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Literary Rogues: A Scandalous History of Wayward Authors Paperback – February 5, 2013

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Editorial Reviews


“In this rollicking romp through a gallery of writers whose genius came with a price (alcoholism, drug addiction, depression, and other troubles), Shaffer offers a terrific blend of literary history, biography, and witty commentary.” (Publishers Weekly )

“Entertaining and well-researched.” (Kirkus Reviews )

From the Back Cover

Brimming with fascinating research, Literary Rogues is part nostalgia, part literary analysis, and a wholly raucous celebration of brilliant writers and their occasionally troubled legacies.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial (February 5, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062077287
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062077288
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #375,966 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Andrew Shaffer is the New York Times-bestselling author of Syfy's How to Survive a Sharknado (Three Rivers Press) and Fifty Shames of Earl Grey (Da Capo Press). He has appeared as a guest on FOX News, CBS, and NPR, and has been published in Mental Floss, Maxim, and The Daily Beast, among others. You can find him online at

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
In these brief biographies of approximately forty "literary rogues," from the Marquis de Sade (1740 - 1814) to James Frey (1969 - ), author Andrew Shaffer enumerates the many addictions of each author - virtually all of them associated with alcoholism and drugs and/or their frequent carryover into sexual obsession. Significantly, and reflective of the role of women writers during the times about which Shaffer writes, only six women receive more than a sentence of recognition: Mary Shelley; Zelda Fitzgerald, Edna St. Vincent Millay, and Dorothy Parker, who were all contemporaries; Anne Sexton; and Elizabeth Wurtzel. While these women could probably hold their own with the literary male alcoholics and addicts of their times, they are small percentage of the small number of women who achieved fame as authors during this period. As Joyce Carol Oates pointed out, "Nobody tells anecdotes about the quiet people who just do their work,"

The first half of Shaffer's book deals with European authors, beginning with the Marquis de Sade, the source of the word "sadism," then moves on to Coleridge, an opium addict; Robert Burns, a hopeless alcoholic; and Thomas De Quincey, addicted to daily laudanum (mentioned in a chapter which also refers briefly to Louisa May Alcott's addiction to laudanum). The English Romantics, including Lord Byron (who may have impregnated his half-sister); Percy Bysshe Shelley; and Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein, were hypersensitive, uninhibited, and prone to suicide. Poe, an American who married his thirteen-year-old cousin, used drink and drugs and was also a gambler. Baudelaire, Rimbaud, and Verlaine added absinthe to the French drug culture of which they were part.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By jrav on March 23, 2013
Format: Paperback

*This book was offered to me via the publisher, Harper Perennial, in exchange for an honest review.

In January, a friend and I went to a Half Price Books. We separated, looking at the shelves obsessively. As I moved from one aisle to another, I heard this little gem:

"You know Hemingway hated women, right? He was, like, worse than Eminem."

I looked at the only other person in the aisle, who happened to be my friend, and raised my eyebrows. Poor Hemingway. Worse than Eminem. For whatever (ok, some justified) reason, Hemingway has always been the poster child of authors behaving badly. But he was far from the only one, and Andrew Shaffer's Literary Rogues: A Scandalous History of Wayward Authors takes a look at some of these authors, going all the way back to the Marquis de Sade and running up to (my least favorite) literary bad boy, Brett Easton Ellis.

Though you likely know at least a little about many of the authors included, Shaffer's focus on their addictions and afflictions makes for interesting reading, particularly in the drugs of choice, which change according to trends. Absinthe, opium, and alcohol all make the list, as does LSD. The presence of all that mind-altering material makes you wonder how these people could possibly get any work done. Give me a glass of wine, and I want sleep. Give most of these guys a liter, and they're workaholics.

Literary Rogues is like the crack it refers to so often. Even with my knowledge of almost all of these writers, I didn't want to stop reading. It's a compendium of bad behavior and a testament to the greatest generation of writers and their capabilities.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Robbie on February 13, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Replete with references, this book does not judge but rather presents the Literary Rogues through their own eyes as well as the eyes of their fellow authors and contemporaries. It is an entertaining and insightful look into the lives of these wayward writers of whom Shaffer states "it ultimately wasn't because of their shocking behavior that they left behind anything of value-- it was in spite of it." This book is a must read for any obsessive compulsive reader (that would be me) or student of literary history. Author Andrew Shaffer has successfully penned a scholarly work that won't make you want to stick pins through your eyes.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Regina W on April 7, 2013
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As I read this book I was a little taken aback when I would catch myself smiling and chuckling at passages I read. I mean, this is tragic stuff. These are literary greats who fought their demons to produce works of literature that defined their generation. Why did I find it humorous? Then it dawned on me. There wasn't anything wrong with me. It was Andrew Shaffer. His ability to present these larger than life men and women in all their flawed glory, shining a light not only on their genius but on their proclivity for self-destruction while sprinkling in just the right amount of whit and snark so that the book doesn't read like a trudge knee deep through the sludge of despair.

I usually reserve 5 stars for works that draw me in so completely that I forget reality and live in the book for a while. Books that have me checking how much more I have to read because I don't want them to end. Books that seem to crawl into your pores and come to life while feeding off of your emotions. This book did none of that. What it did do is leave an imprint on me that will change what I bring to the works of these authors. I'll read them with new eyes and a new respect for what it cost them to be writers and for a few of them I'll marvel at how they were ever able to put pen to paper in the first place. And it has made me want to sincerely ask every writer I follow whether on the internet or at book signings, "How are you? No, really how are you?" For that and for contributing to my already out of control To Be Read list I give this book 5 stars.
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