Authors are a peculiar lot; locked away for hour upon hour, day upon day, week after week with their imagination and a pen (well laptop now but it doesn’t sound as good) so it’s no wonder that sometimes their lives and deaths are stranger than fiction.
Aeschylus was an ancient greek tragedian, writing around ninety plays (of which only 7 survive to this day); whilst out walking he was killed by a falling tortoise. Yes that’s right a falling tortoise; apparently an eagle had caught the hapless creature and was looking for something suitable to crack it open. Mistaking Aeschylus‘ bald pate for a nice big rock, the eagle let go of the tortoise which plummeted to the Earth and bonked our baird on the bonce, killing him instantly.
Take note all you bottle cap mouth holders! Tennessee Williams was found dead in his suite at the Elysee Hotel in New York on February 25th 1983 after asphyxiating on the cap from his bottle of eye drops after it lodged in his larynx.
Edgar Allan Poe died in very mysterious circumstances. Found on the streets of Baltimore delirious, “in great distress, and… in need of immediate assistance” and garbed in clothing that was not his, he was taken to hospital where he remained incoherent until his death 4 days later.
It has often been speculated that he was the victim of cooping, whereby an unwilling member of the public was forced to vote for a particular candidate and whom were occasionally then killed.
New York born writer and newspaper columnist Gustav Kobbe was also a keen sailor. Sadly whilst he was out sailing in Great South Bay off Bay Shore, New York, an incoming seaplane failed to spot him and landed directly on his boat, killing him instantly.
Julien Offray de La Mettrie was a French philosopher and physician who thought of human beings as machines and was known for his hedonistic inclinations. At a feast thrown in his name by the French ambassador to Prussia, he ate such a vast quantity of pâté de faisan aux truffes he developed an unnamed gastric complaint, fever and then died.
Sherwood Anderson is one of those authors no one actually knows, one who would have disappeared into the obscurities of all out of print authors. That is if he had died quietly of course.
Anderson was another author who couldn’t keep things out of his mouth which led to his untimely and one would imagine, rather painful demise. He swallowed a toothpick which lodged in his bowels causing peritonitis and his eventual death.
Dan Andersson was a Swedish author, poet and composer who would occasionally use the nom de plume Black Jim.
16th Sept 1920: Room 11 at Hotel Hellman in Stockholm; the hotel staff had used hydrogen cyanide against bedbugs and hadn’t cleared the room as prescribed. Andersson and another guest, insurance inspector Elliott Eriksson were both found dead at around 3pm killed by the residual cyanide gas.
As they say, the truth is stranger than fiction and at least the above authors weren’t subjected to the horrors that Dostoevsky had to face when, along with others of the Russian intellectual literary group known as the Petrashevsky Circle he was sent to Semyonov Square to meet his fate – death by firing squad.
Rifles aimed at their heads, they were certain they were to die until, a messenger from the Tsar rode into the square waving a white flag declaring he had an official pardon from the Tsar of Russia, Nicholas I, in a show of mercy. But this was not a show of mercy, but rather a staged way of fostering fear, terror, and gratitude; Dostoevsky and his cohorts had just been subjected to a mock execution.