I found myself thinking of topics when I remembered that a number of authors had been shut up in the slammer for a number of ridiculous reasons. Below is a list of authors and the stories behind their incarcerations. This blog contains a small amount of mature content. Just be advised.

  1. Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862):

Once went to jail for not paying his taxes.

  1. Voltaire (1694-1778):

Once wrote a play that insulted a lord. In those days, an aristocrat could have anyone locked up for any reason whatsoever. So, as a result, Voltaire spent 11 months in the Bastille.

  1. Oscar Wilde (1854-1900):

This Irishman once went to jail for public indecency, because his lover’s father, John Shulton Douglas, accused him of being a homosexual. Imagine going to prison for the mere act of being gay. Yes, once upon a time it was actually illegal.

  1. Miguel De Cervantes (1546-1616):

Was jailed twice for due to financial irregularities in his tax collecting. During his second term, he wrote the famous “Don Quixote de la Mancha”

  1. Chester Himes (1909-1984):

He got sent away to Ohio State Penitentiary for armed robbery. Like Shahrazad, he kept his skin intact by entertaining his fellow inmates and the guards with his stories. Four of his novels were turned into movies. He was fired by the Warner Bros. for the sole crime of being black. WTF WB, he was a good scriptwriter.

  1. Daniel Defoe (1660-1731):

He was imprisoned for several pamphlets he had written criticizing the government. He spent several months in Blackgate Prison. He was also put in the pillory. It was rumored that his fans threw fragrant roses at him instead of rotten produce and meat.

  1. Nelson Algren (1909-1989):

Dead broke, he stole a typewriter from his job in Texas. They locked him up for five months for this crime and possession of marijuana. Later, as a result, he became known as “The Poet of the Jail and Whorehouse.”

  1. Jack London (1876-1916):

He was locked up for vagrancy . They locked up a man for being homeless! Holy shit, it used to be a crime to be homeless! “Here, take that homeless guy! We’re going to give you a roof over your head and feed you for thirty days. That will teach you!”


I saved the best for last.

  1. Sir Thomas Malory (1415-1471):

This guy takes the cake for the most brazen criminal. He went to prison for poaching, sleeping with another man’s wife, then punching that man in the face. Le Morte d’Arthur is often attributed to him, which is the first story about King Arthur. Imagine spending 20 years of your life in prison for being a typical guy. He died in New Gate and wrote most of his famous works there. I hope she was worth it.

Writing Prompt

Use an author you have read about here or find your own to write a short fiction. Either rewrite a fictional account of their crime and incarnation or take their crime and apply it to one of the characters from their books. Write a short fiction about that character’s experience of having committed the crime and their incarnation.

For example:

Author: Cervantes

Crime: Embezzling or skimming money from the tax revenues he collected.

Character: Don Quixote de la Mancha

Imagine that Don Quixote was a tax collector early on in life and he committed the same crime as his creator Cervantes. The guilt of committing that crime may have led him to try to set things right by becoming the lovable knight we all know.

Second Example:

Author: Jack London

Crime: Vagrancy/homelessness

Book: Call of the Wild

Character: Buck

Imagine Buck is a stray dog and he’s thrown into the pound. Poor Buck. What would happen then?

We encourage our readers to share their work. Just put it in the comment section and we’ll include along with this post.

Happy writing!