ROBERT STONE 1937-2015

ROBERT STONE 1937-2015 
Novelist’s tales delved into drugs, violence and strife 
By Emily Langer The Washington Post 

   Robert Stone, who was regarded as one of the foremost American novelists to emerge from the tumult of the Vietnam War and the counterculture, an era whose agonies and legacies he captured in bracing narratives, died Saturday, Jan. 10, at his home in Key West, Fla. He was 77.    The cause was chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, said his wife, Janice Stone.    Mr. Stone was widely regarded as one of the most significant novelists of his generation. He often was compared to Joseph Conrad, with whom he shared a dark awareness of moral fragility, and to Ernest Hemingway, another chronicler of people adrift in an unforgiving world.    His novels, among them “Dog Soldiers,” the winner of the 1975 National Book Award for fiction, were the products of a lifetime of geographic and intellectual wandering. Mr. Stone spent periods in the Navy, as a foreign correspondent in Vietnam, and with author and counterculture figure Ken Kesey.    In his novels, Mr. Stone took readers into the underworld of drugs, violence and strife, both cultural and personal. His characters were sometimes strung out, often morally ambiguous and, above all, real.    His first novel, “A Hall of Mirrors,” was set in the maelstrom of New Orleans, where Mr. Stone had lived for a time, writing and performing his poetry and taking stock of its inhabitants as a census worker in 1960. Its central characters included a dissolute right-wing radio broadcaster and other misfits who head inexorably toward ruin.    “The American Way is innocence,” the broadcaster declares in a pivotal moment in the book. “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!”    After his debut novel, Mr. Stone reported briefly in Vietnam for a British publication. That experience, along with his observations of cultural turmoil at home, resulted in “Dog Soldiers.”    The book featured a journalist who conspires with a former Marine to smuggle heroin from Vietnam to the United States. Eventually, they are intercepted by corrupt federal agents. It was noted that Mr. Stone had created a fictional world not unlike the real one, where the good characters seemed indistinguishable from the bad.    Mr. Stone continued writing until very nearly the end of his life.    Mr. Stone’s final novel, published in 2013, was “Death of the Black-Haired Girl,” a psychological thriller that derived its drama not from violence in far-flung international engagements, but from an affair and a mysterious death in a small New England community.    Robert Anthony Stone was born Aug. 21, 1937, in Brooklyn, N.Y. He was an infant when his father left him and his mother, who had schizophrenia.    Mr. Stone’s survivors include his wife of 55 years, the former Janice Burr; their two children, Ian Stone and Deidre Stone Jones; a daughter from another relationship, Emily Burton; and six grandchildren. 

BEBETO MATTHEWS/AP 2013    The novels of Robert Stone were the products of a lifetime of geographic and intellectual wandering.

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