There were many differing explanations at the time: that he had terminal cancer or money problems, that it was an accident, that he’d quarreled with Mary. None were true. As his friends knew, he’d been suffering from depression and paranoia for the last year of his life.

Ernest and I were friends for 14 years. I dramatized many of his stories and novels for television specials and film, and we shared adventures in France, Italy, Cuba and Spain, where, as a pretend matador with Ernest as my manager, I participated in a Ciudad Real bullfight. Ernest’s zest for life was infectious.

In 1959 Ernest had a contract with Life magazine to write about Spain’s reigning matadors, the brothers-in-law Antonio Ordóñez and Luis Miguel Dominguín. He cabled me, urging me to join him for the tour. It was a glorious summer, and we celebrated Ernest’s 60th birthday with a party that lasted two days.

But I remember it now as the last of the good times.

In May 1960, Ernest phoned me from Cuba. He was uncharacteristically perturbed that the unfinished Life article had reached 92,453 words. The contract was for 40,000; he was having nightmares.

A month later he called again. He had cut only 530 words, he was exhausted and would it be an imposition to ask me to come to Cuba to help him?

I did, and over the next nine days I submitted list upon list of suggested cuts. At first he rejected them: “What I’ve written is Proustian in its cumulative effect, and if we eliminate detail we destroy that effect.” But eventually he grudgingly consented to cutting 54,916 words. He was resigned, surrendering, and said he would leave it to Life to cut the rest.

I got on the plane back to New York knowing my friend was “bone-tired and very beat-up,” but thinking he simply needed rest and would soon be his old dominating self again.

In November I went out West for our annual pheasant shoot and realized how wrong I was. When Ernest and our friend Duke MacMullen met my train at Shoshone, Idaho, for the drive to Ketchum, we did not stop at the bar opposite the station as we usually did because Ernest was anxious to get on the road. I asked why the hurry.

“The feds.”

“What?”

“They tailed us all the way. Ask Duke.”

“Well ... there was a car back of us out of Hailey.”

“Why are F.B.I. agents pursuing you?” I asked.

“It’s the worst hell. The goddamnedest hell. They’ve bugged everything. That’s why we’re using Duke’s car. Mine’s bugged. Everything’s bugged. Can’t use the phone. Mail intercepted.”

We rode for miles in silence. As we turned into Ketchum, Ernest said quietly: “Duke, pull over. Cut your lights.” He peered across the street at a bank. Two men were working inside. “What is it?” I asked.

“Auditors. The F.B.I.’s got them going over my account.”

“But how do you know?”

“Why would two auditors be working in the middle of the night? Of course it’s my account.”

All his friends were worried: he had changed; he was depressed; he wouldn’t hunt; he looked bad.

Ernest, Mary and I went to dinner the night before I left. Halfway through the meal Ernest said we had to leave immediately. Mary asked what was wrong.

“Those two F.B.I. agents at the bar, that’s what’s wrong.”

The next day Mary had a private talk with me. She was terribly distraught. Ernest spent hours every day with the manuscript of his Paris sketches — published as “A Moveable Feast” after his death — trying to write but unable to do more than turn its pages. He often spoke of destroying himself and would sometimes stand at the gun rack, holding one of the guns, staring out the window.