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John le Carré: “The best book I have ever read on men and war”

Michael Herr co-wrote the screenplay for Full Metal Jacket

John le Carré described it as “the best book I have ever read on men and war in our time,”  while The Guardian placed the title on its list of the top 100 non-fiction books. The publisher was so proud of this quote from le Carré  that they emblazoned it on the cover of later editions.

Published in 1977, Dispatches by Michael Herr describes the author’s experiences in Vietnam as a war correspondent for Esquire magazine. It was an early example of writing revealing the awful truth about the Vietnam War.

A 1977 first edition of Dispatches by Michael Herr

Dispatches used the New Journalism style of writing where authors immerse themselves in a subject in order to go beyond the facts. An earlier example is In Cold Blood by Truman Capote.

Characters from Herr’s book inspired characters in Apocalypse Now and Full Metal Jacket. Herr co-wrote the screenplay for Full Metal Jacket along with director Stanley Kubrick and Gustav Hasford. The screenplay was nominated for an Academy Award. Herr later wrote a biography about Kubrick, whom he knew well.

His other books include Walter Winchell, a biographical novel about the American journalist and broadcaster, and The Big Room: Forty-Eight Portraits from the Golden Age, a book about Hollywood stars such as Judy Garland, Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, and Frank Sinatra.

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