Gore Vidal, one of the last living giants of American literature, died of pneumonia last night aged 86. Vidal was a reluctant pioneer of gay fiction, publishing The City and the Pillarin 1948 to great controversy. It turned him into a household name and ruined his reputation overnight. For a while after, his literary career stalled but as the sixties rolled on and the process of social upheaval started by the Second World War changed America, his literary star was back on the ascendant. Like Christopher Isherwood, modern readers regard Vidal as a ‘gay writer’ even though both men only wrote one ‘gay themed’ novel. A Single Man and The City and the Pillar were highly influential on gay literature and whole generations of gay men, but apart from later revising The City and the Pillar, Vidal never wrote about the gay man’s experience in any of his subsequent novels, tending instead to examine the country of his birth – America – in a number of historical novels. He also made a series of flippant remarks about homosexuality, such as “there are no homosexual people, only homosexual acts.” He spent his whole life battling an inner conflict over his perceived masculinity (his only gay character was very butch) which he felt was compromised by being seen by others as a pansy. Despite this, he lived with his partner, Howard Auster, for 53 years until Auster’s death in 2003. Often referred to as Vidal’s ‘companion’, the writer was at pains to point out that the reason this relationship lasted so long was because it was platonic and not sexual. Whether honest about his sexuality or not, he will always be remembered for the huge impact his novel had on the American people and for kick-starting modern gay literature.