Home / General / Robert Stone, RIP

Robert Stone, RIP


Robert Stone, author of Dog Soldiers, A Flag for Sunrise, and many other novels, has died. Of course, he’s most famous because I once rented an apartment that he had lived in not long before.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google+
  • Linkedin
  • Pinterest
  • joe from Lowell

    I almost bought the two-family where Betty Davis grew up.

    • Roger Ailes

      I nearly drowned in Veronika Lake.

    • Gregor Sansa

      I lived for almost three years in the childhood home of Alberto Dominguez, composer of such 30s and 40s hits as Frenesi and Perfidia. (The latter is in the soundtrack for Casablanca.)

      This was in San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas; which was the seat of colonial exploitation of the Chiapas highlands and jungle for the 19th and early 20th centuries. If you’ve ever read any Rosario Castellanos or B Traven, that’s the kind of thing I’m talking about. So San Cristobal today has three or four largely non-overlapping populations: the traditional, ladino (Spanish- or German- descended) bourgeouisie, accustomed to live by nearly-feudal rent-extraction; the new indigenous middle and urban-working classes; and Mexican interior migrants and international “zapatourists”, a digitally-cosmopolitan group living off or in tourism or civil rights NGOs. Alberto Dominguez was one of the few of the second group (before the third group ever existed) who managed to “make it” into the society of the first group. We had little old rich ladies come to our house for a “historical society” meeting one time. It was a trip.

    • elm

      There’s a 50/50 chance I lived in the same apartment in Chicago that Philip Roth once lived in, though I didn’t discover this until the year after I moved out. (He described the apartment in his memoirs. Only two places fit the description.) I spent the summer I lived there trying to write a novel. If it had, indeed, been Roth’s place once, he must have used up all the novelist mojo there.

    • njorl

      I nearly fell on Stephen Hawking.

  • howard

    i’ve only read dog soldiers of the novels, but i particularly remember a powerful essay he wrote about going to see coltrane in san francisco in roughly 1962 while on peyote.

    • Dennis Orphen

      The essay (and many others) can probably be found here. I just placed a hold on the book with my county library and can’t wait to read it. Thanks, Howard.

      • howard

        just as a side note: when i first started listening to “later” coltrane in college in the early ’70s, of course i took it for granted that coltrane must have been taking acid.

        and then i got older and i realized how immature that was, and how of course a great artist like coltrane didn’t need acid to get that far out, he simply followed where his playing took him, so to speak.

        and then i got older still, and some modern coltrane biographies came out and i discovered that…he’d been taking acid after all!

  • Dr. Ronnie James, DO

    This site does a great job turning me on to artists I might have overlooked, usually when they die. First it was DEVO, and now Stone.

    Also, I almost rented a room in a house in Laurel Canyon owned by Sherman Hemsley. The bathroom had a hot tub, two mirrored walls in the corner where the hot tub was, and purple carpet from floor to ceiling everywhere else, (including the back of the door).

  • Dennis Orphen

    Sherman Hemsley was quite a guy according to many sources. Here is one that might give you some context on his tastes.

    • jim, some guy in iowa

      damn. that’s weird

      • Dennis Orphen

        Yes, the girls and the drugs, no problem, but Prog Rock? NO THANK YOU!!

    • howard

      when i first read this sort of thing about helmsley, i truly couldn’t believe it, but apparently it is true.

  • Hob

    Very sad to hear this – a great novelist, and I don’t think he had run out of things to say. Outerbridge Reach is probably my favorite of his books, and one of my favorite novels by anyone. His first novel A Hall of Mirrors is less well known but worth reading – written in 1967 and set a few years before the shit really started hitting the fan in the ’60s, it’s a somewhat uneven combination of grim social realism and (often hilarious) post-Beat satire, with a view of the nexus between far-right movement politics, individual bullshit artists, and local government corruption, that’s still unfortunately timely.

    • howard

      i really should read it but “wusa,” the film that was made from it that stone scripted, was a very interesting failure with a great cast in my recollection. in fact, let me do a quick check how it’s thought of nowadays: yes, looks like that is how it’s thought of.

      but my recollection of cast is right: it included joanne woodward, paul newman, anthony perkins, and laurence harvey.

    • Hob

      Here’s a bit from A Hall of Mirrors, where Rheinhardt, a burned-out alcoholic lefty musician who’s achieved accidental success on right-wing talk radio writing Bircher agitprop because that’s where the money is, finds himself having to ad-lib to a stadium full of cheering racists:


      “Fellow Americans!” he bellowed— “Let us consider the American Way.”

      It seemed to Rheinhardt that he had elicited a respectful silence from the stands; thus encouraged, he went on.

      “The American Way is innocence,” Rheinhardt announced. “In all situations we must and shall display an innocence so vast and awesome that the entire world will be reduced by it. American innocence shall rise in mighty clouds of vapor to the scent of heaven and confound the nations!

      “Our legions, patriots, are not like those of the other fellow. We are not perverts with rotten brains as the English is. We are not a sordid little turd like the French. We are not nuts like the Kraut. We are not strutting maniacs like the gibroney and the greaseball!

      “On the contrary our eyes are the clearest eyes looking out on the world today. I tell you that before our wide, fixed blue-eyed stare the devious councils of the foreign horde are confounded as the brazen idolators before enlightened Moses.

      “No matter what they say, Americans, remember this— we’re OK! Who else can say that? No one. No one else can say— we’re OK. Only in America can a people say— we’re OK. I want you all to say it with me.”

      “We’re OK!” Rheinhardt shouted raising his arm to invite accompaniment. Someone in the stands was heard to fire a pistol.

      “Americans,” Rheinhardt resumed, “our shoulders are broad and sweaty but our breath is sweet. When your American soldier fighting today drops a napalm bomb on a cluster of gibbering chinks, it’s a bomb with a heart. In the heart of that bomb, mysteriously but truly present, is a fat old lady on her way to see the world’s fair. This lady is as innocent as she is fat and motherly. This lady is our nation’s strength …”

    • keta

      If you like Outerbridge Reach you really should read the true, remarkable story about Donald Crowhurst. Stone lifted masses of detail from the Crowhurst story for his novel…the whole thing, frankly.

      • LFC

        Thanks for this note re Outerbridge Reach — I recall now, after posting my previous comment (below) that I did read it, but didn’t like it all that much, tho it wasn’t bad. Of the Stone books I’ve read, A Flag for Sunrise is I think the best.

      • Hob

        Yeah, I’m familiar with it, pretty remarkable indeed and sad as hell. “The whole thing” is an exaggeration though– the guy’s background is pretty different, and the events on the home front are all invented.

        • keta

          Just to be clear, I meant the Crowhurst experience at sea, not the entire novel.

          I too am a fan of Stone’s work, btw, and like OR best.

  • asifis

    Thanks for that. My favorite passage from a great book. If anyone (or the crowd) ever assembles a brilliant drunken rants from literature anthology that would have to be included.

  • Bitter Scribe

    Hell of a writer. “Dog Soldiers” is a great, accurate portrait of America a the time, as well as now. And for that, God help us all.

  • LFC

    I read ‘Hall of Mirrors’ but don’t remember it as well as ‘Flag for Sunrise,’ which is a very good novel — and the otherwise good NYT obit neglected to mention its somewhat faux-elevated diction, something I think Stone liked to do. ‘Children of Light’ is the other one I’ve read — somewhat less successful as a novel, probably, but nice as Stone’s revenge on Hollywood, even if its portrayal of the latter is perhaps over the top.

    • Bitter Scribe

      Yeah, I saw the movie adaptations of his first two novels and couldn’t tell why he was so pissed at Hollywood. Certainly “WUSA” was a mess, even with Paul Newman, but “A Hall of Mirrors” wouldn’t have been easy for anyone to film. I thought “Who’ll Stop the Rain” was good enough, with spot-on casting for Converse (Michael Moriarty) and Hicks (Nick Nolte). (But they fell down a little with the Marge character. They made her too innocent, and Tuesday Weld was all wrong.) Anyway, I thought Stone got treated OK by Hollywood, which usually treats literary authors like babies treat diapers. But I guess he saw it differently.

      • Hob

        I don’t think Children of Light was “Stone’s revenge on Hollywood.” It depicts a project that doesn’t resemble either of the Stone adaptations in any way, and even though the director and producers are assholes, they’re actually competent and are making what sounds like a pretty interesting film; most of their problems are caused by the writer being a loose cannon who helps push the lead actor into a psychotic breakdown. Stone of course indulges in some pretty poisonous satire of various types you’ll find in Hollywood, because how could he resist, but that’s not really what the book is about.

        • LFC

          A fair point, I guess. I’m recalling the plot now (read it a long time ago). I’ll retract that description.

  • Pat

    I wonder if this is why Erik hasn’t been posting as much as usual..

It is main inner container footer text