If nothing else, Vidal lived large – and never apologized for it.
Upon his birth in 1925 in West Point, N.Y., Vidal entered a life of power and privilege. His father was an aviation and aeronautics instructor at the US military academy at West Point and a founder of the airline giant TWA. His mother, a Broadway actress and socialite. His grandfather, Thomas Gore, a Democratic senator for Oklahoma. After completing prep school, Vidal skipped college and joined the Navy at 17, during which time he began writing his first novel. Vidal wrote “Williwaw” while on night watch on a supply ship in an Alaskan port. The title was inspired by the sudden, violent blasts of wind known as the williwaw that sweep down over the mountains and into the Bering Sea, where they can wreak havoc on a ship. The novel was published in 1946.