John Gregory Dunne 1932–
American novelist, essayist, journalist, and scriptwriter.
Dunne is known for documentaries and novels usually set in California. His fictional mood is darkly humorous and his characterizations and mastery of dialect almost always elicit praise.
Dunne's first major work, Delano: The Story of the California Grape Strike (1967), established him as one of the New Journalists, a group of participatory reporters who evolved during the 1960s. His portrayal of the strike against the grape growers in central California centers on Cesar Chavez's efforts to organize farm workers into the National Farm Worker's Association. Most critics praised the book for its perception and objectivity. A second work of investigative journalism, The Studio (1969), a satirical look at the business of making movies, resulted from his on-location study of Twentieth Century-Fox.
Dunne's next book, Vegas (1974), conveys the decadence of Las Vegas through the composite portraits of three Las Vegas "types"—a prostitute, a second-rate entertainer, and a private investigator. Against this background he describes the emotional breakdown he himself was experiencing. Critics were impressed with Dunne's powerful and evocative writing but were reluctant to categorize the work, finding it a blend of memoir, reportage, and novel.
Dunne's novels, True Confessions (1977) and Dutch Shea, Jr. (1982), have both been well received by critics and the public. The first depicts the Irish-Catholic community in Los Angeles of the 1950s through the lives of two brothers, one a priest, the other a policeman. In Dunne's second novel the title character, Dutch Shea, Jr., is a criminal lawyer doomed by his memories and by the realities of his work. Both novels have complex, fast-moving plots with vivid characterizations and realistic settings.
(See also Contemporary Authors, Vols. 25-28, rev. ed. and Dictionary of Literary Biography Yearbook: 1980.)