A gripping tale of men struggling against nature and themselves, Williwaw was Gore Vidal's first novel, written at nineteen when he was first mate of the U.S. Army freight supply ship stationed in the Aleutian Islands. Here he writes of a ship caught plying the lethal, frigid Arctic waters during storm season. Tensions run high among the edgy crew and uneasy passengers even before the cruel wind that gives the book its title suddenly sweeps down from the mountains. Vividly drawn characters and a compelling murder...
A gripping tale of men struggling against nature and themselves, Williwaw was Gore Vidal's first novel, written at nineteen when he was first mate of the U.S. Army freight supply ship stationed in the Aleutian Islands. Here he writes of a ship caught plying the lethal, frigid Arctic waters during storm season. Tensions run high among the edgy crew and uneasy passengers even before the cruel wind that gives the book its title suddenly sweeps down from the mountains. Vividly drawn characters and a compelling murder plot combine to make Williwaw a classic war novel.
Gore Vidal was born in 1925 and raised in Washington, D.C. After graduating from Philips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire, Vidal enlisted in the army and served in the Aleutian Islands. Among Vidal's other works of fiction are Burr, Myra Breckenridge, and Lincoln. He won the National Book Award in 1993 for his essay collection United States. For Broadway, he wrote the prize-winning play The Best Man (1960, revived 2000).
As a prominent post-WWII novelist, socialite and public figure, Gore Vidal has lived a life of incredible variety. Throughout his career, he has rubbed shoulders and crossed swords with many of the foremost cultural and political figures of our century: from Jack Kennedy to Jack Kerouac, Truman Capote to William F. Buckley.
From his early arrival on the literary scene, Vidal's fascinations with politics, power and public figures have informed his writing. He takes his first name from his maternal grandfather, Thomas Pryor Gore, a populist Senator from Oklahoma for whom neither blindness nor feuds with FDR could prevent a long, distinguished career (Incidentally, T.P. Gore belonged to the same political dynasty into which Al Gore was born). Vidal's best-received historical fictions, like Julian, Burr, and Lincoln, re-imagine the personal and political lives of powerful figures in history. In his essays, he frequently chooses political subjects, as he did with his damaging assessment of Robert Kennedy-for-President in an Esquire article in 1963.
At the same time, Vidal's assets as a writer have made him a dangerous public figure in his own right. His sharp wit has discomposed the unrufflable (William F. Buckley) and the frequently ruffled (Norman Mailer) alike, and did so terrify his congressional campaign opponent J. Ernest Wharton that the latter refused to engage Vidal in debate. Even since he's left his aspirations as a politician behind, Vidal's attraction to controversial political issues continues in his provocative essays and public appearances.
Edgar Box (mysteries), Eugene Luther Gore Vidal (full name) Gore Vidal
La Rondinaia, a villa in Ravello, Italy; and Los Angeles, California
Date of Birth:
October 3, 1925
Place of Birth:
West Point, New York
Attended St. Albans. Graduated from Phillips Exeter Academy, 1943. No college.
Read an Excerpt
As a present for my thirteenth birthday, my mother gave me a ticket to the premiere screening of Martin Scorsese's New York, New York at Lincoln Center. There I was, dressed in one of my mom's most beautiful party dresses, feeling grown-up for the first time in my life, when in walked Robert De Niro and Liza Minnelli. I was overwhelmed by the glamour, the beauty, and the excitement. I've been starstruck ever since.
Some people are raised in a family of doctors or lawyers and, in due course, find themselves in the family business. My father, Richard Leacock, is a filmmaker and my mother, Marilyn West, was a fashion model, writer, and painter, so my fascination with writers, artists, and directors seems almost preordained. I was born to it.
In Chicago in 1942, at the age of fourteen, my mother sat through six consecutive performances of the Andrews Sisters. She sat in the same seat in the front row every night. When a messenger was sent to ask if the sisters could do anything for her, Mom said that she'd love to meet them backstage--a wink during the show would let her know it was okay. Maxene Andrews winked, Mom went backstage, and a great friendship was begun. Maxene brought my mother to California and arranged for her to meet the right people to begin a modeling career. Years later Maxene became my godmother.
By the time I was twelve my mother was bedridden with rheumatoid arthritis. I became her only connection to the outside world. After New York, New York I began going to more and more parties and special events, always returning home to regale my mother with tales of that evening's adventures.
In 1977 I was back at LincolnCenter for a tribute to director George Cukor. At the party afterward, I was on line for the buffet when a young reporter mistook me for Bianca Jagger. I was amazed. The wife of Mick Jagger was dark and exotic looking. I was a fourteen-year-old with freckles and a ponytail. An older man with pale skin and a shock of silver hair standing next to me intervened, explaining that I was not Bianca. As the reporter walked away, the older man looked me over and we both started laughing. It was Andy Warhol. We chatted, and as we reached the desserts, he invited me to visit him at his studio, the Factory.
Beginning that week, I went to see Andy every Friday after school. As he signed hundreds of silkscreens or arranged images on the floor, I would share my worries about an impending math test or gush about the boy I liked in English class. If I got there early enough I would be invited for lunch. Andy gave me sound advice about fashion, including the timeless, "Never wear a shoelace as a headband." He listened with interest to my adventures and even set me up on a blind date. And then there was that stark summer day when I came to tell him that my mother had died and he held me in his arms.
My mother had encouraged my friendship with Andy, and it was she who suggested I ask him to draw a picture for me. Now, I felt awkward about this. Andy was a famous artist and asking him to draw a picture was asking for something of value. But I did like the idea of having a drawing from him. In July 1979 I asked Andy if he would make the first entry in my Flower Autograph Book. He drew a simple black rose on the first page of a brown, hardcover sketchbook. Andy loved the idea and made me promise to show him the flowers as I gathered them. With each new drawing I brought the book to show Andy. When the book was full, he inaugurated the second book, then the third, and finally the fourth. The last time I saw Andy we were at a screening. He invited me to join him on line at the concession stand and bought me popcorn. While we waited he had me tell his friend about the flower books. I kissed him goodbye and told him that I loved him. He died three weeks later.
So much has changed since that first night at Lincoln Center. Many of the people in this book are gone. Some have become friends. As I've grown older, I've put less and less time into collecting these flowers and placed more energy into my own career as a filmmaker and writer. I'm so proud and honored that all of the contributors were generous and gracious enough to share their time and talents with me. Like any garden, this one has been well tended with hard work, some disappointment, and a lot of love. It holds many memories for me. One thing, though, is certain: These flowers are perennials--they will live forever.
--Victoria Leacock, New York City, 1998
Where was Leonardo DiCaprio on the night Titanic won eleven Academy Awards, tying Ben-Hur for most awards ever received? The film's young star was watching the ceremony on television at my friend's Soho loft while tracing his shadow to create this flower.