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Writers or artists who have killed.
April 14, 2011 7:39 AM   Subscribe

Who are artists or writers who have committed murder?

I'm looking for artists or writers who have killed one or more other persons.

Examples:

- Ben Jonson killed an actor in a duel.
- William S. Burroughs shot and killed his common law wife, Joan Vollmer.
- Louis Althusser strangled his wife.
- Alice Sheldon/James Tiptree, Jr. shot and killed her husband before killing herself.

I would prefer artists or writers over people like actors or rappers or politicians, but I'm not really picky.

Also, I am uninterested in whether or not their act constitutes a philosophical or legal definition of "murder", such as whether or not they were legally convicted or, for example, whether or not killing in self-defense constitutes "murder".

My only two real conditions are:

1. It has to have been another person. Suicides don't count unless they were murder-suicides.
2. The other person has to have been killed. I don't care that Norman Mailer only stabbed his second wife.
posted by fryman to Grab Bag (43 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
 
There's Caravaggio, of course.
posted by yeti at 7:47 AM on April 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Anne Perry, now a writer of murder mysteries, was born Juliet Hulme in New Zealand, and took part in the murder of her friend's mother in what was a famous case at the time; the story was made into the movie Heavenly Creatures.
posted by HonoriaGlossop at 7:47 AM on April 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


You missed it by that much!
posted by Naberius at 7:47 AM on April 14, 2011


Eadweard Muybridge http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eadweard_Muybridge killed his wife's lover and was acquitted as "Justifiable Homicide"
posted by mary8nne at 7:48 AM on April 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


He's a singer, but Bertrand Cantat from Noir Désir was convicted of 'murder with indirect intent' "i.e. it was acknowledged by the court that he didn't want to kill the victim, but foresaw her death as a probable consequence of his acts and was indifferent with regard to such a consequence."
posted by knapah at 7:51 AM on April 14, 2011


The 19th-century painter Richard Dadd murdered his father.
posted by misteraitch at 7:52 AM on April 14, 2011


Carlo Gesualdo
posted by monkey closet at 7:55 AM on April 14, 2011


Composer Carlo Gesualdo ran his his wife through with a sword.
posted by StickyCarpet at 7:55 AM on April 14, 2011


Are you counting people who have served in the military? Lots and lots of authors and artists have undoubtedly killed people in combat.
posted by phoenixy at 7:55 AM on April 14, 2011


Also, I am uninterested in whether or not their act constitutes a philosophical or legal definition of "murder", such as whether or not they were legally convicted or, for example, whether or not killing in self-defense constitutes "murder".

If killing in battle counts, that will expand the field quite a bit.
posted by Jahaza at 7:56 AM on April 14, 2011


There's Michael Peterson who was convicted of killing his wife, although lots of people doubt whether or not he actually did it (the documentary called 'The Staircase' focused on exactly this and followed the entire criminal trial.)
posted by Rewind at 7:56 AM on April 14, 2011


phoenixy: "Are you counting people who have served in the military? Lots and lots of authors and artists have undoubtedly killed people in combat."

Thank you for mentioning this, because I forgot to add it. Unless, there is documentation of specific people or specific instances, I'm not looking for people who probably committed murder through military service or whatever.
posted by fryman at 7:58 AM on April 14, 2011


What's your definition of "artist" or "writer"? Do musical artists count?

The composer Gesualdo murdered a few people, not just his wife.

Mumia Abu-Jamal wrote a book about being on death row for murder.

Phil Spector, music producer (convicted of murder with appeal currently pending).

Sid Vicious, bass player for the Sex Pistols.

Varg Vikernes, heavy metal musician.

Jim Gordon, session drummer.

You mentioned actors and said you're less interested in them but I guess you're open to them anyway? O.J. Simpson, football player and actor (and, technically, writer), was acquitted of double murder but, in a subsequent civil suit, held liable for the wrongful death of one of the victims and battery of both victims.
posted by John Cohen at 8:01 AM on April 14, 2011


The German novelist Hans Fallada (born Rudolf Ditzen) survived an incident in which he and a schoolfriend had intended to kill each other:
"In 1911 he made a pact with his close friend, Hanns Dietrich, to stage a duel to mask their suicides, feeling that the duel would be seen as more honorable. Because of both boys' inexperience with weapons, it was a bungled affair. Dietrich missed Fallada, but Fallada did not miss Dietrich, killing him. Fallada was so distraught that he picked up Dietrich's gun and shot himself in the chest, but somehow survived..."
posted by misteraitch at 8:05 AM on April 14, 2011


Minimalist artist Carl Andre was accused, and acquitted, of pushing his wife out a window.

I met him in the 80's when he came to Colorado State U. He was a pleasant guy, but plenty of ego there... probably what you need if you want to keep in biz as a minimalist.
posted by ecorrocio at 8:12 AM on April 14, 2011


Actor Christopher Lee (Hammer films of the 60s and 70s, Saruman in LOTR, Count Dooku in the Star Wars prequels) was a member of the British secret services during WWII. Apparently, Lee gave Peter Jackson rather...detailed pointers on the sounds that people being stabbed to death make, so as to increase the realism (as it were) of certain scenes in LOTR.
posted by zombieflanders at 8:15 AM on April 14, 2011 [7 favorites]


Robert Blake
posted by annsunny at 8:24 AM on April 14, 2011


Author William Manchester:
"One of my worst recollections, one I had buried in my deepest memory bank long ago, comes back with a clarity so blinding that I surged forward against the seat belt, appalled by it, filled with remorse and shame. I am remembering the first man I slew."
posted by Jahaza at 8:35 AM on April 14, 2011


I don't really consider him an artist but what about Vince Neil?
posted by jaimystery at 8:45 AM on April 14, 2011


Benvenuto Cellini. In his tempestuous life he brawled a lot and stabbed a few people. Don't remember details, but his Life is a classic autobiography.
posted by Jenna Brown at 8:59 AM on April 14, 2011


Perhaps Krystian Bala?

David Grann is fantastic! I was reading through his archives just a few days ago and came across this article.
posted by sums at 9:05 AM on April 14, 2011


François Villon, although it's hard to say what exactly transpired.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 9:09 AM on April 14, 2011


Well here's something current about an 'artist' whose writing helped do him in.

Much more detail here.
posted by mazola at 9:19 AM on April 14, 2011


Mark "Chopper" Read was a career criminal who has admitted to being involved in the deaths of four people. He has written several successful crime novels.
posted by CrunchyFrog at 9:23 AM on April 14, 2011


Mary Lamb, author and sister of Charles Lamb, killed their mother with a kitchen knife.
posted by stuck on an island at 9:27 AM on April 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Erwin James was a journalist for the Guardian, but he wrote about being in prison for a then-unspecified crime rather than writing on more general topics.
posted by mippy at 9:29 AM on April 14, 2011


And then of course there's Gilles de Rais (stretching the definition of "artist" a little).
posted by stuck on an island at 9:30 AM on April 14, 2011


Hitler had been a painter.
posted by R. Mutt at 9:33 AM on April 14, 2011


John Wilkes Booth was an actor.
posted by R. Mutt at 9:40 AM on April 14, 2011


Varg Vigernes, who was a founder of the black metal scene in Norway (solo project Burzum, still active, and a one-time member of Mayhem) is infamous for the murder of bandmate Øystein "Euronymous" Aarseth.
He was also convicted of four counts of arson for burning historic churches in Norway.

He's now out on parole after serving almost 16 years in prison.
posted by smitt at 9:50 AM on April 14, 2011


Vikernes*
posted by smitt at 9:59 AM on April 14, 2011


Jack Abbot
posted by Obscure Reference at 10:00 AM on April 14, 2011


Leadbelly
posted by hydrophonic at 10:08 AM on April 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Writer/illustrator Harry Horse.
posted by scruss at 10:12 AM on April 14, 2011


Kenneth Halliwell, actor and writer, bludgeoned his lover and writing partner, playwright Joe Orton. He then ODed on Nembutals.

Joe Meek murdered his landlady before killing himself.
posted by elsietheeel at 10:12 AM on April 14, 2011


Ex first lady Laura Bush.
posted by vito90 at 10:21 AM on April 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Walter Sickert...perhaps?
posted by AlliKat75 at 1:03 PM on April 14, 2011


Walter Sickert...perhaps?

The evidence isn't really there though. Same thing with Henry Darger: a documentary I saw about him made me very suspicious he had killed a child at some point, but there's no definitive evidence.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 1:30 PM on April 14, 2011


In follow up to my post about Varg Vikernes... Varg retells, in detail, the story of why, and how he killed Euronymous...
posted by smitt at 2:36 PM on April 14, 2011


The author Anne Perry and her friend were convicted of the murder of the friend's mother when the girls were teenagers. The story was made into Peter Jackson's film Heavenly Creatures.
posted by bent back tulips at 2:45 PM on April 14, 2011


[few comments removed - please quit arguing about politicians, thanks ]
posted by jessamyn at 7:02 PM on April 14, 2011


Spade Cooley, Western Swing musician
posted by wsg at 12:02 AM on April 15, 2011


Thanks for all the answers. There are some great ones here I wasn't aware of.
posted by fryman at 12:54 PM on April 15, 2011


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