The eldest of four children, Hunter grew up in the Chicago suburb of Evanston, where his father, Charles, taught film and television production at Northwestern University. His mother wrote children’s books, and both parents decreed that there was no place in their home for guns.
Hunter’s relationship with his father was complex at best. An alcoholic, Charles beat his kids. From the time he was three or four, Hunter drew pictures of guns. He now sees that fascination as a small boy’s desire to protect himself.
Just before Thanksgiving 1975, when Hunter was 29, his father was pushed from a third-floor Chicago apartment window by a pair of male prostitutes and fell to his death. Charles was gay—something the family didn’t learn until after his death.
“My father took [his] pain and simply passed it along. In the end that, as much as anything, killed him,” Hunter wrote in a 1981 essay, “Father of Darkness.”
“My father was a handsome man, tall and proud and thin. He was a woefully hard worker. Yet he was shy in an almost pathological way. He hated to meet new people—he hated to do anything. He truly enjoyed nothing. He had no hobbies. He didn’t care about sports. He never built anything. For a while, he planted things, but there was no joy in it. He held, he nursed, he cultured grudges—against his colleagues, against his wife, against his children.”