam War in his seminal memoir "Dispatches," has died in New York. He was 76.


Herr co-wrote the Oscar-nominated screenplay for Stanley Kubrick's "Full Metal Jacket"

Michael Herr died in a hospital in upstate New York after a long illness, publisher Knopf confirmed on Friday.

Born in 1940, Herr was part of the New Journalism literary wave, along with other writers like Tom Wolfe, Truman Capote and Normal Mailer. The writing style, considered unconventional at the time, involved applying a subjective voice to traditional reporting.

In writing "Dispatches," Herr drew on his experiences as a war correspondent for "Esquire" magazine in Vietnam in the late 60s. The book, published in 1977 to critical acclaim, was hailed by "The New York Times" as the best work "to have been written about the Vietnam War."

"If you think you don't want to read any more about Vietnam, you are wrong," Times critic John Leonard wrote.

"'Dispatches' is beyond politics, beyond rhetoric, beyond 'pacification' and body counts and the 'psychotic vaudeville' of Saigon press briefings," Leonard went on. "Its materials are fear and death, hallucination and the burning of souls. It is as if Dante had gone to hell with a cassette recording of Jimi Hendrix and a pocketful of pills: our first rock-and-roll war, stoned murder."

Film career

"Dispatches," a vivid account of conflict, came out two years after the US withdrew from Vietnam, and at a time when many war veterans were reluctant to reveal the horrors they had lived through. Sonny Mehta, chairman of Knopf, said the strength of Herr's wartime storytelling endured through the decades.

Herr published only a few books during his lifetime. His war chronicles, however, caught the attention of filmmakers in Hollywood, and Herr soon began writing for the screen.

He helped write the voiceover narration for Francis Ford Coppola's 1979 film "Apocalypse Now." He also co-wrote the Oscar-nominated screenplay for "Full Metal Jacket" with Stanley Kubrick and author Gustav Hasford.

Herr is survived by his wife, Valerie, and his two daughters.

nm/bk (AP)

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