With his spare notes in the margins — “are you sure?” or “we know this?” — Mr. Loomis “taught me and oh so many others what writing a book was all about,” Mr. Hersh said in an email.
Mr. Trillin recalled those“mysterious little check marks next to things in the manuscript.”
“He says, ‘It’s almost there,’” Mr. Trillin said. “‘Everything is great, but the beginning and the end.’”
In 1988, Mr. Loomis scored an industry coup when two of his books, Mr. Dexter’s novel “Paris Trout” and Mr. Sheehan’s “A Bright Shining Lie: John Paul Vann and America in Vietnam,” each won a National Book Award. Mr. Sheehan’s biography also won the Pulitzer Prize.
After being commissioned at 100,000 words with a submission deadline in the early 1970s, “A Bright Shining Lie” was published in 1988 at 360,000 words. Mr. Sheehan and Mr. Loomis had spent a year pruning it by about 110,000.
“Writers tend to resist editing, but you trusted Bob and knew how much he cared about your work,” Mr. Sheehan said in a phone interview. “He would help me to understand what he would have done, and then do it his way to make it a better book. That book would not be the book it is without Bob.”
Robert Duane Loomis was born on Aug. 24, 1926, in Conneaut, Ohio, near Lake Erie, to Kline and Louise (Chapman) Loomis. His father was a public school principal and, in the 1950s, mayor of Plain City, a village near Columbus, Ohio. His mother was a teacher.
“Books guided my life from high school,” he told Vanity Fair in 2011. “I was able to associate with great minds through their books.”