Gore Vidal, who died today at age 86, wore many hats as a writer. Aside from eight plays and 14 screenplays, including contributions to the iconic "Ben Hur" and the classic "Caligula," he penned 26 novels and 26 works of non-fiction, often politically liberal in nature.

"The City and the Pillar," Vidal's 1948 novel about an openly gay man in post-World War II America, was arguably the writer's breakout work, mostly due to its controversial nature.

A number of his earlier works were written under a number of pseudonyms, including three sexed-up mystery stories by "Edgar Box." The fake names were used because at the time, being prolific could tarnish one's image as a serious writer.

"Since I lived on publishers’ advances, it was fairly urgent that I keep on publishing every year. But of course I wanted to publish every year," Vidal said in an interview with The Paris Review.

He is perhaps most famous for his seven-novel series, "Narratives of Empire," which blends fictional and actual historial characters to tell the story of America from its early days to the postwar era. Of the chronologically first installment, "Burr," Vidal told The Paris Review:

"I had assumed that 'Burr' would be unpopular. My view of American history is much too realistic. Happily, Nixon, who made me a popular playwright (the worst man in 'The Best Man' was based on him), again came to the rescue. Watergate so shook the three percent of our population who read books that they accepted 'Burr,' a book that ordinarily they would have burned while reciting the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag."

This rather curmudgeonly stance on American politics is typical of Vidal's public persona, and also his books. The ironically titled conclusion to the "Narratives of Empire" series, "The Golden Age," asserts that America provoked Japan to attack Pearl Harbor so that they could emerge from World War II as a global superpower.

Read more about Gore Vidal's most notable books:

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  • "The City and the Pillar"

    "The City and the Pillar," published in 1948, was Vidal's breakthrough novel, mostly because of the controversy surrounding it. The book features an openly gay protagonist, Jim Willard, and his struggles in post-World War II America. In an interview with The Paris Review, Vidal said, "Up until then homosexuality in literature was always exotic: Firbank, on the one hand; green carnations, on the other. I wanted to deal with an absolutely ordinary, all-American, lower-middle-class young man and his world. Whether the first love object is a boy or girl is not really all that important."

  • "Death in the Fifth Position"

    Vidal published a number of pulp novels under various pseudonyms, including a trio of mystery books by "Edgar Box." "Death in the Fifth Position," written in 1952, stars protagonist Peter Cutler Sargeant II, who investigates the death of a ballerina.

  • "A Star's Progress"

    "A Star's Progress" is a tragic tale that Vidal wrote under the pseudonym Katherine Everard about a woman's career in show business and marriage to a much older partner.

  • "Burr"

    Part of Vidal's "Narratives of Empire" series, a fictional chronicling of American history from the founding fathers to the beginnings of the 21st century. The books were not published in chronological order. "Burr" is told from the vantage point of Aaron Burr, the nation's third Vice President famous for killing Alexander Hamilton in a duel.

  • "Lincoln"

    Part of Vidal's "Narratives of Empire" series, a fictional chronicling of American history from the founding fathers to the beginnings of the 21st century. The books were not published in chronological order. "Lincoln" was published in 1984, and tells the story of the 16th president from the vantage point of several historical figures, including Mary Todd Lincoln.

  • "1876"

    Part of Vidal's "Narratives of Empire" series, a fictional chronicling of American history from the founding fathers to the beginnings of the 21st century. The books were not published in chronological order. "1876," published in 1976, tells the story of the controversial election between Tilden and Hayes, wherein Hayes wins in spite of having lost the popular vote.

  • "Empire"

    Part of Vidal's "Narratives of Empire" series, a fictional chronicling of American history from the founding fathers to the beginnings of the 21st century. The books were not published in chronological order. Published in 1987, "Empire" tells the story of America's rise in power at the turn of the 20th century, and features John Hay, William Randolph Hearts and Teddy Roosevelt.

  • "Hollywood"

    Part of Vidal's "Narratives of Empire" series, a fictional chronicling of American history from the founding fathers to the beginnings of the 21st century. The books were not published in chronological order. "Hollywood" features some of the series' regular fictional characters, Caroline Sanford, Blaise Sanford and James Burden Day, as they enter the movie business.

  • "Washington D.C."

    Part of Vidal's "Narratives of Empire" series, a fictional chronicling of American history from the founding fathers to the beginnings of the 21st century. The books were not published in chronological order. "Washington D.C." chronicles the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt.

  • "The Golden Age"

    Part of Vidal's "Narratives of Empire" series, a fictional chronicling of American history from the founding fathers to the beginnings of the 21st century. The books were not published in chronological order. "The Golden Age" is about post-war American culture and politics, and features artists such as Tennessee Williams and Dawn Powell.

  • "Myra Breckinridge"

    Published in 1968, this satirical novel about Hollywood, feminism and transsexuality was described as pornographic by some critics. It is written in the form of a diary, and Vidal counts it as his favorite book he has written.

  • "Julian"

    Some critics consider this book to be Vidal's best, as it was deftly researched. Written in 1964, it is the story of an apostate Roman emperor Flavius Claudius Julianus, who tried to convert Christians back to paganism.

  • "United States: Essays 1952-1992"

    Vidal also wrote books of essays, which Martin Amis praised as his best writing. "United States: Essays 1952-1992" won the National Book Award for nonfiction in 1993.

  • "Armageddon?"

    "Armageddon?," published in 1987, was Vidal's first essay collection, and described the function of power in modern American society.

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