Here's to the Great Second Act of Dominick Dunne

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Aug. 27 2009 9:52 AM

Here's to the Great Second Act of Dominick Dunne

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As a lover of crime writing, I am mourning the passing of Dominick Dunne , one of the best practitioners of the genre. Dunne wrote about the degenerate side of the wealthy, and even though he had an eye for debauched detail, he always kept his sympathies with the victim, because of his way into the subject: the murder of his daughter Dominique. Dominique was a 22-year-old emerging actress when she was strangled to death on the lawn of her Los Angeles home by her abusive ex-boyfriend, John Thomas Sweeney. If you have not read Dominick Dunne's account of his daughter's trial, published in Vanity Fair in 1984, go right now and read the entire thing ( via The Awl ). It is an impressive piece of work. Not just because of the quality of the writing (magazine prose of the best kind), but also because Dunne was able to function at all after the horror of his daughter's trial. Dunne had been a successful movie producer, but after a divorce and a series of flops, he became an unemployed alcoholic. He was just beginning to forge a new career as a novelist and magazine writer when Dominique was killed. As Graydon Carter wrote in his tribute to Dunne , it was a thrilling second act.

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Photograph of Dominick Dunne by Katy Winn/Getty Images for IMG.

Jessica Grose is a frequent Slate contributor and the author of the novel Sad Desk Salad. Follow her on Twitter.

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