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’:
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.
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
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.