- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 27, 2009

NEW YORK (AP) | Author Dominick Dunne, who told stories of shocking crimes among the rich and famous through his magazine articles and best-selling novels such as “The Two Mrs. Grenvilles,” died Wednesday at his home in Manhattan. He was 83.

Actor-director Griffin Dunne said in a statement released by Vanity Fair that his father had been battling bladder cancer for some time. But the cancer did not prevent the elder Mr. Dunne from working and socializing, his twin passions.

In September, against the orders of his doctor and the wishes of his family, he flew to Las Vegas to attend the kidnap-robbery trial of O.J. Simpson, a postscript to his coverage of Simpson’s 1995 murder trial that spiked Mr. Dunne’s considerable fame.

In the past year, Mr. Dunne had traveled to Germany and the Dominican Republic for experimental stem cell treatments to fight his cancer. At one point, he wrote that he and Farrah Fawcett were in the same cancer clinic in Bavaria but did not see each other.

He discontinued his column at Vanity Fair to concentrate on finishing another novel, “Too Much Money,” which is due out in December. He also made a number of appearances to promote a documentary film about his life, “After the Party,” which was being released on DVD.

Mr. Dunne was part of a famous family that also included his brother, novelist and screenwriter John Gregory Dunne; his brother’s wife, author Joan Didion; and his son, Griffin.

A one-time movie producer, Mr. Dunne carved a new career starting in the 1980s as a chronicler of the problems of the wealthy and powerful. Tragedy struck his own life in 1982 when his actress daughter, Dominique, was slain - and that experience informed his fiction and his journalistic efforts from then on.

“If you go through what I went through, losing my daughter, you have strong, strong feelings of revenge,” Mr. Dunne said in 1990 in discussing his novel, “People Like Us,” in which the protagonist shoots the man convicted of killing his daughter.

“As a novelist, I could create a situation in which I could do in the book what I couldn’t do in real life. I intended for Gus (the character in the book) to kill the guy. But when I got to that part I couldn’t write it. He wounds him and goes to prison himself for a couple of years.”

He was as successful as a journalist as he was as a novelist and spent many of his later years in courtrooms covering high-profile trials. Writing for Vanity Fair, he covered such cases as the William Kennedy Smith rape trial in 1991 and the trial of Erik and Lyle Menendez, accused of murdering their millionaire parents, in 1993.

As much as those trials riveted the nation, they were far overshadowed in 1994 when football great Simpson was accused of killing his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman. With a trial that stretched out more than a year and cable TV outlets providing endless coverage, the bespectacled Mr. Dunne became a familiar face to millions.

“I especially like to watch the jurors,” he explained to Fox TV during the trial. “I always pick out about four jurors who become my favorites. I sort of try to anticipate what they are thinking and how they are reacting.”

He called his book on the Simpson trial, “Another City, Not My Own,” “a novel in the form of a memoir.” It, too, reached the best-seller lists.

He had already been working on “The Two Mrs. Grenvilles,” a fictionalized retelling of a sensational 1950s society murder, when his 22-year-old daughter Dominique was strangled by her ex-boyfriend, John Sweeney, in 1982, shortly after she had completed her first movie, “Poltergeist.”

Mr. Sweeney was convicted only of voluntary manslaughter, not murder, and was freed after serving less than four years of a six-year sentence. Mr. Dunne bitterly attacked the judge in court and later called the sentence “a tap on the wrist.”

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