Robert Anthony Stone was born in south Brooklyn, New York, on August 21, 1937, the son of Gladys Catherine Grant, an elementary school teacher whose schizophrenia taught her son chaos and fear, and C. Homer Stone, a railway detective who abandoned his family during Stone’s infancy. A product of orphanages and Catholic schools, the young Stone, having offended the Marist Brothers by his drinking and his militant atheism, joined the U.S. Navy’s amphibious force before high school graduation and served as a senior enlisted journalist on Operation Deep Freeze Three in Antarctica. His childhood experiences taught him about the rootless, the psychotic, the irresponsible, and the hypocritical, while his military service prepared him to write credibly of military life, language, and style.
While attending New York University from 1958 to 1960, Stone worked as a copyboy, caption writer, and then editorial assistant for the New York Daily News, and on December 11, 1959, he married social worker Janice G. Burr. The Stones dropped their conventional life and ended up in New Orleans, where Stone worked at menial jobs for a while, read his own poetry to jazz accompaniment in a French Quarter bar, and moved with the beatnik crowd. His daughter was born at Charity Hospital (a son, Ian, was born later). His experiences in that city provided material for his first novel, A Hall of Mirrors.
The Stones became friends with Jack Kerouac and others of the emerging bohemian scene in New York City and with Ken Kesey and Neil Cassady while...
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