He could have been President. That was the job his Grandfather, the blind Senator Thomas Gore of Oklahoma, raised him to fill. He wrote his first novel at 19 while serving in the Army during World War II. In 1948, he made a conscious choice to renounce his political ambition by writing The City and the Pillar, a novel about a young man discovering his homosexuality. It caused a scandal and for a while, he had to write under a pseudonym.
He went to Hollywood, as one of the last contract writers under the studio system. He wrote Ben Hur. He made lots of money. In 1960 Eleanor Roosevelt, a friend (who didn’t he know? He slept with Anais Nin; Jackie Bouvier Kennedy Onassis was his stepsister), asked him to run for Congress. He ran strongly, better than his stepbrother-in-law Jack Kennedy, but lost.
In 1967 he wrote Washington DC, using his profound knowledge of the inner workings of that city during the years before World War II and into the cold war. It was the first of his Narrative of Empire series—seven novels, meticulously researched, starting in the 1820s, telling the story of America’s rise to power. The series follows a fictional DC family, the heirs of Aaron Burr through 150 years of American history. In Burr, Lincoln, 1876, Empire, Hollywood, and The Golden Age, Gore gives us an alternative and utterly compelling history of his country. Every quote from a historical character is accurate, as are their movements. The novels read like bonbons, but they are accurate and will transform your understanding of American history. I suspect they will be the books he will be remembered for.
He was the last American aristocrat: literate, vain, incredibly talented. Where would we be had he kept his homosexuality (a term he hated, he thought everybody was bisexual) hidden and gone into politics? It is a sign of our decline that we will probably never see the like of him again.