Since achieving overnight fame at age 21 with his debut, Less Than Zero, Ellis has been one of America's most talked-about novelists—and possibly its most reviled.
The LA native was a precocious student at Bennington College—alongside Jonathan Lethem and Donna Tartt—when he published his paean to teen nihilism, Less Than Zero, in 1985. The novel captured the drugged-up and decadent spirit of the mid '80s to spectacular effect, and initiated Ellis into the "brat pack," the notorious group of '80s superstar authors that included Jay McInerney and Tama Janowitz. He followed up with The Rules of Attraction (1987), about a group of students at a thinly-disguised Bennington, which did reasonably well, but it was Ellis's third book, 1991's American Psycho, that cemented his status as a wunderkind and sick bastard. Since then, he's published Glamorama, 2005's Lunar Park, and 2010's Imperial Bedrooms, a sequel to Less Than Zero. Fans starved for his unique brand of toolish misogyny between novels need only go to his Twitter.
American Psycho, which graphically relates the deranged and misogynistic homicidal fantasies of yuppie stockbroker Patrick Bateman, was the most controversial novel of the early '90s. The novel's original publisher, Simon & Schuster, chickened out amid threats of boycotts, so Random House picked it up, edited it a bit, and put it out in paperback instead of hardcover. When the novel—which the Washington Post had described as "the literary equivalent of a snuff flick"—hit the New York Times bestseller list, the paper of record announced it would be excluded due to the content. Ellis has said he received death threats over the book.
Ellis has described himself as bisexual; in 2004, his "best friend and lover" of six years, Michael Wade Kaplan, died at the age of 30. [Image via Getty]