Many authors spend months, or even years, keeping themselves cooped up while they complete their books. However, there are also a few authors who ended up locked away due to other reasons. For some, it was due to political reasons or even due to the subject matter of their books, while others were incarcerated for actual crimes. Some authors even found their calling as writers while they were locked up. Here are just a few famous authors who ended up spending time behind bars.
The story of author William S. Burroughs and his brush with the law sounds like something out of one of his own books. Although a brilliant writer, Burroughs was also addicted to drugs and eventually dealed in heroin to support his own habit. This resulted in him being arrested for the forger of a narcotics prescription. He ended up fleeing to Mexico with his common-law wife and their children to wait for his charge’s statute of limitations to run out. However, according to some accounts, Burroughs shot and killed his wife while drunkenly trying to shoot a highball glass off her head using his handgun. Burroughs claimed that the gun accidentally fired and kill his wife when he dropped it, but spend 13 days in prison before his brother bribed officials to release him on bail. Burroughs wrote Queer, his short novel while awaiting trial, but eventually decided to flee back to the United States. In his absence he was convicted of homicide.
Author Anne Perry is known for her Victorian crime series starring Thomas Pitt, an inspector who regularly deals with murderers. Shockingly, Ann herself was arrested at the age of 15 for assisting her best friend, Pauline Parker, for the murder of Parker’s mother. Due to her parents separating, Perry was supposed to go live with a relative in South Africa, but did not want to part ways with her friend. Due to the young age of the girls, they escaped the death penalty, but were convicted and sentenced. Both Perry and her friend were only incarcerated for five years before being released. After her stint in prison Perry, who was born Juliet Marion Hulme, changed her name and wrote her first novel twenty years later. She has since gone on to write numerous bestselling novels.
Nelson Algren was a prolific author who penned books such as The Man With The Golden Arm and A Walk On The Wild Side. He had a penchant for characters who were outsiders or general failures, which is something he attributed to the time that he spent in prison. His crime was stealing a typewriter from an empty university classroom and then trying to make his getaway via train. In addition to the nearly five months that he spent incarcerated, Algren could have been jailed for an additional three years for his crime, but was released and began his career as a writer.
The famous novelist and playwright, Oscar Wilde, found himself doing a stint in prison after an attempt to prosecute the father of one of his lovers. He attempted to charge the man, who was the Marquess of Queensberry, for criminal libel, but during the trial things did not go according to plan for wild who dropped his charges. Shortly afterwards, Wilde was arrested for gross indecency with men and imprisoned for two years’ hard labor after being found guilty. His long letter, De Profundis, was penned in prison and discussed his trials while upon release he moved to France and wrote a long poem about his harrowing experience.
Former fire captain and arson investigator turned author, John Orr, shocked the world when it was discovered that he was actually a serial arsonist. The fires started by Orr during the 80’s and 90’s not only caused significant damage to the city of Los Angeles, but resulted in the death of four people. It is believed that Orr set more than 2000 fires over a seven year period. After his arrest, Orr was sentenced to life in prison. Although Orr maintains that his novel, Point of Origin, is a work of fiction, the detailed accounts of a fireman who is secretly a serial arsonist bears some striking similarities to his own life. Orr still claims to be innocent and even wrote another book, called Points of Truth, about the subject matter.