Tag: Suicide

Brautigan’s Death Express


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


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.


Guy de Michêl

As tough as nails as he must have been, being a former member of the French Foreign Legion, Guy de Michêl could never pick up his life after the death of his wife.

I went to Montreal where he lived and learned the following from people who knew him.

He had joined a bereavement support group for a couple of months; he did a stint as a volunteer at a local library. He tried to get back to writing about his life as a Legionnaire.

Then he stopped trying. He stayed in bed all day until ‘cocktail hour’ — a time he and his wife had shared for thirty-four years.

Sitting there alone now, he drank heavily, smoked half a pack, sometimes rising from his chair to heat up a can of soup for nourishment — and then he watched old movies on television until he was blotto.

Then he went to bed. And the next day was the same as the day before. He couldn’t snap out of a mind-dead ennui (a word that in French means much more than the popular English translation of ‘boredom’ — ennui in French means a hopeless emptiness, a total absence of will to go on.

He phoned no one. He had no immediate family — two brothers, a son, and now his wife, all dead — and no one phoned him. No one ever came to his house. He was completely isolated. The question being, of course, why go on?

Seven months into his wife’s death, he fell into the deepest depression he had ever known. Grief and depression had been there all along, but on the seventh anniversary of her death, it became an inexorable, bottomless pit? Why did this happen in the seventh month? He did not know.

Desperately, he prayed to a God he had tried to believe in for the most part of his life — until he realized the abject futility of it. He had suspected the whole religion thing was a bad joke, but he realized it was worse than a joke — it was a dirty lie. And he wasn’t going to fall for it any longer. It became clear to him that the only way to end this hell was to end his life.