15 Authors With Dark Histories We Wish We Didn't Know
The trouble with having a superior imagination is that you can imagine some deviant stuff. That’s why the most renowned weavers of fictional worlds, even the most innocuous-seeming, child-friendly ones, can have some of the most horrifying skeletons in their fancy, bookcase-concealed closets.
Delia Owens is Wanted For Questioning About a Poacher Murder
Delia Owens, writer of the bestselling book and upcoming Swift-soundtracked movie Where the Crawdads Sing, can’t go back to Zambia, where she once worked for a wildlife conservation, because police would like to talk to her about her husband’s and/or stepson’s possible involvement in the murder of a poacher there in 1995.
George Orwell “Snitched” On Suspected Communists
It doesn’t take a scholar to figure out that George Orwell wasn’t a fan of Communism, but he had such a rage boner for it that he kept a list of suspected Communists in the literary community for the U.K. Information Research Department (basically the propaganda wing of the Foreign Office). He even admitted to a department official, who he was dating, that the list was potentially “libelous,” containing the names of writers who were possibly just gay or Jewish.
Hemingway Was a KGB Spy
On the flip side, Hemingway was all too eager to offer his services to the Soviets in 1941 before a trip to China. He was given the code name “Argo,” and the fact that he kind of sucked at being a spy and the KGB soon dropped him doesn’t make that less weird.
Agatha Christie Pulled a Gone Girl
In 1926, the mystery titan “went for a drive” and then abandoned her car on the side of the road, drawing thousands of people into an 11-day search and casting suspicion on her philandering husband, who had recently asked her for a divorce. She was later found at a health spa under a fake name, insisting she had no memory of her disappearance. She may have truly had a psychological breakdown, but she may have also just wanted to scare the bejesus out of her jerk husband.
Gertrude Stein: Nazi Lover?
Let us begin our parade of racists with Gertrude Stein, who supported the head of France’s Nazi puppet government to the point of translating his speeches with the hope of bringing them to an American audience and speaking out in his defense even after he was sentenced to death for treason, which is all pretty weird because she was also Jewish.
Jack London Was a Full-On Genocide Enthusiast
Plenty of writers have shown their whole racism in their stories, and London definitely did, but he also wrote an essay for Anglo-American Magazine explicitly hailing the Anglo-Saxon “race” as the one of “mastery and achievement” and dismissing genocide as “natural selection.” Apparently, his beef with white stuff ended at snow.
Roald Dahl Victim-Blamed Jews
Meanwhile, Roald Dahl had a lot to say specifically about Jews, implying that their “lack of generosity toward non-Jews” naturally “provoke animosity” and calling them “submissive” because he would have “ a go at taking one of the guards with me” to the gas chambers. Yes, Roald Dahl and Mark Wahlberg have something in common.
Dr. Seuss Wanted to Kill Japanese People
Dr. Seuss chose a slightly less common target for his racist rage, commenting during World War II, “If we want to win, we’ve got to kill , whether it depresses John Haynes Holmes or not. We can get palsy-walsy afterward with those that are left,” unable to resist squeezing in a whimsical made-up word. He also drew anti-Japanese propaganda that looks startlingly like, well, a Dr. Seuss book.
Enid Blyton Was Awful to Her Own Children
The creator of the Noddy series of books may have created fanciful worlds for other children, but her own daughter described her as lacking even “a trace of maternal instinct,” keeping her and her sister shut away in a nursery that she rarely visited except to yell at them. Oh, and her books were also deeply racist.
David Eddings Went to Prison For Child Abuse
The bestselling fantasy author served a year in prison for beating his children and enjoyed his entire career without that little tidbit ever coming to light until after his death. He actually wrote his first published novel while he was locked up.
William Golding Tried to Rape a Teenage Girl
The Lord of the Flies author admitted in his unpublished memoirs that while he was in college, he tried to rape a high school girl who he called “depraved by nature” and whose “pert, ripe, and desirable mouth” he had mistaken for an invitation, which is one of the grosser ways to say “she asked for it.” She fought him off, and he ended up teaching high school a few years later, so that’s fun.
Allen Ginsberg Was a Member of NAMBLA
The famous Beat poet joined the pedophile organization in the early ‘80s “in defense of free speech,” insisting that he had no intention to “apologize for rape and mental or physical violation of children” and did not personally “make carnal love to hairless boys and girls,” but not before implying that we all want to, right? Right?
David Foster Wallace Tried to Kill a Guy
It’s no secret that every verbose misogynist’s favorite writer had a problem with women, specifically one woman who he famously stalked and abused, but he went so far as to hook up with an ex-con who, it turned out, was absolutely not willing to sell him a gun to kill her husband. The prospective arms dealer actually reported him, so you know he was scared.
Norman Mailer Stabbed His Wife
In 1960, after a kickoff party for his mayoral campaign, Norman Mailer stabbed his wife in the heart after she said he wasn’t as good as Dostoevsky, which is just true. She survived, but amazingly, he did not win the election.
Anne Perry Actually Murdered Her Mom
Anne Perry, bestselling author of the Thomas Pitt and William Monk detective series, bludgeoned her mother to death with the help of her best friend in 1954, when she was 15 years old. After serving five years in prison, she changed her name and started writing books, which were wildly successful with readers who had no idea who she was until Peter Jackson made a movie about her. She was played by Kate Winslet, though, so every potentially career-killing unmasking has a silver lining.
Top image: Miramax Films