Brautigan’s Death Express

THIRTY-FIVE YEARS AGO TODAY

Richard Brautigan shot himself in the head with a .44 Magnum revolver on September 16, 1984, in his house in Bolinas, California. He was 49. 

The body of the famous American writer and cult hero wasn’t discovered for a month, on October 15, badly decomposed.

The .44 Magnum is no longer, as Dirty Harry once said, “the most powerful handgun in the world, it’ll blow your head clean off,” but it did a number on Brautigan.

As William Hjortsberg writes in his 864-page biography of Brautigan ‘Jubilee Hitchhiker’:

Richard Brautigan never heard his final gunshot. Traveling three times the speed of sound, the Winchester Western Super X .44 Magnum hollow point exploded up through the poet’s head, destroying his face, dislodging his wire-rimmed eyeglasses, blasting off the back of his skull. Continuing on, the bullet tore a hole in the molding above a corner window, struck a one-by-four nailed inside, and fell back into the space within the wall. At the same instant, all his dreams, fears, hopes, and ambition were erased forever, his brain disintegrated, the nerves of his spinal cord were disconnected, and Brautigan’s knees buckled, his body dropping straight down, as the weapon, a nickel-plated Smith & Wesson Model 28 revolver, flew from his lifeless hand. He was dead before he hit the floor.
It was a beautiful bright Sunday afternoon: September 16, 1984. Clad in tan corduroy trousers, a T-shirt, and socks, Richard Brautigan’s body lay on its back in the main living area on the second floor of his house at 6 Terrace Avenue in Bolinas, California, a small seacoast village he referred to as “the freeze-dried sixties.” His left front pocket held a crumpled $5 bill and a couple singles. A radio in the kitchen at the back of the house blared at full volume.
 

Brautigan became an instant worldwide sensation in 1967 with the publication of  ‘Trout Fishing in America’ . He was hailed as the new and uniquely distinctive voice of the emerging countercultural youth movement of the late 1960s.

More on Brautigan here

Brautigan moved to Bolinas the year before he blew his brains out. He lived alone in a large old house that he had bought with his earnings years earlier.

His decomposed body was found by Robert Yench, a friend and private investigator, on the living room floor, in front of a large window that had a view through trees of the Pacific Ocean.

Due to the decomposition of the body it is speculated that Brautigan had shot himself over a month earlier. Neighbors reportedly heard a loud noise Sunday Sept. 16 while watching a National Football League game.

Richard Brautigan was an alcoholic for most of his adult life and suffered from deep depression. His daughter, Ianthe, said he frequently talked about suicide at least ten years before taking his own life.

Trout Fishing in America

[Excerpt]

Trout Fishing in America Shorty appeared suddenly last autumn in San Francisco, staggering around in a magnificent chrome-plated steel wheelchair.

He was a legless, screaming middle-aged wino.

He descended upon North Beach like a chapter from the Old Testament. He was the reason birds migrate in the autumn. They have to. He was the cold turning of the earth; the bad wind that blows off sugar.

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