Badass Writer of the Week: Edward “Eddie” Bunker

What do you do when you land in jail after robbing a bank at gunpoint? Become a writer of course!   Photo courtesy of StyleBlazer

What do you do when you land in jail after robbing a bank at gunpoint? Become a writer of course! Photo courtesy of StyleBlazer

By Sean Tuohy

Have you ever wondered what it would be like if Dennis the Menace grew up to be a real person? He’d probably be someone like ex-banker robber turned bestselling author Edward “Eddie” Bunker.

Don’t know the name? Well, learn it quick before he comes back from the dead to shive you in the back! We are fearfully checking over our shoulders as we write this just to make sure that the late cigar-chewing ex-convict doesn't spring an attack on us.

Edward Bunker was born in New York City in 1933 to parents with a drinking problem (always a good start!). He was in foster care by age 5 and running away almost every other week. By the way, he didn’t just walk around the block until someone picked him up. This badass ran 400 miles away and lived in hobo camps.

By the time Bunker was 16 years old, he had been in and out of so many reform schools, military schools, and mental hospitals that when he got in trouble again the court system threw its hands in the air and said, “Screw it! Send him to real jail.”

Bunker realized that his age put him at risk of becoming someone’s girlfriend in state prison. To make sure no one would mess with him, he stabbed a fellow inmate in the back while showering. Yes, while most of us were worrying about dating and how to pay for gas, Eddie Bunker was stabbing people in the shower. Kind of puts things in prospective.

Bunker became the youngest inmate at San Quentin State Prison, one of the most infamous prisons in California. He caught the writing bug from death row inmate turned writer Caryl Chessman who showed Bunker how to channel his feelings in to writing.

Bunker wrote regularly between doing time, robbing banks, and running drug rings. His first book, No Beast So Fierce, was published while he was in jail for robbing a bank while under surveillance for drug running. Yes, the police were tailing Bunker to what they thought was a drug buy, but were surprised to watch him rob a bank at gunpoint.

While Bunker was incarcerated for that, Dustin Hoffman bought the rights to his book and turned in to a movie. Once Bunker was out of prison, his second book, Animal Factory, was published and he decided to give up the whole life of a crime thing to become a writer/actor. From that point on Hollywood picked at Bunker’s crime-riddled mind to help improve its movies. Michael Mann used Bunker for his crime drama “Heat” to the point that Jon Voight’s character in the movie is based on him.

Bunker died at the age of 71—we’re guessing that’s 50 years longer than anyone thought he would live—but we assume he just faked his death so he could continue robbing people.