Gore Vidal
Gore Vidal photographed in 2001. The author and playwright caused outrage with his presentation of homosexuality in literature (Reuters)

The American author, playwright and intellectual Gore Vidal will be remembered for his literary and political impact, but also for his position in history as an unflinching voice for homosexuality.

The openly gay author, who passed away aged 86, sent mainstream critics reeling with his novel The City and The Pillar in 1948.

The book, his third, concerned a young man coming to terms with his homosexuality. Vidal's portrayal of a gay protagonist who was well adjusted and not presented as the typical symbolic warning about the defiance of social norms, was a boundary-breaking statement.

The book caused a scandal, as critics railed against Vidal's decision to present a balanced view of a lifestyle viewed as immoral and unnatural during the period.

As the book was published, Vidal was told by an editor at EP Dutton: "You will never be forgiven for this book. Twenty years from now, you will still be attacked for it."

Instead of shrinking from the critical venom, Vidal thrived on it, claiming that he aimed to shock. Nonetheless, for the best part of the next decade he was forced to write under pseudonyms, as he found himself blacklisted by publishers.

Eventually his popularity saw him writing under his own name again, producing famous works such as the novels Myra Breckenridge, Lincoln and Burr. He also wrote screenplays, including Last Summer, Is Paris Burning and Suddenly.

However throughout his career, Vidal sought to incorporate gay themes. He revealed, while being interviewed as part of the documentary The Celluloid Closet, that he worked a gay subtext into the theatrically masculine screenplay for Ben Hur, starring the icon of traditional masculinity, Charlton Heston.

Speaking to Esquire in 1969, he said: "Homosexuality is as natural as heterosexuality. Notice I use the word natural, not normal.

Vidal described style as "knowing who you are, what you want to say, and not giving a damn". It is clear that this is the path he set out to follow himself.