Literary Rogues: A Scandalous History of Wayward Authors by Andrew Shaffer

If you are a lit buff, there is nothing in these pages that will come as any surprise to you. The book is a fun, quick ride. Brief bios of all kinds of men (and a sprinkling of women) who led colorful and self-destructive lives that probably reduced their output by decades. Interspersed, this collection of addicts and train wrecks managed to write some of the greatest books in the world before departing this mortal coil.

Opium and laudanum play a prominent role in many of these writers lives. Second place is alcohol with all the rest of the pharmacopia falling back to a distant third. Sprinkle in some serious mental health issues among this group and you pretty much have your rogues gallery.

No bio is particularly long. A couple of pages is enough to hit the high points and to send you in the right direction if you want to delve further into an individual authors work and life. It’s a whose who- from Poe, to Coleridge, to Fitzgerald and Hemingway and right on up to gonzo journalist and writer Hunter S. Thompson.

If you are a throwback romantic hoping that massive amounts of heroin and alcohol will feed your genius, then maybe this work is an inspiration. If you are more of realist though, the romance of these authors addictions wears off quite quickly when you realize that but for their crutch, they could have written so much more.

The true fun of the book is that it is a short read and its focus is on people who had a love affair with the written word. That is always and inspiration for any writer. It also helps to put in perspective the truth that most writers are not out there making a million dollars. Many times the work of these authors reached their greatest audience after their untimely deaths. Take heart – sobriety might just help you get your work out there. If not, you might be a rich corpse!

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