Dominick Dunne dies of cancer, at age 83

By Ric Bohy

August 27, 2009 at 10:45am

Dominick Dunne, who did for crime reporting what Hunter S. Thompson did for political chronicles, might have found delicious irony in the timing of his own death.

Coming as it did Wednesday at the age of 83, Dunne’s family had hoped to delay the news so it wouldn’t be eclipsed by coverage of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy’s death the night before, according to The New York Times.

Dunne, who succumbed to bladder cancer, overcame failure as a Hollywood producer and rose to his own notoriety when he turned to writing, “reporting from the intersection of celebrity, society and scandal,” said the Los Angeles Times.

He was a partisan for the prey in covering crimes of the rich and famous, unashamedly inserting himself in his stories to air personal rage over the fate of the victims. It was grounded in the 1982 slaying of his daughter, Dominique, whose killer was convicted of manslaughter while Dunne called it murder.

Dunne met then-Vanity Fair editor Tina Brown at a dinner party the night before attending the trial, and she suggested he keep a journal and get back to her when it was done. It was the basis of his first piece for the magazine, and he became a mainstay with a self-created niche.

As Dunne went forward, he brought the same sense of personal outrage to his coverage of the O.J. Simpson murder saga, the trial of socialite Claus von Bulow, and the prosecution of the Menendez brothers for the murders of their wealthy parents. Filling his dispatches with as much dish as factual drama, Dunne was often reviled by his subjects – including the Kennedy family – as a mere gossip columnist.

Brother of the late novelist John Gregory Dunne – whose wife, Joan Didion, has often brought her own insider’s view of celebrity to her literary works – Dominick Dunne was the author of several best-selling novels, including “The Two Mrs. Grenvilles” and “An Inconvenient Woman,” as well as the memoir, “The Way We Lived Then: Recollections of a Well-Known Name Dropper.”

Over the objections of his doctors, Dunne covered the 2008 armed robbery trial of O.J. Simpson, having chosen it as his last.

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