Categories: People

Top 20 Greatest Alcoholic Writers

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Alcoholism affects people from all walks of life, including these famous writers below. They battled alcoholism during their careers and had a family history of addiction. They produced classic works of literature, poetry and journalism despite their affliction.

Lets begin the list of greatest alcoholic writers who have written some greatest books.

1. Charles Bukowski (August 16th 1920 – March 9th 1994)

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Birth Place: Andernach, Germany

Heinrich Karl Bukowski once called alcohol “one of the greatest things on the earth”, along with himself. He was introduced to booze in his early teens which became a lifelong love affair with the substance, chronicled in his novels and poetry.

Alcohol became the inspiration for the 1987 biopic “Barfly”, which Bukowski wrote himself. There was a hiatus in his writing career due to the result of the fact that he was drunk during that period.

However, it is believed that Bukowski’s prodigious drinking helped with his natural tendency towards shyness and introversion, with the writer suggesting that it gave him a reason to live.

2. Ernest Hemingway (July 21st 1899 – July 2nd 1961)

Image Credit: GPA Photo Archive

Birth Place: Oak Park, Illinois, USA

According to the Nobel Prize in Literature winner Ernest Hemingway, “If you want to know about a culture, spend a night in bars.”

The writer admitted to drinking since he was 15. In the last two decades his life, the author of classics like “The Old Man and the Sea” and “A Farewell to Arms” was putting away a quart of whiskey a day.

He claimed to abstain from drinking while working. He often seemed sober after his feats of boozing. The alcohol took a toll on his health.

Hemingway committed suicide at 61 after suffering a period of depression.

3. F Scott Fitzgerald Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald (September 24, 1896 – December 21, 1940)

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Birth place: USA

Fitzgerald is an American who wrote novels and short stories. His work has been seen as evocative of the Jazz Age.

Fitzgerald had been an alcoholic since his teenage days. He became notorious during the 1920s for his drinking; leaving him in poor health by the 1930s.

He is one of the greatest writers of the 20th Century. Alcohol and alcoholics hold a prominent place in Scott Fitzgerald’s writing.

4. John Berryman (5 October 1914 – 7 January 1972)

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Birth Place: Oklahoma, United States

He was an American poet and one of the most important figures in the Confessional poetry movement, which features extremely personal writings in the first person.

A confessional poet, Berryman experienced severe trauma in his early life. When Berryman was 11, his father killed himself. This experience haunted the poet and fueled his life with alcoholism and depression.

Over the course of his life, John Berryman was hospitalized for alcohol abuse on multiple occasions.

5. John Cheever (May 27th 1912 – June 18th 1982)

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Birth place: Quincy, Massachusetts, USA

John Cheever saw the effects of alcohol abuse first-hand at an early age. His father Frederick fell into heavy drinking after losing most of the family’s money.

The writer had addiction to alcohol which intensified by struggle over his bisexuality.

He has tackled the subject in his 1962 short story Reunion, about a boy who meets with his estranged, alcoholic father in New York City.

He continued to drink even after a near-fatal pulmonary oedema attributable to his alcoholism. Once, he was picked up by the police for vagrancy while sharing liquor with homeless people.

Cheever was admitted into New York’s Smithers alcoholism treatment and training center.

6. Tennessee Williams Thomas Lanier Williams III (March 26, 1911 – February 25, 1983)

Birth place: USA

Known as Tennessee Williams, he was an American playwright of the twentieth century.

He received many of the top theatrical awards for his work. One of Williams’ most enduring works, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, included references to elements of his life such as homosexuality, mental instability and alcoholism.

7. William Faulkner (September 25th 1897 – July 6th 1962)

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Birth place: New Albany, Mississippi, USA

William Faulkner, one of American literature’s greatest writers has won the Nobel Prize in Literature and the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

However, the novelist and short story writer had one very specific tool that he used when creating classics (The Sound and the Fury and As I Lay Dying) alcohol.

Faulkner’s heaviest drinking binges usually took place in between novels and could go on for up to weeks at a time. Yet even so, he remained productive until his death of a heart attack at the age of 64.

8. Truman Capote (30 September 1924 – 25 August 1984)

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Birth place: New Orleans, Louisiana, USA

Truman Capote overcame a difficult childhood including the divorce of his parents, separation from his mother and various upheavals to produce literary landmarks such as Breakfast at Tiffany’s and In Cold Blood.

Capote’s drinking habit is said to have had a precedent in his mother’s struggle with alcohol.

He repeatedly attempted to quit drinking and was successful for a few months before again falling off the wagon. Capote battled an addiction to tranquilizers.

9. Edgar Allen Poe (19 January 1809 – 7 October 1849)

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Birth Place: Boston, Massachusetts, United States

Edgar Allan Poe is known for work that blends the macabre and the mysterious. He has been widely credited as the pioneer of the fictional detective genre.

However, he turned to alcohol after the tragic death of his wife from tuberculosis. He found a new love in Sarah Helen Whitman, who said that she would marry him if he abandoned drinking.

However, the engagement was broken. One psychologist has proposed that he was a dipsomaniac.

10. Dorothy Parker (22 August 1893 – 7 June 1967)

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Birth Place: New Jersey, United States

Dorothy Parker is famed for her biting, often self-deprecating witticisms as she is for her writing and criticism.

However, she battled with severe depression and alcohol addiction during her career.

It is reported that upon commitment to a sanatorium, the writer said to a doctor that she would need to leave around every hour to have a drink. Her marriages were also blighted by alcoholic tendencies.

Parker continued to write for a number of outlets, though, including for radio, until her death at 73.

11. Raymond Carver (25 May 1938 – 2 August 1988)

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Birth place: Oregon, United States

Carver managed to stop drinking in the final years of his life. As Carver confessed, “he did nothing but drink.” Carver’s life rivaled and exceeded Cheever’s in alcoholic abjectness.

His was the blue-collar version, replete with unpaid bills and demeaning employment and the near-total absence of glamour.

12. Edna St. Vincent Millay (22 February 1892 – 19 October 1950)

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Birth place: Maine USA

One of the greatest American poets of the 20th century, led a life full of sex, booze and good times.

Her written art and independence led her to be honored with a Pulitzer Prize in 1923. 

She was a literary radio celebrity during world war II. She was known for her love affairs, her fiery disregard for societal constraints and her considerable tolerance for spirits and wine.

13. Sinclair Lewis (7 February 1885-10 January 1951)

Birth place: Minnesota, USA

American author and Nobel laureate, Sinclair Lewis, ran away from home at the age of 13 to join the Spanish-American War. Sinclair Lewis had two marriages which both were resulted in a divorce.

Due to an alcoholic binge in 1937, Lewis was admitted for treatment to the Austen Riggs Center, a psychiatric hospital in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. His doctors asked him to decide “whether he was going to live without alcohol or die by it.

Lewis checked out after a week, without any “fundamental understanding of his problem.” Lewis died in Rome from advanced alcoholism.

14. Eugene O’ Neil (October 16, 1888 – November 27, 1953)

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Birth Place: New York City, U.S.

Eugene O’ Neil was an American Nobel laureate in literature. He was the first to introduce poetically titled plays in United States. His plays were considered as drama techniques of realism.

The tragedy Long Day’s Journey into Night is often numbered on the short list of the finest U.S. plays in the 20th century. His father, James was an Irish immigrant actor.

His mother Mary Ellen Quinlan was also of Irish descent. His father was a pure alcoholic; his mother was addicted to morphine which was prescribed by doctors to relieve the pains of the difficult birth of her third son, Eugene.

O’Neil suffered from depression and alcoholism during the years he spent at sea.

15. John Stienbeck (February 27, 1902 – December 20, 1968)

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Birth Place: Salinas, California, U.S.

An American author, Pulitzer Prize-winner and the Nobel Prize in Literature winner is known for realistic and imaginative writings which contain sympathetic humor and keen social perception.

He was known as a giant of American letters as his work is considered classics. With 16 novels, six non-fiction books, and two short stories book, he authored 33 books.

He is popularly known for the comic novels. John was a lifelong smoker.

16. Jack London (January 12, 1876 – November 22, 1916)

Birth Place: USA

Jack is known as a journalist, social activist, American novelist, pioneer of commercial fiction and American magazines.

He was the first American authors to become an international celebrity. He earned a large fortune from writing. He invented a new genre called science fiction.

A memoir of sorts, named John Barleycorn has details about his lifelong battle with alcohol.

17. Hart Crane (July 21, 1899 – April 27, 1932)

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Birth Place: Garrettsville, Ohio, U.S.

Hart’s father was a successful Cleveland manufacture of “Crane’s Chocolates.” Hart was born in Ohio but raised in Cleveland.

He repudiated the business values of his father and attached himself to his cultivated mother. Crane’s life was permeated with severe psychic disturbances that originated due to this nearly classic Oedipal situation.

He became an avowed homosexual and a severe alcoholic.

18. Dashiell Hammett (May 27, 1894 – January 10, 1961)

Image Credit: Britannica

Birth Place: St. Mary’s County, Maryland, U.S.

An American author of detective novels and short stories, he was also a screenwriter and political activist. Hammett is known as one of the finest mystery writers of all time.

He was popular by the name “the dean of the school of detective fiction”.

His book Red Harvest was included on list of the 100 best English-language novels (published in between (1923 – 2005)) by Time magazine.

Most private detective movies and mystery thrillers are influenced by the novels of Hammett. Hammett’s alcoholism and his general level of debauchery increased in direct proportion to his material success. 

Hammett’s alcoholism worsened as he aged. He was an intermittent problem drinker during his San Francisco years.

19. Ring Lardner (March 5, 1885– September 25, 1933)

Birth Place: Niles, Michigan, United States

An American sports columnist and short story writer, Ring Lardner was best known for his satirical writings on sports, marriage, and the theatre.

Lardner was also addicted to alcoholism from his younger age but during his late years he decided to give up alcohol but got friendly to Marijuana.

Fitzgerald was an admirer of Lardner work and both become drinking companions. During Great Neck association, Lardner was considered America’s most famous humorist writer. His readers were mostly newspaper and magazine community.

He died at the age of 48 suffering from tuberculosis and alcoholism in 1933.

20. Hunter Thompson (July 8, 1937- February 20, 2005)

Image Credit: Britannica

Birth Place: Louisville, Kentucky, U.S.

Hunter Thompson was a journalist, sports reporter, writer, a celebrity and a hard druggist. He is a party person and lives his life as a celebrity.

Thompson had many actor friends like John Cusack, Sean Penn, Bill Murray and many more. Hunter was an everyday drinker. He mostly has tabs in every famous bar near his living place. On one occasion he stole a journalist’s tape recorder in Raymond’s Revue Bar in London.

According to Thompson, he had a brain of a second rated accountant, but drugs and alcohol shaped his life to extraordinary degree. He died in Colorado in February 2005 by suicide.

He shot himself in the head because of the depression. Thompson was unhappy because of his old age and numerous medical conditions, which included a hip surgery.

Before killing himself he was typing on a typewriter which stated only two words “Feb. 22 ‘05” and “counselor”. 


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