Gore Vidal was an extraordinarily versatile writer, who wrote 25 novels, two memoirs, and several volumes of essays. He also wrote for TV and the stage. An outspoken political activist and occasional actor, he ran for Congress in New York State and for the US Senate in California. Vidal died last night at the age of 86, from complications of pneumonia. In 2007, he disparaged America's popular culture in an exchange with Michael Silverblatt, host of Bookworm on KCRW radio. Former Los Angeles Times book critic and columnist, Tim Rutten was a friend of Gore Vidal.