John Gregory Dunne

Franklin Library John Gregory Dunne books

The Red, White and Blue - signed first edition - 1987
Playland - signed first edition - 1994


Author John Gregory Dunne

John Gregory Dunne (May 25, 1932 – December 30, 2003) was an American author, screenwriter, and essayist, known for his sharp wit, incisive writing, and keen observations on American society. Born in Hartford, Connecticut, Dunne grew up in a Catholic, Irish-American family, an influence that would later appear in his work. Dunne's literary career took off in the 1960s with the publication of his first novel, Delano, in 1967, which explored the complexities of American politics. However, it was his non-fiction writing that brought him widespread acclaim. Alongside his wife, the renowned writer Joan Didion, Dunne became a prominent figure in the world of literary journalism.

One of his notable works was the best-selling book True Confessions (1977), a novel inspired by the infamous Black Dahlia murder case in Los Angeles. His ability to blend fact and fiction seamlessly showcased his skill as a storyteller. Dunne's writing often delved into the underbelly of American life, exploring themes of crime, corruption, and the intricacies of human relationships. Apart from his novels, Dunne was highly regarded for his screenwriting contributions. He co-wrote several successful films, including Panic in Needle Park (1971) and A Star Is Born (1976). His experience in Hollywood provided him with unique insights into the entertainment industry, which he later chronicled in his book Monster: Living Off the Big Screen (1997).

The 1976 version of A Star Is Born, starring Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson, was written by Joan Didion and John Gregory Dunne, along with three other credited writers: Frank Pierson, based on a story by William A. Wellman and Robert Carson. Dunne and Didion, who were a husband-and-wife writing team, contributed to the screenplay for that particular adaptation. However, it's essential to note that each version of "A Star Is Born" has its own set of screenwriters, and John Gregory Dunne was not involved in the writing of the screenplay for any other versions of the film.

Tragedy struck the Dunne family in 1980 when their daughter Quintana Roo Dunne died unexpectedly. This heartbreaking event became the focus of his and Didion's memoirs, with Dunne's Quintana & Friends (1994) exploring the impact of grief on a family. John Gregory Dunne's distinctive voice, marked by a combination of acerbic humor and profound insight, left an indelible mark on American literature. His ability to dissect the complexities of society and human nature made him a revered figure in both fiction and non-fiction writing. His legacy lives on through his body of work and the influence he had on the literary landscape of his time. John Gregory Dunne passed away on December 30, 2003, but his contributions to literature and film continue to be celebrated and studied.


The Red, White and Blue

A profile of the Brodericks, an enormously wealthy San Francisco family, this novel chronicles the lives of Jack, a reporter on his father's newspaper; patriarch Hugh; Jack's brother Bro, an eminent priest; and Jack's dynamic lawyer ex-wife Leah.

The title suggests the poster-paint colors with which Dunne portrays America in the last quarter-century. Let red stand for Leah Kaye, radical feminist lawyer; white, for Benedictine Father "Bro" Broderick, trendy celebrity priest; and blue, for long-suffering ex-husband and brother, Jack Broderick, "a successful failure" as a writer. The pilgrimages of the former two take them from the execution of a black radical through elections in a Latin American country to their murder by "a human time bomb" Vietnam veteran. Only then does Jack briefly awaken from his "passion for the vicarious." The novel aspires to the acerbic nihilism of Ambrose Bierce, from whom its epigraph, but contents itself with knocking down straw men, the opportunistic leading the naive on behalf of the unworthy in an essentially static portrait in black.


A critically acclaimed best-seller set in the glamorous, gangster-dominated Hollywood of the 1940s tells the story of Blue Tyler, a child star who disappears from Hollywood and becomes a bag lady in New York City.

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