Ass-Kicking Authors: The 5 Biggest Literary Badasses


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Forget the tweed jackets and thick-rimmed eyeglasses. Not all novelists are nerds, and some of ‘em could drink pretty much anyone under the table. Their characters might’ve been sensitive, but these literary geniuses were stone-cold. An excerpt from Andrew Shaffer’s new book, “Literary Rogues: A Scandalous History of Wayward Authors.”

1. Norman Mailer


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Mailer, author of “The Naked and the Dead,” was one of the most belligerent guys of all time, ready to engage his enemies with words or fists. A diehard boxing fan, Mailer often approached critics in a fighter’s crouch. After Rip Torn attacked him with a hammer on a movie set (apparently unprovoked), Mailer pulled a Mike Tyson and bit off part of the actor’s ear.

2. Dylan Thomas


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When he was 21, Thomas–a Welsh poet–met his future wife at a London pub. They locked lips and then embarked on an epic five-day bar crawl. Marriage did little to slow down his libido, which got him in trouble with his wife and his mistress’s husbands, like the one who shot up Thomas’s house with a machine gun and then attempted to kill him with a grenade. (Thomas escaped unscathed.)

When Thomas visited the U.S., he announced that he had only two goals: To touch the breasts “of a beautiful blonde starlet and to meet Charlie Chaplin.” After groping actress Shelley Winters in Hollywood, he announced, “I do not believe it’s necessary for me to meet Charlie Chaplin now.”

3. Lord Byron


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Over the course of his lifetime, poet Lord Byron slept with hundreds of women. (And, occasionally, men.) He cataloged locks of hair from his conquests in a meticulously labeled collection. And that wasn’t even his weirdest behavior; he drank wine from a human skull and always kept a pistol strapped to his side. When his college wouldn’t let him keep a dog in his dorm room, he adopted a pet bear instead.

4. Hunter S. Thompson


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“A bird flies, a fish swims, I drink,” said the legendary author of “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.” He threw parties at his Aspen ranch with actors such as Jack Nicholson, Bill Murray, Johnny Depp and John Belushi. When the cops showed up to his house after hearing a gunshot, Thompson explained that he was aiming for a five-foot-tall “killer porcupine” that had charged him, walking upright on two legs.

5. Ernest Hemingway


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Such a badass that he walked away from two serious plane crashes–stumbling injured and concussed to a nearby bar to order a drink–Hemingway ran with the bulls in Spain and told wildly embellished tales of his World War I experience. He was an avid fisherman and hunter, and once killed four hundred rabbits in a single day. (Judging from his sizable gut, he probably skinned and ate them all the same day too.)

When he ran into a critic who’d slammed one of his books, Hemingway ripped his own shirt open to show the critic “what a real man looks like” and promptly wrestled him to the ground. Because real men settle their differences like The Rock and John Cena.

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