What wonderful news! According The Guardian, the Windham-Campbell Prize awarded $165,000 to each of eight writers, all of whom were unaware they were being considered for an award. The Windham-Campbell prizes are among the richest literary awards in the world, and are intended to allow writers to focus on their work free from financial concerns. This year, the winners included essayist Rebecca Solnit, journalist Raghu Karnad, novelist David Chariandy, poets Kwame Dawes and Ishion Hutchinson, playwrights Patricia Cornelius and Young Jean Lee, and novelist Danielle McLaughlin.
Some authors thought it was a practical joke, such as Chariandy, and others had some serious moments of self-doubt they had actually received the award. Jamaican poet Hutchinson said he was absolutely ‘floored’ by the email and gives him new focus to sustain his work. But they were all immensely grateful to receive the awards. We are extremely happy for all these authors, as each of their works is unique and distinct. Well earned for all of them and inspiring for young writers as well!
Just because you wrote a good book doesn’t mean you haven’t killed someone. In fact, just because you haven’t written a good book doesn’t mean you haven’t killed someone. Heck, you could not write a book, not intend to write a book, and still kill someone. But that’s not what this site is about. This site is about books, and occasionally the worlds of literature and murder overlap. Here are 5 authors who murdered someone.
5. William S. Burroughs
As the story goes, he didn’t mean to kill her, but he did. Key member of the Beat Generation, William S Burroughs appears in Jack Kerouac’s breakout 1957 novel On The Road. Written on one long scroll of paper so he didn’t have to change pages on his typewriter, Jack Kerouac wrote this iconic piece of literature in three weeks in April of 1951, fuelled by coffee. William S. Burroughs was the inspiration behind On The Road‘s character of Old Bull Lee.
William S. Burroughs had his own writing career long before On The Road was published. In fact, his first novel, Junkie, was released in 1953, a first-person narrative about a man struggling with heroin addiction. This novel was published initially under the pseudonym William Lee.
But let’s go back to 1951. While in Mexico City, the story goes that Burroughs and his second wife, Joan Vollmer, were drunk. Plus, word has it that Joan was undergoing withdrawal from a heavy amphetamine habit. Drunk and a little high, they decided to play William Tell.
For those who don’t know, William Tell is a game in which one plays shoots an apple off the top of another person’s head, usually with a crossbow, however in this instance, Joan placed a highball glass on top of her head and William S. Burroughs used a pistol to attempt to shoot it off. Unfortunately, he missed.
While awaiting trial, Burroughs wrote the novel Queer about a young man looking for Yage, a hallucinogen, in South American. At the end of his trial, Burroughs was given a two-year suspended sentence and in 1959 his magnum opus, Naked Lunch, was published.
William Seward Burroughs II, post-modernist author and primary figure of the Beat Generation, died on August 2nd, 1997 at the age of eighty-three.
5. Anne Perry
Author of the Thomas Pitt detective series and the William Monk detective series, Anne Perry is an English author whose life story was the basis for Peter Jackson’s film Heavenly Creatures. Released in 1994, the film follows the 1954 Parker-Hulme murder case about two teenage friends, Pauline Parker and Juliet Hulme, who eventually murdered Parker’s mother.
Parker was sixteen at the time, while Hulme was fifteen. According to The True Crime Library, in Christchurch, New Zealand the girls bludgeoned the woman to death with half a brick enclosed in an old stocking before running into town and claiming that Parker’s mother had fallen and hit her head.
Their story fell apart upon closer inspection and the two were arrested. Too young for the death penalty, the girls each received five years in prison.
At the time of the film’s production and release, it was not known that upon her release from prison, Juliet Hulme had changed her name to Anne Perry.
After the film was release and Perry’s identity discovered, the New Zealand Herald claims that, “…Perry has told the London Times Saturday Magazine that although they were never lesbians the relationship was obsessive”.
On her website, Anne Perry write that, “I began the ‘Monk’ series in order to explore a different , darker character, and to raise questions about responsibility, particularly that of a person for acts he cannot remember. How much of a person’s identity is bound up in memory?”
3. Blake Leibel
Not everyone who authors graphic novels with graphic descriptions of murder is a murderer themselves, but this guy is.
In 2015 the graphic novel Syndrome was published, containing graphic depictions of bloodletting and, straight from CBS Los Angeles, it transpires that Blake Leibel murdered his girlfriend and left her body “drained of all of her blood in a crime that a prosecutor said mirrored the script of a graphic novel he co-wrote.”
The Los Angeles Times also notes that Leibel “was expressionless. Dressed in a yellow jail shirt and blue scrubs, he uttered only one word, answering “yes” when the judge asked if he would waive his appearance at an upcoming court hearing”.
Back in 2005, Chinese writer Liu Yongbiao broke onto the scene with his story collection, A Film, which won China’a highest provincial critical achievement: the Anhui Literature Prize. In 2010, his novel about a writer implicated in a wave of unsolved murders, The Guilty Secret, was published.
In 2013, he cemented his literary status when he was elected to the China Writers Association.
Image Via All That’s Interesting
In 1995, on November 29th, 1995, Liu and a friend, Wang Mouming, checked in a guesthouse. All That’s Interesting tells that they had “the intention of robbing other guests” but “[w]hen the two were caught stealing by a guest, Wang and Liu are believed to have used clubs and hammers to kill the guest as well as the guesthouse’s two owners (an elderly couple) and their thirteen-year-old grandson in order to completely cover their tracks.”
Twenty-two years later, Shanghaiist reported that blood samples led investors to the fifty-three-year-old writer and the sixty-four-year-old legal consultant.
The NY Post states that Liu told the investagors who arrested him that, “I’ve been waiting for you all this time”.
According to ABC News, Mark Read spent his early ears by robbing drug dealers before kidnapping and torturing members of the criminal underworld. Eventually, he was caught and charged with armed robbery, assault, and kidnapping. Perth Now reports that he only spent only thirteen months outside of prison between the ages of thirty and thirty-eight. He also cut off his ears in prison.
I wish I could tell you the exact circumstances under which I first encountered Kurt Vonnegut‘s Slaughterhouse-Five for the first time, but I can’t. Not exactly. I’m not sure whether it was assigned reading in one of my middle school English classes or if I just stumbled upon it. The latter makes more sense when taking into consideration two facts: a lot of schools had banned books like Slaughterhouse-Five, and I was a pretty awful student back when George W. was in the white house. What I do remember is that when I first began reading the soon to be fifty-year-old novel (March 30th) I was in a white, windowless room, being stared at by a teacher who had clearly drawn the short straw that afternoon. Detention. I would like to think that Mr. Vonnegut would find irony in that scenario; perhaps it would even make him smile.
Image Via Thetakeout.com
Imagine being an unsuspecting delinquent, opening Slaughterhouse-Five or The Children’s Crusade: A Duty-Dance with Death for the first time: I was blown away by how psychedelic it was. Vonnegut’s prose was irreverent, ridiculous, and, above all, courageous. Vonnegut plunged blindly into the abyss of existential uncertainty and danced in the darkness. One of the most imaginative novels ever written with a minimalist style—Slaughterhouse-Five felt like Vonnegut knew a hell of a lot more about the world and grammar than me and was choosing words that I could understand. Maybe there was nothing to understand? It was pretty damn cool. Vonnegut made literature cool—especially for a kid in detention.
Image Via wrbh.org
In the introduction to Slaughterhouse-Five, Vonnegut explains how he had been trying to write about the firebombing of Dresden during World War II ever since his imprisonment there. This is the reason that Slaughterhouse’s protagonist, Billy Pilgrim, was also in Dresden during the bombing. Billy’s story is an interesting one—the narrative of his life involves just as much love, humor, and tragedy as anything you could probably imagine. What makes it uber unique is that Billy acquires a certain amount of objectivity similar to the reader’s own. Billy is “unstuck” in time as he has no control over where and when in his life he might be at any given moment. One moment, Billy could be at his daughter’s wedding—the next, fornicating with a movie star. It’s all very non-linear. This ability is supposedly a side-effect of his Tralfamadorian kidnapping; extraterrestrial beings teach Billy to see time in a very Matthew McConaughey-like (Interstellar) way. All moments are permanent, always happening, forever. Billy is most definitely an unreliable narrator throughout, and Slaughterhouse-Five‘s chaos can undoubtedly be interpreted in a variety of ways. All I knew at that time was that I needed more Vonnegut.
Image Via Quickmeme.com
Vonnegut is famous for incorporating reoccurring elements into his novels, such as characters, names, and themes. (He also likes to write himself into his stories and could be considered a pioneer of “meta,” but that’s beside the point.) One of the things about Slaughterhouse-Five I found most compelling was the incorporation of the Tralamadorians or the planet Tralamadore. So I followed the Tralamdorians. Tralamdore is the name of various fictional planets in Kurt Vonnegut’s novels; the race and history of the planet vary from novel to novel (Slaughterhouse-Five;God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater;Hocus Pocus; and Timequake). My alien chasing eventually led me to one of Vonnegut’s earlier novels, The Sirens of Titan.
Image Via Goodreads.com
While not as popular as Slaughterhouse, The Sirens of Titan is considered by some to be Vonnegut’s best novel. (Maybe just me… no, I read someone else say that before. I’m sure of it.) Douglas Adams has even cited Sirens as being his inspiration for The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. Written ten years prior to Slaughterhouse-Five‘s publication, simply to satisfy Vonnegut’s publisher as they awaited Cat’s Cradle, Sirens is considered less “experimental.” Although the story is linear and Vonnegut himself does not make an appearance—its message is anything but typical.
Sirens follows Malachi Constant, a man with an extraordinary amount of luck—men and women of the cloth might even call his luck divine (although Vonnegut would make fun of them for doing so). At the beginning of the novel, the reader meets Malachi’s father, Noel, who builds the family fortune buying stocks based on words from the book of Genesis. Malachi inherits this fortune and builds upon it, becoming the wealthiest playboy in the world.
One day, Malachi is invited to witness the materialization of a man, Winston Niles Rummford, whose existence has been stretched across space and time (due to a mishap with his dog and something called a chrono-synclastic infundibulum), similar to Billy Pilgrim’s conundrum. Rummford’s ability to read minds and predict the future startles Malachi as Rummford tells him about his future. In addition, he shows Malachi a photograph of the most beautiful women Malachi has ever seen—women who supposedly inhabit the planet of Titan. As Malachi tries to outwit Rummford’s manipulation and pursue the kind of unattainable beauty of the women in the photo, the reader goes on a nihilistic yet humorous journey through space. It is with an engrossing amount of ridiculousness that the novel contemplates free-will, morality, and existence.
Some might find the novel’s humor cold. Others may find its message to be a commentary on the futility of fighting fate or attempting to understand it, given that even the novel’s omniscient character succumbs to the inevitable. I found the novel’s climatic revelation actually quite moving.
Mild Spoiler Alert!
After years of space travel, mind control, a Martian invasion, and a religion formed in his honor (sort of), Malachi finally finds himself on Titan. There, Vonnegut reveals that the beautiful sirens from Rummford’s photo are inanimate statues on an uninhabited planet. In fact, the only people who reside on Titan are Malachi and his family. As Malachi sits there, alongside a woman he never intended to be with and a son that thinks he’s a bird (didn’t I say ridiculousness?) he realizes that the “purpose of human life, no matter who is controlling it, is to love whoever is around to be loved.”
Vonnegut wrote both Slaughterhouse and Sirens with a serious outpouring of emotions—but, most importantly, he wrote with immense joy. He loved writing: he did it to discover more about the world and himself. In 2006, a group of students from a high school in New York City was assigned the task of writing to their favorite author. Their letters warranted the following response, which I think epitomizes the heart and soul behind 50+ years of kick-ass storytelling:
Since 2013, a Tolkien biopic has been dubiously ‘in the works,’ a phrase fans both love and love to dread. For years, fans didn’t know much about the film. As a result, many speculated on the film’s tone and style: many felt it could be similar to Goodbye Christopher Robin, an A.A. Milne biopic including darker aspects of Milne’s military service. Fortunately, the biopic is officially free from development purgatory—and we no longer have to speculate. It may have been in the works for nearly six years, but, by May 2019, it’ll be on our screens.
Image Via JoBlo Movie Network
Exploring Tolkien’s formative years, the author’s upcoming biopic examines the influence of love and tragedy on the young writer’s art. Take a look at the official synopsis:
Tolkien explores the formative years of the orphaned author as he finds friendship, love and artistic inspiration among a group of fellow outcasts at school. This takes him into the outbreak of World War I, which threatens to tear the “Fellowship” apart. All of these experiences would inspire Tolkien to write his famous Middle-earth novels.
The film will be directed by Dome Karukoski, and it will be written by David Gleeson and Stephen Beresford. Among its cast are accomplished stars Nicholas Hoult as Tolkien himself and Lily Collins as Edith Bratt, Tolkien’s longtime lover and eventual wife. Bratt served as an inspiration for many of Tolkien’s beloved characters, making her a significant figure in the story of both Tolkien’s life and creative work. Craig Roberts will play Sam, who served with Tolkien in World War I.
Yesterday, Fox released the official trailer, available below. Ready for a film that’ll surely have fans screaming “my precious?”