Obit: Robert Stone

Yes, a writer. But a writer attached to music. His first novel, which some dismiss, was a wild tale of political forces facing off in New Orleans in the 1960s, centered on a radio DJ. In Hall of Mirrors the city pulses with his soundtrack, and nothing good and everything great comes of that.

His fantastic second book, about Viet Nam and CIA drug smuggling, Dog Soldiers, ended up linked to one of rock’s great songs, Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Who’ll Stop the Rain,” which became the name for the movie version.


Stone wrote one more great book, Flag for Sunrise, and then some novels I didn’t like that much, though many did. He also wrote some engaging essays about living in the 60s, which had a biographical gravity that is hard to escape. Especially if you lived the 60s as hard as Stone did.

If you haven’t read Robert Stone you should. I would start at the beginning and move forward chronologically. Hall of Mirrors is far from his best book, but it is a book most of us wish we wrote when we were young and too often stoned.



13 thoughts on “Obit: Robert Stone

  1. For me Flag was one of his great books, and Children of Light was another. More often than not (for me), books read years ago don’t hold up in the rereading, but I think these two would.

    • For me, Children of Light was unbearable. It is the reason I have Outerbridge Reef on my shelf and have never cracked it. I disliked Children of Light that much.

      But Flag for Sunrise is truly great.

  2. I read Dog Soldiers many years ago and quite liked it, saw the movie (with Nick Nolte as I recall) and did not. Thank you, I’ll do a little digging. I just reread about 10 Agatha Christie books. They are literature, he insisted.

  3. Hey, two AB and I retire. That was rude, Peter.

    I can’t say that I actually remember Children of Light. What didn’t you like about it?

  4. Children of Light takes place on a movie location in Mexico. The characters are either mad, going mad or addled with drugs. The movie being made is based on The Awakening (I had to look that up), to give you an idea of the pretension, and is as murky and primal and overreaching as the end of Apocalypse Now, but without the insane grandeur.

    I should say, I’m not a fan of stories about people going mad, usually, though there are of course exceptions. Heart of Darkness works pretty well, too, but in this book Stone loses control of his control.

    Sorry if I was rude.

  5. Anhedonic? That one I had to look up. But I wasn’t talking about Moyer, who as usual made me laugh.

    Downward Facing Dog kept me company all the way back to New York. Really enjoyed it.

    Was there a nun in Children of Light? If there wasn’t, then I in really don’t remember it.

    Heart of Darkness was the perfect example of a story that did not hold up well in the rereading. For me.

  6. A Flag for Sunrise was about the murder of a bunch of nuns in a Central American town.

    There may have a been a nun somewhere in Children of Light, but it was about an drunken screenwriter pursuing a drugged and crazed actress on the set of the filming of a movie based on Kate Chopin’s The Awakening. There is mania, both drug fueled and mystical, lots of pushing the primal edge. So there could have been a nun.

    • A faint light bulb goes on. I think I’m going to stick with the notion it was good.

      That’s the biggest difference between a novel and music. You can tell in 5 minutes or less if you still like the music.

      • I like this idea of a novel holding up over time. And Heart of Darkness failing the test for you. It is a book I reread at some point, though even that was years ago, and for me it held up magnificently. But I think of Notes from Underground, which I venerate as the book to read when you’re 19 and disdainful, but won’t revisit because it could not hold up, which would be depressing, or it could hold up, which would be even more depressing.

        I’ve reread all the Salinger stories multiple times over the years, always with different context because I’m older and (don’t tell Jerome) have gleaned a bit more of his biography, but I haven’t sat down with Catcher in the Rye again. Like Notes, the memory of the feelings while reading are way more valuable than whatever literary value I can glean today. I’ll stick with my feelings.

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