controversial Famous Writers and Artists Who Were Terrible Humans  

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What makes a great artist or writer? Is it solely their great work that we should acknowledge? What if they were actually bad people - should that affect our criticism of their work and contributions to art or literature? Many people argue that we need the separate the bad person from the great artist, as the two are in distinct categories. But sometimes the bad nature of a person seeps into their work, influencing the overall narrative to reflect them.

Take H.P. Lovecraft for example: his virulent racism was seeped into his work and made it a challenging read for many people who were offended by his slurs and attacks on other races. Is it right to support these artists by buying their work and giving them money for their prejudice? What if some people use that money to directly spread this bigotry, in a Chik-fil-A type of scenario. Regardless of your view point on the subject, we can all agree that finding out your favorite author was a bigot is less than exciting.

Unfortunately though, like everyone else, they are people too, with flaws of their own. Sometimes those flaws are inexcusable, or even run contradictory to the very morals their works preach. The artists and writers below all led less than perfect lives and find themselves among the many artists and writers who were bad people throughout history.
Anne Perry is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list Famous Writers and Artists Who Were Terrible Humans
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1 144 VOTES

Anne Perry

Who she is: A crime novelist who murdered her mother.


The story: Anne Perry is one of the bestselling crime novelists in the world, most notably famous for her Thomas Pitt and William Monk novels. What makes Perry quite unusual is that, unlike other writers who were bad people, her crime was committed at a shockingly young age.

When she was a teenager, Perry, known as Juliet Hulme at the time, and Pauline Parker were best friends to an obsessive degree, creating fantasy worlds together and keeping in close contact. At the time, Hulme's mother was going through the process of divorcing her husband and moving to South Africa with relatives. Not wanting to separate from each other, Perry and Parker decided to murder Ms. Hulme while walking together on a path, by distracting her with a dropped jewel, and beating with a brick 20 times, ultimately killing her. They both serviced five years in prison, and never spoke to each other after that. Hulme then changed her name to Anne Perry and became a crime novelist.

The story was made into the film Heavenly Creatures (directed by Peter Jackson) and detailed in a biography, Anne Perry and the Murder of the Century.

Age: 79

Birthplace: Blackheath, London, London, United Kingdom

Nationality: United Kingdom

Profession: Author, Writer

Schools: Christchurch Girls' High School

Also Ranked

#37 on The Best Mystery Authors

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William Golding is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list Famous Writers and Artists Who Were Terrible Humans
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2 110 VOTES

William Golding

Who he was: Author of Lord of the Flies and attempted rapist.


The story: William Golding is best known for writing Lord of the Flies, a groundbreaking novel about children fighting to the death on an island, which won him the Nobel Prize in 1954. But few people know about the darkness so integral to his work

The unpublished memoir Men and Women (which Golding wrote for his wife) details his attempted rape of a 15-year-old girl named Dora. For years this information was locked away, until John Carey, a professor at Oxford, gained access to private unpublished journals from Golding's collections. Golding was an adult at the time, away on holiday at Oxford. The memoir quotes Golding's journals, indicating that his lusting began with his observation of her being, "already sexy as an ape." After being sure that she "wanted heavy sex," Golding tried to advance on her. Being fought off, the two didn't meet again until two years later. As if nothing had ever happened they proceeded to have sex in a field, and Golding got off scot-free, going on to publish his most notable work.

Age: Died at 82 (1911-1993)

Birthplace: St Columb Minor, United Kingdom

Nationality: United Kingdom

Profession: Poet, Novelist, Author, Writer, Playwright

Schools: University of Oxford, St John's School and Community College, Brasenose College, Oxford

Died: 1993

Place Of Death: Perranarworthal, United Kingdom

Also Ranked

#13 on The Greatest Artists With Only One Masterpiece

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Patricia Highsmith is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list Famous Writers and Artists Who Were Terrible Humans
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Patricia Highsmith

Who she was: Crime novelist and racist.


The story: Patricia Highsmith captivated the world with her psychological thriller novels that bridged the twisting dissections of the minds of her mentally disturbed characters and an audience hungry for more. But she was also very much human, besot with some of the worst qualities a person could have. In fairness, she also had a horrible childhood. Her mother had tried to abort her by drinking turpentine while she was pregnant, forever creating a rift between the two.

The author was an alcoholic and had troubling intimacy issues, preferring the company of animals to that of people. When she did hang out with others, it was often to their own displeasure. "She was a mean, hard, cruel, unlovable, unloving person," Otto Penzler, an acquaintance, once said of her.

And then there wass her racism. Gathered from her deeply personal journals, she said that the Holocaust was a semicaust, because it had only succeeded halfway in eliminating Jews. She also hid no disdain for pretty much every race that wasn't white, frequently mocking them in her writings.

Age: Died at 74 (1921-1995)

Birthplace: Fort Worth, Texas, United States of America

Nationality: United States of America

Profession: Crime writer, Novelist, Cartoonist, Author, Writer

Schools: Columbia University, Barnard College

Died: 1995

Cause Of Death: Cancer, Leukemia

Place Of Death: Locarno, Switzerland

Also Ranked

#48 on The Best Female Authors of All Time

#12 on The Best Gay Authors

#70 on The Most Inspiring (Non-Hollywood) Female Role Models

#5 on The Best Suspense Authors

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J. D. Salinger is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list Famous Writers and Artists Who Were Terrible Humans
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J. D. Salinger

Who he was: Author of The Catcher in the Rye, pedophile, and adulterer.

The story: Published in 1951 The Catcher In the Rye has gone on to sell millions of copies and achieve critical praise. The story about Holden Caulfield realizing that the world is full of phonies, has become a staple in high school curriculum reading. The author himself slipped into a self-imposed obscurity, keeping his own private life very private. That is... until one of his ex-girlfriends, Jean Miller (whom Salinger dated when she was 14 and he was 30), spilled the beans.

Many female characters in his books, such as Phoebe from The Catcher in the Rye, share a disturbing similarities to some of the underage women he had relations with. But his predilections didn't end there. He began to see Joyce Maynard, who was 18 at the time, behind his wife's back during a nine month long affair.

Age: Died at 91 (1919-2010)

Birthplace: New York City, New York, United States of America

Nationality: United States of America

Profession: Soldier, Novelist, Writer

Schools: Valley Forge Military Academy and College, McBurney School, Columbia University, Ursinus College, New York University

Died: 2010

Cause Of Death: Natural causes

Place Of Death: Cornish, New Hampshire, United States of America

Children: Matt Salinger, Margaret Salinger

Also Ranked

#17 on The Greatest American Writers of All Time

#56 on The Best Novelists of All Time

#65 on The Best Young Adult Authors

#11 on The Most Unbearably Pretentious Authors In Literary History

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