Tag Archives: Dying

How Writers Die

In this Guardian interview with novelist Nora Roberts, she states that:

I’m told that Robert B Parker, one of my favourite authors, died at his computer. Bob – that’s just the way to go,” she says. “He was a workhorse. I’m the same.”

Dying on the job is a good way to go if you accept that someone was doing what they loved. Some of you will have heard of the recent sad and noble death of folk singer-songwriter David Olney


From Wikipedia: Olney died of an apparent heart attack during a performance onstage at the 30A Songwriter Festival in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida, on January 18, 2020, at age 71. He was in the middle of his third song when he stopped, apologized and shut his eyes, according to fellow musician Scott Miller who was accompanying Olney. “David was playing a song when he paused, said ‘I’m sorry’ and put his chin to his chest. He never dropped his guitar or fell off his stool. It was as easy and gentle as he was,” Miller said.

One of my Wild West heroes, Bat Masterson, died at his typewriter; he had a remarkable life.

Those who died by their own hand, include:


Ernest Hemingway https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ernest_Hemingway

Richard Brautigan https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Brautigan

Kurt Cobain https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kurt_Cobain

Hunter S. Thompson https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hunter_S._Thompson


Yukio Mishima, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yukio_Mishima

Elliott Smith https://www.theguardian.com/music/2004/mar/19/popandrock.elliottsmith


David Foster Wallace, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Foster_Wallace

Roy Buchanan https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roy_Buchanan


Abbie Hoffman https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abbie_Hoffman

Sara Teasdale https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sara_Teasdale

Jane Aiken Hodge https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jane_Aiken_Hodge

Jerzy Kosiński https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jerzy_Kosi%C5%84ski#Death

Arthur Koestler https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arthur_Koestler#Final_years,_1976%E2%80%931983


Primo Levi, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Primo_Levi

John Berryman https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Berryman


Virginia Woolf, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virginia_Woolf

Hart Crane https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hart_Crane

Spalding Grey https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spalding_Gray#Health_problems_and_death


Sylvia Plath, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sylvia_Plath

John Kennedy Toole, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Kennedy_Toole

Anne Sexton https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anne_Sexton#Death

Some writers died in unexpected accidents:


Shelley https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Percy_Bysshe_Shelley

Jeff Buckley https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeff_Buckley#Death

Road Traffic Accident:

Jerry Rubin https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jerry_Rubin,

Albert Camus https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albert_Camus

Harry Chapin https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harry_Chapin

Roland Barthes https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roland_Barthes

Margaret Mitchell https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Margaret_Mitchell#Death_and_legacy

T.E. Lawrence https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/T._E._Lawrence


Zelda Fitzgerald https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zelda_Fitzgerald#Obsession_and_illness


Tennessee Williams https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tennessee_Williams#Death

Or, by murder:

Joe Orton https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joe_Orton #

Christopher Marlowe https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christopher_Marlowe #

Joy Adamson https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joy_Adamson #

Jim Koethe https://wikispooks.com/wiki/Jim_Koethe

Philip Marshall https://wikispooks.com/wiki/Philip_Marshall

Or, by natural causes:

Heart Attack: Stieg Larsson https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stieg_Larsson

Tuberculosis:  Anne Brontë https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anne_Bront%C3%AB

Emily Brontë  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emily_Bront%C3%AB

Bone Cancer: Arthur Rimbaud https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arthur_Rimbaud

Lymphoma: Michael Crichton https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Crichton

Oral Cancer: Dr Seuss https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dr._Seuss

Just as cynics say “Great career move” when a fading musician dies unexpectedly, leading to a massive boost in the sales of their albums, so it takes having The Grim Reaper as your literary agent for some writers to get anywhere.

I’ve mentioned the sad tale of John Kennedy Toole in previous threads, and it would have been fascinating to know what else he would have created. At least he hasn’t been turned into a franchise operation with hired gun authors brought in to continue the series, as happened with Stieg Larsson’s Lisbeth Salander and the long-established James Bond and Sherlock Holmes stories.


Writing this post has placed a chill in my heart. I’ve been close to death a few times, but am glad to have survived.

We writers should take care of our mental and physical health.

Given the choice of how to shuffle off my mortal coil, I favour Roger McGough’s ideas.

How about you?

No one wants to die editing their manuscript or reading another rejection email!

Let Me Die A Youngman’s Death

Let me die a youngman’s death
not a clean and inbetween
the sheets holywater death
not a famous-last-words
peaceful out of breath death

When I’m 73
and in constant good tumour
may I be mown down at dawn
by a bright red sports car
on my way home
from an allnight party

Or when I’m 91
with silver hair
and sitting in a barber’s chair
may rival gangsters
with hamfisted tommyguns burst in
and give me a short back and insides

Or when I’m 104
and banned from the Cavern
may my mistress
catching me in bed with her daughter
and fearing for her son
cut me up into little pieces
and throw away every piece but one

Let me die a youngman’s death
not a free from sin tiptoe in
candle wax and waning death
not a curtains drawn by angels borne
‘what a nice way to go’ death