Tom Wolfe, influential best-selling author, dies at 88

Tom Wolfe, the author whose groundbreaking and radiant journalism helped create a new genre of nonfiction in books like "The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test" and "The Right Stuff," has died. He was 88.

Wolfe's death was confirmed by his agent, Lynn Nesbit.

Wolfe, who was often spotted strolling around New York City in his signature white three-piece suit, was one of the leading practitioners of so-called New Journalism, a style that fused novelistic flair with traditional reporting.

He chronicled the social upheavals of America, immersing readers in everything from the California hippie counterculture to the space race. He peppered his writing with gleeful punctuation and memorable phrases — coining era-defining expressions like "radical chic" and "the Me Generation."

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'Bonfire of the Vanities' author Tom Wolfe
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'Bonfire of the Vanities' author Tom Wolfe
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 30: Author and journalist Tom Wolfe attends 'Rolling Stone Stories From The Edge' world premiere at Florence Gould Hall on October 30, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Gary Gershoff/WireImage)
Author Tom Wolfe speaks during a post-screening discussion at the 10th Annual FOLCS Film Festival in New York, U.S., on Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2015. The FOLCS Film Festival screens several nights of films, documentaries and original shorts that portray the legal system and human rights in alluring and illuminating ways. Photographer: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Preet Bharara, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, left, shakes hands with author Tom Wolfe, center, as novelist Thane Rosenbaum, director of the Forum on Law, Culture & Society, looks on following a post-screening discussion at the 10th Annual FOLCS Film Festival in New York, U.S., on Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2015. The FOLCS Film Festival screens several nights of films, documentaries and original shorts that portray the legal system and human rights in alluring and illuminating ways. Photographer: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg via Getty Images
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 15: Author Tom Wolfe (C) attends 2015 Take Home a Nude Art Auction and Party at Sotheby's on October 15, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Mireya Acierto/Getty Images)
US writer and journalist Tom Wolfe smiles as he poses during the presentation of his new book 'Bloody Miami' at La Pedrera building in Barcelona on December 10, 2013. AFP PHOTO/ LLUIS GENE (Photo credit should read LLUIS GENE/AFP/Getty Images)
US writer and journalist Tom Wolfe looks on as he poses during the presentation of his new book 'Bloody Miami' at La Pedrera building in Barcelona on December 10, 2013. AFP PHOTO/ LLUIS GENE (Photo credit should read LLUIS GENE/AFP/Getty Images)
US writer and journalist Tom Wolfe (BottomL) signs autographs during the presentation of his new book 'Bloody Miami' at La Pedrera building in Barcelona on December 10, 2013. AFP PHOTO/ LLUIS GENE (Photo credit should read LLUIS GENE/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 23: Author Tom Wolfe signs copies of his book 'Back to Blood' at Barnes & Noble Union Square on October 23, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Taylor Hill/Getty Images)
Former mayor Manny Diaz, left, chats with author Tom Wolfe on the stage at Miami Dade College in downtown Miami, Florida, November 12, 2012. Wolfe kicked off the Miami Book Fair to talk about his new book 'Back to Blood.' (C.W. Griffin/Miami Herald/MCT via Getty Images)
BRENTWOOD, CA - NOVEMBER 15: Author Tom Wolfe signs copies of 'I Am Charlotte Simmons' at Duttons Books on November 15, 2004 in Brentwood, California. (Photo by Karl Walter/Getty Images)
Tom Wolfe, author of such late 20th C.classics as 'Bonfire of the Vanities' and 'A Man in Full' has a new novel published. 'I Am Charlotte Simmons' is the writer's fictional expose of student life in America at the start of the 21st. century (Photo by Neville Elder/Corbis via Getty Images)
Author Tom Wolfe in his Upper East-Side apartment, New York City, 21st October 2004. (Photo by David Corio/Redferns)
WASHINGTON, : US President George W. Bush (L) congratulates writer Tom Wolfe (C) along with First Lady Laura Bush 22 April 2002 at DAR Constitution Hall in Washington. Wolfe was awarded the National Humanities Medal by the National Endowment of the Arts. AFP Photo/Stephen JAFFE (Photo credit should read STEPHEN JAFFE/AFP/Getty Images)
Author Tom Wolfe, publisher Jann Wenner and guest attending the book party for Tom Wolfe's A Man In Full' on November 11, 1998 at the Pierre Hotel in New York City, New York. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)
Novelist Tom Wolfe Seated at Desk (Photo by Deborah Feingold/Corbis via Getty Images)
Novelist Tom Wolfe Seated Behind Typewriter (Photo by Deborah Feingold/Corbis via Getty Images)
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He later enjoyed a successful career as a novelist skewering New York high society with the best-seller, "The Bonfire of the Vanities." The book, a portrait of greed and power in cash-flush 1980s Manhattan, was later adapted into a film starring Tom Hanks and Bruce Willis.

Nesbit, his agent, did not offer further detail on her client's death. But she referred to an article in the Wall Street Journal, where she was quoted as saying:

"He is not just an American icon, but he had a huge international literary reputation. All the same, he was one of the most modest and kindest people I have ever met. I never exchanged a cross word with him in our many years of working together.”

Wolfe, who was born in Richmond, Virginia, was the grandson of a Confederate rifleman. He launched his journalism career as a reporter at The Springfield Union in Springfield, Massachusetts, in 1957. He later moved to The Washington Post, where he covered U.S.-Cuban affairs and other news.

But he achieved his greatest national notoriety with a stream of wildly innovative pieces at New York magazine and Esquire, joining writers like Gay Talese and Truman Capote in crafting a new style that was by turns bombastic and incisive.

He is survived by his wife, Sheila, and their two children.

CORRECTION (May 15, 2018, 12:30 p.m. ET): A previous version of this article misstated Wolfe's age at his death. He was 88, according to his agent, not 87.

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