RIP: Michael Herr

From The Guardian:

Michael Herr, the American writer and war correspondent famous for writing Dispatches, described as “the best book I have ever read on men and war in our time” by John le Carré, has died aged 76.

Born in 1940, Herr was one of the most respected writers of New Journalism, the novelistic reportage pioneered by the likes of Tom Wolfe and Truman Capote, where the journalist is as much part of the story as their subject. He practised this most famously in his book Dispatches, about his time working as a war correspondent for Esquire magazine in Vietnam between 1967 to 1969…

After the success of his book, Herr began working in Hollywood; he wrote the narration in Francis Ford Coppola’s 1979 film Apocalypse Now, which was partly based on Dispatches, and co-wrote the Oscar-nominated screenplay to the 1987 film Full Metal Jacket with director Stanley Kubrick and author Gustav Hasford. Initially meeting at a preview screening of Kubrick’s film The Shining in 1980, Herr and the director became close friends. In 2000, Herr published the biography, Kubrick, as a reaction to “the strangely contentious and extremely disrespectful tone that lurked inside so many of the obituaries and tributes”.

Being a Kubrick fanatic, I read Dispatches some years back, and was struck by how good the book was: the effective stylization and narrative pull of Kerr’s writing, with nary a word wasted.

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