American novelist Robert Stone during an interview in New York to promote his book "Death of the Black-Haired Girl. (Associated Press)
Robert Stone, the award-winning novelist who spun out tales of seekers, frauds and other misbegotten American dreamers in such works as "A Flag for Sunrise" and "Dog Soldiers," died on Saturday at age 77.
Stone died at his home in Florida, his literary agent, Neil Olson, told The Associated Press.
The cause was chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
A lifelong adventurer who in his 20s befriended Ken Kesey, Neal Cassidy and what he called all those crazies of the counterculture, Stone had a fateful affinity for outsiders, especially those who brought hard times on themselves. Starting with the 1966 novel "A Hall of Mirrors," Stone was a master of making art out of folly, whether the adulterous teacher in "Death of the Black-Haired Girl," the fraudulent seafarer in "Outerbridge Reach" or the besieged journalist in "Dog Soldiers," winner of the National Book Award in 1974.
Stone's books also included the novel "Damascus Gate," another story of a wayward journalist, this time in the Middle East; and a memoir about his years with Kesey and friends, "Prime Green: Remembering the Sixties."
A native of New York City, he was abandoned at birth by his father and ended up in an orphanage after his mother was institutionalized. Desperate to break away, he dropped out of high school and joined the Navy at 17. By his mid-20s, he was living in New Orleans and selling encyclopedias.
After New Orleans, he moved to the Bay Area, met Kesey and friends and, like so many of his peers in the '60s, went out to discover America. Stone would begin sharing what he had seen and done with "A Hall of Mirrors," a surreal tale of corruption, decadence and breakdown set in New Orleans.
"We were just going through this extraordinary experience," he told the AP in 2013. "I really found myself deep in the heart of America, however deep in the heart of America was possible. I had a lot to write about."
"Everybody gets the America they deserve," he added. "But that's not true. Fortunately, it's not true."