In the peak of their careers, literary elite found comfort in many notable hotels, inspired by the history, privacy, service and often legacy. Ultimately, famous authors wrote books at iconic hotels, making them iconic literary hotels, and we’ll take a look at who and where.
Ernest Hemingway was so commanded by The Ritz Paris (the hotel’s Hemingway Bar, a former saloon the author frequented, is now named after him), he stayed often (with friend F. Scott Fitzgerald) and famously wrote: “When I dream of afterlife in heaven, the action always takes place in the Paris Ritz.” Hemingway is credited for “liberating” the hotel from the Nazis in Word War Two.
When modern hotels began opening in the late 18th century, travelers passing through lodged for a short time before continuing on with their journeys. Hotels were hardly the destination, though famous authors saw otherwise.
William Faulkner, author of The Sound and the Fury, stayed at Hotel Monteleone in New Orleans several times between the 1920s and 1950s (the landmark hotel now has a William Faulkner Suite named after the author’s booked room).
Faulkner often met with Truman Capote, whose name is synonymous with the hotel as his mother gave labor to him while living there. In 1920, F. Scott Fitzgerald, author of The Great Gatsby, was a regular at The Plaza in New York City, and the hotel pays tribute to the famed guest with the Fitzgerald Suite.
Many hotels honor their literary history with entire author wings and writer programs, like Mandarin Oriental Bangkok, which has served as home-away-from-home to the likes of Joseph Conrad, John le Carre, Somerset Maugham and James Michener. The hotel features an entire Author’s wing and lounge with memorabilia from past literary guests. Robert E. Sherwood, Dorothy Parker, Gertrude Stein and Maya Angelou spent plenty of time at Algonquin Hotel in New York City, home to a Round Table of writers, critics and actors in the 1920s. History resonates here with literary tours.
In the early 1900s, many literary giants were known to admire grand hotels, historically staying for weeks, months and even years while producing famous works that made their preferred hotels legendary in the literary world.
While the relationship between grand hotels and famous writers as guests runs deep, generations of iconic authors actually lived on property to work on famous titles. I love that famous authors wrote books at literary hotels — and lived there (jealous).
Agatha Christie was famously enthralled by the Middle East, and she spent months exploring the region both with her new husband, an archaeologist, and for inspiration for her crime novels. Murder on the Orient Express (published in 1934), one of her most celebrated titles, was inspired by her trip to Istanbul, and it’s on record she wrote the detective novel in room 411 at Pera Palace Hotel Jumeirah, which opened in 1892.
Ernest Hemingway was also a guest. While he didn’t write here, he features Pera Palace in his short story The Snows of Kilimanjaro; the protagonist stays at the hotel while serving in the military.
Playwright Tennessee Williams, born in Columbus, Mississippi, was an avid admirer of grand hotels, and he was constantly living in them, including Hotel Elysee, where he was a resident for 15 years until his death in 1983.
Though he was a regular guest at Hotel Monteleone in New Orleans, he also stayed at Pontchartrain Hotel (opened in 1927) in the Lower Garden District, a stomping ground for high society. Here, he penned A Streetcar Named Desire, which debuted in 1947 and received the Pulitzer Pride for Drama in 1948.
In 1953, author Ian Fleming conceived James Bond in Jamaica at GoldenEye Resort, which sprawls on oceanfront land he owned at the time. Fleming spent several months every year hiding away at this secluded spot in Oracabessa Bay, writing all fourteen of his famous books here.
The Fleming estate was later purchased in 1976 by Chris Blackwell (founder of Island Records), who transformed the property into a high-end, 22-room resort. The Fleming Villa, where the author wrote, was virtually untouched, and Fleming’s original desk is still in the room. The resort’s Fleming history has inspired several famous actors and musicians to retreat here, like Sting, who wrote Every Breath You Take on the property in 1982.
Hotel Chelsea, built between 1883 and 1885 in New York City’s Chelsea neighborhood, is legendary for its notable guests like Allen Ginsberg, Thomas Wolfe and Dylan Thomas. It was common for writers and artists to produce works that would later feature Hotel Chelsea. Dee Dee Ramone, who spent time here detoxing from heroine, wrote the novel Chelsea Horror Hotel after he checked out. Arthur Miller penned a story about his life at Hotel Chelsea though as a hotel guest, he wrote a play, After the Fall, which described his marriage to Marilyn Monroe shortly after their divorce in 1962.
The most famous work written in the hotel is Arthur C. Clarke’s 2001: A Space Odyssey screenplay. In 1964, Stanley Kubrick had offered Clarke an office at his production company on the Upper West Side. Uncomfortable in the presence of Kubrick while at work, Clarke booked room 1008 at Chelsea Hotel where he banged out the script (he was also known to meet up with Arthur Miller for breakfast to take a break from their projects.).
Arthur C. Clarke was openly fond of the hotel and, in a 1999 interview with New York Times, Clarke said of Chelsea Hotel: “This place is my spiritual home. Everyone is surprised that I come to this hardly five-star hotel.”
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