MARGARET A. HARRELL
MEETING HUNTER S. THOMPSON
You're a leprechaun. You come and go. You go off and answer some inner telephone, and then you come back till it rings again ... On the phone it seemed like you couldn't finish a subject. But you fill in the gaps with vibrations.
I met Hunter S. Thompson in 1966. It was a blazing mark in the
sand, or sun, or sky—stamping the moment indelibly, that no removal of any sort
could ever affect and nothing later ever put into the sidelight, or even
shadow, in spite of all the shadow.
Hunter was twenty-eight. He'd written "The Motorcycle Gangs: Losers and Outsiders" for the May 17, '65 issue of the Nation—at the suggestion of its editor, Carey McWilliams. As part of the research, a San Francisco Chronicle police reporter, former Angel Birney Jarvis, introduced him to some of the gang. Hunter promised he'd tell their story honestly, then daringly began to invite them home to party. When the Nation story was published, the Oakland Angels president, Ralph "Sonny" Barger, liked it. Also, the very broke journalist suddenly received handfuls of offers to lengthen the article into a book.
Ian Ballantine, cofounder of Bantam Books and Ballantine Books, signed Hell's Angels: The Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs as a paperback. Hunter chose Ballantine for the $6,000 guarantee, which included a rather puny $1,500 advance; it at least would pay the overdue bills. Only recently he'd been able to reconnect his phone, using the name "Sebastian Owl." Ballantine sold the hard cover rights to Random House.
The Angels rode low in the saddle on five-hundred-pound chopped hogs—seven-hundred-pound Harley 74s stripped of excess parts, the front extended, rebuilt for speed. Hunter rode a BSA Lightning 650. Wearing, he told a Playboy reporter, "Levi's and boots but always a little different from theirs; a tan leather jacket instead of a black one," he hung with the Oakland and Frisco chapters about a year.1 The result was Hell's Angels.
As early as 1964 he had written friend Paul Semonin that he distrusted power and authority, and anyone who attained it "by conventional means—whether it is guns, votes, or outright bribery." That the two major present-day evils were Poverty and Governments. He'd considered beginning his Nation piece: "In a prosperous democracy that is also a society of winners and losers, any man without an equalizer or at least the illusion of one is by definition underprivileged."2
In September 1965—with "six months of massive [Hell's Angels] research to distill" instead of plunging into his novel The Rum Diary—he wrote William J. Kennedy: "I feel like I've been hoisted toward the sun on the end of a very sharp sword, and the first wrong move will do me in for real." 3
Hunter met Kennedy in 1960, when the latter, who'd studied creative writing under Saul Bellow, was managing editor of the English-language newspaper the San Juan Star (Puerto Rico). After an application to the Star, rejected by Kennedy, Hunter went to Puerto Rico for El Sportivo. A lifelong friendship ensued. In their all-night conversations the two avid readers roamed the canon of Western literature. Kennedy later won the Pulitzer Prize for Ironweed and became a professor at the University at Albany and at Cornell.
Prior to landing at Random House, Hunter explored South America as a reporter and sought every odd job imaginable in the US, from selling blood to lining up with winos to deliver circulars. Already in 1965 he'd written: "Facts are lies when they're added up ... you have to add up the facts in your own fuzzy way, and to hell with the hired swine who use adding machines." 4
Another old friend, David Pierce, played a key role in the Hell's Angels publication in stealth and required everyone involved be sworn to secrecy. To this day no one has revealed it. Desperately tracking down Pierce in 2008, I located him en route to Thailand—about to disappear. Fortunately, for Keep This Quiet! he withdrew the oath. Below is some background.
In the 1960s, Pierce, a good-looking, intelligent attorney, worked twelve hours a day and lived in a beautiful house with teak floors. In the heyday of hippies he was mayor of Richmond, in the Bay Area. He reminisces jovially.
"Here's a typical Hunter Thompson story. Hunter hung out at my house because there was a lot of drugs and booze and he was broke. He kept telling me I should go see the Hell's Angels. I had no desire to. I thought of them as being a bunch of really disgusting scamps. As usual, he had this sheepskin coat with this big tape recorder on his back. So I finally agreed and I put on an old dirty pair of Levi's and an old shirt and we go to Oakland [to a] scumbag pool hall."
Within minutes Pierce left. Hunter followed. "And again, as usual, he has a bottle of Wild Turkey right beside him in his old beat-up car." To make a long story short, Pierce, who handily and overwhelmingly carried the African-American vote, told him, "'Tonight's celebrity night in Richmond. This black club on the South Side would really like me to show up because I'm the mayor.'"
At the club, they "get completely smashed. They got transvestites dancing on the bar, the whole damn thing."
They left at 2:00 a.m. Hunter was, as typically, parked right out frontin the bus lane. Three policemen had the car surrounded. Though Pierce tried to make nice, Hunter liked the odds for a fight. Behind Hunter and Pierce was a sort of Greek chorus softly murmuring, "You're the mayor, asshole. What you kissing ass for? Those fuckers work for your ass." One cop, overhearing them, conveyed the news to the other two and charges were dropped. Insisting Hunter was drunk, the officers made the loaded mayor drive home followed by three cop cars.
Hunter had two large swords on his wall, and another time they sword fought in the street: "So ... we're whacking [said with the sound of wind in his voice] the swords back and forth and of course the neighbors call the cops." The cops asked for ID. Pierce showed his. Hunter said his was in the house, come on in. Inside, one whole wall was filled with unpaid traffic tickets! They instantly handcuffed him and took him to jail, leaving Pierce to get him out.
Another time, around 1968, Hunter asked if he liked a certain Country Western music; Pierce said it was "rinky-dink." Hunter took out a gun and shot him in the chest. The bullet was blank. But the weapon was a .44 Magnum. "Now, a blank of a .44 Magnum will knock you all the way across the room. I just thought I was stunned and he was nuts." Hunter followed Pierce to his rented house, and through the window Pierce saw him piling cardboard outside, setting it on fire. He called the cops.
Pierce reflects, "So Hunter could be really sweet and everything. But he could also be extraordinarily painful and stressful to be around."
At the time, Pierce continues, "I was on my way to India, to leave and abandon ship, which also pissed him off because he thought I ought to run for governor"—to make a difference. "I said, 'I don't want to run for governor. I want to get outta here.'"
Pierce quit politics to follow the great Swami Muktananda. Joining the guru's inner circle, he organized his tours for four or five years, then went to Saudia Arabia to seek a fortune selling fresh ice cream on the road to Mecca.
I was twenty-six, having been one year at Random House—in what was a fascinating job. With the guidance of the superb head of the copyediting department, Bert Krantz, everyone got the best training possible. I have to say that Hunter was the most eccentric and flamboyant, even then.
Though largely unknown, he had admiration in house including from publisher Bennett Cerf. And certainly the trim, dark haired, middle-aged editor in chief of the Trade Division, Jim Silberman—who had visited him in San Francisco when Hunter was sitting on the manuscript. He'd been signed on the basis of the Nation piece, and as Jim put it, "With the first book, generically, you know you've got a good writer, you don't know if he can write a whole book. It's very complicated to get a whole book. He was having trouble—not writing. He was having trouble pulling the book together." So Jim "went out there to get [chapters] away from him." This was the beginning of a relationship that endured.
Jim and I worked well together. He found authors, did developmental editing. But it wasn't just business. He often said he "loved a good story." If I was his copy editor, we compared ideas in one-on-ones. Then he'd say, "Fix it up."
Ready with suggestions, I'd present them to the author in person, penciled in brackets in the text. Careful about sensibilities, I'd point out that a character's eyes were green on one page, blue on another. Or an age discrepancy. Or that a fact did not check out. I called the Daily News for harder-to-verify facts. That established, it was time for less obvious suggestions. Strictly for my own use, I listed on paper where words were repeated, say on pages 6, 15, 82, 250, 333. My brain logged a strong or unusual word when it reappeared, whether to good effect or weakening the place it appeared before. I knew never to change for the sake of changing. With no computers, we cut with scissors, Scotch-taped, and photocopied, then gave the manuscript to the printer, who penalized for messiness.
With Hunter's manuscript, fully backed by Jim, I thought I'd been restrained. However, I learned from the Fear and Loathing Letters Vol.1 that "the Bal/Random combine" had made minor suggestions earlier that provoked in Hunter "soaking sweats."5
Anyway, with me no one had to defend territory. I couldn't have been more astonished when the first mighty salvo of a Hunter challenge arrived.
From 8/28 ('66), handwritten in red ink on gold/orange paper: He "[didn't] understand those 'corrected' pages you sent—but am appalled at some of the sentences inserted to 'clarify' my meaning—which they may or may not do, but I won't have that kind of writing in my book. I'd rather be obscure. Just received word of lost Esquire sale & am tempted to burn the whole goddamn manuscript. If not, I'll proceed with the various corrections." That said, he added, "but don't send anything else—I'm too simple-minded to grasp all that stuff. __________H."
Thus began the Saga of Publication. But it happened to fall right before Labor Day, when trying to take book-jacket photos, he was ganged up on by Angels and stomped. Though I don'tremember his explanation to me, I take as accurate his public statement that, to one side of him, he'd seen an Angel beating his wife and dog. He objected. Bloodied, he wound up in the Santa Rosa Hospital emergency ward.
According to the Postscript he added to Hell's Angels, Tiny rescued him "before the others managed to fracture my skull or explode my groin ... I owe him a huge favor for preventing one of the outlaws from crashing a huge rock down on my head. I could see the vicious swine trying to get at me with the stone held in a two-handed Godzilla grip above his head."
How Hunter communicated this to me, I don't remember. But in a unique arrangement Random House gave him blanket permission to bill their phone for calls to me at all hours. Long distance was expensive. Originating in California, the call came late. For one, Hunter estimated $160 (in 1966). Hunter lived in the moment, by his instincts. In his night-owl vigils he wrote—all night.
Humorously, he assumed I was a kindly middle-aged overworked lady who never got ruffled. He told me he appreciated the calmness. For several months he labored under this impression, which he formed himself and I did nothing to contradict.
In fact, I was in every way unlike his preconception. At ten years old Hunter delivered milk. He leapt from the van, sprang over hedges; would not take no for an overdue bill. And raced back on a furious deadline: to get to the open van door so rapidly the driver never had to stop. As a girl I loved movie star hopscotch and the slalom (waterskiing on one leg); crossing the wake, feet slapping the waves; then springing—with empty space underneath. And I loved to look under boards. Our common traits involved what Hunter called (from F. Scott Fitzgerald) "the high white sound" or note. But this was like a blind date at a distance or an early version of You've Got Mail, chaperoned by the all-consuming topic, His Book.
I do not know how that early letter was patched up (the final manuscript clearly shows markings from our two hands, as in the page 16—17 display in the booklet accompanying The Tapes: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson). Anyway, "Sept 15," he wrote from home at 230 Grattan, San Francisco:
Dear Margaret Ann—
It is now four hours and twenty minutes past the midnight deadline for my leaving this house, but I'm still here, sitting in a heap of boxes and debris...and working on this, my final effort on what now seems to be a doomed book.
Before I start rambling, here is a note on what is enclosed. 1) The Lynch report—which I want returned to me, repeat returned to me. 2) The Birney Jarvis article, which I also want returned to me. 3) All the information you need to get the goddamn police records verified.
As a side-note, I should warn you not to take any of the following personally. Despite my fecal opinion of Random House in general, I appreciate the efforts you've made to get the book in print. I still have the feeling that you and I are the only people who've read it [this was not true, in fact], and it's nice to know I've made at least one connection. So consider this your valid cushion, if I seem too ugly.
For one, you were conning* [Hunter's footnote: *unwittingly, I presume] me today about that verification bullshit, which I quickly found out is impossible. I recall hitting a stone wall when I first tried to get at the Hell's Angels records, but when I talked to you today I didn't remember why. The reason, of course, is that police records are unavailable to anyone outside the legal machinery—as well they should be—and I bitterly resent the stupid, uninformed gall of your lawyers in attempting to send me off on what any law student would recognize as a wild goose chase. It may be that in New York any citizen can go down to the courthouse and pay 25 cents for a photostat of any other citizen's police record, but I doubt it. In California they tell you to fuck off, as I was told twice this afternoon. (There are ways, of course, and I happen to have one—no thanks to those waterbrained shitheads whom Random House pays for legal advice.)
Court records (for individual cases) are a different matter, and docket sheets are a matter of public record. Thus, any interested citizen can get a photostat of specific charges, proceedings and dispositions [margin note: "or depositions"] involving any other citizen...that is, he can find out what happened in any given courtroom on any given day, providing he pays the fee, which can easily run up to $1000 for a full transcript of a two-week trial.
In other words, I couldn't possibly have got photostats of the various police records (for individual Angels) that you requested—at least not through normal channels. I would, however, have been able to get records of specific charges and arrests—along with specific dispositions—if I'd had the time to drive all over California for about two weeks and trade insults with various county clerks.
Needless to say, I don't. You people have been aware for more than a month that I plan to leave this week for Aspen. You are also aware that I recently sustained a severe beating that was nothing more or less than an attempt on my life. I feel entirely confident that any viewing of photos taken in the wake of this beating will confirm the dead serious nature of the risks involved in my roaming for a week or so through the heart of Hell's Angel turf, trying to verify their police records. Before you urge me to have another try at it, develop those goddamn photos from the Labor Day run and compare my face (as pictured) with some of the other author-portraits you have.
So, for the following and abovementioned reasons: 1) personal risk, 2) illegality of the attempt, 3) geographical impossibility, and 4) a spitting contempt for whatever mind that brewed the notion that I should be sent off on this hopeless chase...for these reasons and three or four more, I am turning over the whole burden of this verification question to my good friend and attorney, David Pierce of Richmond. (That sounds like a wild and vindictive statement, but it isn't... Pierce is the only person I know who can get photostats of individual police records without recourse to a subpoena.) To wit:
After talking to you today I immediately called Pierce and asked how I might go about getting the Angel police records. He called the Richmond chief of police (Pierce just finished a term as Mayor of Richmond) and was told I was out of luck. At almost the same moment I was getting identical intelligence from the Attorney General's office. The cops are not about to give out police records to anybody—and especially when they're likely to be for publication.
After lengthy dealing, however, we came up with two possibilities. Pierce is handling the [Pat] Brown [gubernatorial] campaign in Contra Costa county and is thus on good terms with the Attorney General's office. I am not; they view me as a dangerous freak, mainly because of the Nation article on the Angels. Anyway, Pierce can get photostats of Angel records, with the firm understanding that we will never reveal the source, regardless of circumstances [italics added].
The second possibility involved a visit by himself to O. J.
Hawkins. The attorney general's office had informed Hunter that very day that
while it routinely rejected requests for individual police records, in special
cases if requested in person, Deputy Director of the California Department of
Justice O. J. Hawkins made exceptions.
Hunter explained: "The catch is that I have to go to Sacramento and persuade Hawkins, who apparently roams the state like a hungry chickenhawk and is seldom in his office....and the only day I can get to Sacramento is next Wednesday, Sept 21st."6
If that didn't pan out, "The illegal part [Pierce will] do for nothing, as a favor to me, and the routine searching of docket sheets he'll do for whatever it costs him"—to hire out. If Pierce did it himself, it would be $350 a day.
Next he dropped the bombshell: Pierce will "be in New York the week of October 15 and I can have him stop for lunch or a talk." Like most of his friends, Pierce had "suffered through this book from the beginning and will do almost anything to get it done."
In any case, he was "leaving Pierce in charge of all my affairs until I get back from Aspen." Even his belongings would be in Pierce's cottage. Pierce would handle "all calls, threats and press queries... He is well armed and I've been giving him pistol instruction."
So that should get us out of the hole inre verification. Pierce is far more capable of handling it than I am, and since you said you were going to pay for it anyway, we may as well have it done right ... and after Silberman queered me out of that Esquire $1000 I'd be inclined to ask $500 a day, just to get even.
I realize that Silberman and his lawyers think I'm obligated to re-verify all the facts I've already verified to my own satisfaction....but I don't feel that way. I've written the book the way I want it written and anything I wasn't sure of I noted on the manuscript—like the Marx, St. Matthew quote. The rest will stand up, and if the bastards want to sue, let them. The only thing that worries me less than lawsuits is the threat of being arrested for saying I ate a few bennies. (For a parallel here, see [Ken] Kesey's "Sometimes a Great Notion" inre marijuana.) In any case, I can do without the help of your ignorant, old-womanish lawyers; I wouldn't go into traffic court with counsel who thinks you can get a man's police record for 25 cents and a smile. If I get in trouble on this book I won't ask for any help from your hired hand-wringers...and in the meantime I don't want them hovering over the manuscript. They've fucked it up enough; I have all the problems I need without dealing with inept lawyers.
That's about it for now. I'll deal with the non-legal correx on the galleys. As for the rape penalty, I checked it at length and want my figure (1 to 50) left as is. This is a very complicated thing, for reasons I don't feel like explaining but if anybody bitches, refer them to section 264 of the California Penal Code.
In all probability the R. H. lawyers were unaware of Hunter's
swollen face, broken rib, and blocked nasal passage. Having vividly envisaged
the perils of hunting down photostats of the rap sheets, he offered a
quick-witted solution with the publication down at the wire. As to our being strangers, that was not
in the cards.
The fifteen-page Lynch report on California motorcycle gangs that Hunter enclosed read, he wrote in Hell's Angels, "like a plot synopsis of Mickey Spillane's worst dreams. It was prepared by the California attorney general, Thomas C. Lynch, in response to lurid press coverage of two purported heinous gang rapes in Monterey County by the Angels—later determined to be consensual. Distributed to state agencies in March 1965, it depicted the bikers as long-haired, bearded piratelike depraved wild men, a ring in one pierced ear, a winged death's-head on the back of their filthy sleeveless Levi jackets. Law enforcement should by all means curtail these vindictive criminals who, wearing swastikaed helmets, Iron Crosses on their chests, attacked at will. No place was safe, even a private home or small bar.
But Hunter revealed a gross bias: for instance, the report "stated that of 463 identified Hell's Angels, 151 had felony convictions. This is the kind of statistic that gives taxpayers faith in their law enforcement agencies ... and it would have been doubly edifying if the 463 Hell's Angels had actually existed when the statistic was committed to print. Unfortunately, there were less than 100."7
While the Angels were indeed unlaw-abiding and dangerous, he called out Time and Newsweek for swallowing the story whole—Time in "a high-pitched chattering whine, with a list of phony statistics."8
At the end of the book is an epigraph: "all my life my heart has sought a thing i cannot name.—Remembered line from a long-forgotten poem."
Beneath that, his personal mystique originally concluded the book, until a Postscript on the stomping was appended.
His mystique involved his BSA Lightning: "four hundred pounds of chrome and deep red noise." Riding it on the Coast Highway in the wee hours, having crashed once, he had the intention to "stop pushing my luck on curves, always wear a helmet and try to keep within range of the nearest speed limit." He went out "at night, like a werewolf, ... for an honest run ... a few long curves to clear my head." However, in moments he'd be at the beach—the empty road ahead.
"There was no helmet on those nights, no speed limit, and no cooling it down on the curves... [W]ith the throttle screwed on there is only the barest margin, and no room at all for mistakes. It has to be done right ... and that's when the strange music starts, when you stretch your luck so far that fear becomes exhilaration and vibrates along your arms."
At one hundred, barely able to see, the tears vaporizing, "You watch the white line and try to lean with it."
He is describing "The Edge... There is no honest way to explain it because the only people who really know where it is are the ones who have gone over." Those who remain alive "pushed their control as far as they felt they could handle it, and then pulled back, or slowed down, or did whatever they had to when it came time to choose between Now and Later."
The edge is "Out there. Or maybe it's In. The association of motorcycles with LSD is no accident of publicity. They are both a means to an end, to the place of definitions."
Another of many great insights in Hell's Angels was on those who've "blown all [their] options." The Angels understood, Hunter wrote, that "very few of the toads in this world are Prince Charmings in disguise." Revealing his astute powers of analysis, he went on: "A toad who believes he got a raw deal before he even knew who was dealing will usually be sympathetic to the mean, vindictive ignorance that colors the Hell's Angels' view of humanity. There is not much mental distance between a feeling of having been screwed and the ethic of total retaliation, or at least the kind of random revenge that comes with outraging the public decency." 9
From an Aspen P.O. Box October 5: "Quick answers to your letter that's across the snow-road in the main house and which I can't get now."
He'd sent Jim Silberman a proposed photo for the cover—his full-length naked backside, with a glimpse of a shotgun he was aiming. Alternately, he suggested a montage: naked backside, motorcycle shot, and the beating "mug shot"? He wanted the dedication to read: "To Ron Boise and Sandy Bull."
Boise was a sculptor, Bull a musician. I was to confirm Bull's death with Vanguard Records ("Could be bullshit, but I'd appreciate it if you'd check. I'm not sure how we can verify Boise's death, but probably Ginsberg would know. My sources are not always reputable, but they are not given to conscious lying").
Another Bay Area favorite of Hunter's was folk singer Rosalie Sorrels.
In 1964 the National Observer assigned Hunter to write "What Lured Hemingway to Ketchum?" He was to talk to Idaho locals who'd known Hemingway before his fatal gunshot wound at home in Ketchum in 1961; in fact, I myself (while working at Yellowstone Park) visited Hemingway's grave when flowers were still fresh.
So Hunter walked into a Ketchum-Sun Valley bar, the Leadville—converted from a bell-topped church in which Rosalie's grandfather used to preach. It was there that a grieving Kennedy family, mourning JFK, had a private New Year'sparty in 1964. The night Hunter walked in, he was to meet several lifelong friends "to be": Milli Wiggins, whom he was to call "the Style Queen of Sun Valley," was there. Michael Solheim managed the bar. (Solheim later ran Hunter's Freak Power campaign.) Rosalie was singing.
Rosalie said, "Hunter was a sap for sentimental country music. I had Mitch Greenfield as a guitar player. I sang [Utah Phillips's] 'I Think of You' ('I think of you as the night rolls by. You're on my mind the whole night through. Far away in a lonesome city'). And he asked me to sing it again. I said no, I already sang it." He bribed her with a double shot—of thirty-year-old Irish whiskey. He kept buying her the expensive whiskey and she sang it six times that night.
Rosalie and Hunter hit it off instantly: "It was like meeting someone you'd known all your life."
Like him, she hadn't finished high school. But both devoured books. In her two-story log cabin in the Idaho mountains, she has five thousand. In conversation she could throw in offbeat quotations, which Hunter liked. Their politics was similar. They "had a similar imagination—[which is] how you think things ought to be and how you know they are.
"He had good taste in sappy romantic songs.... I thought [Hunter] was shy; he used to always put his hand in front of his face so you couldn't hear what he was saying."
When she lived in David Pierce's guest house in the Bay Area and had a cult following after her first album, If I Could Be the Rain, Hunter would take people, including critics, to see her at a Berkeley folk café. Once he brought Freewheelin' Frank, a Hell's Angel, and it didn't get her fired. In fact, he was very polite. He told her, "Ma'am, you could sing the paint off the barn." Hunter wrote, "Some of Rosalie's songs are so close to the bone that I get nervous listening to them." Hunter's own version of their first meeting—from the liner notes he wrote for Travelin' Lady—is: "I think it was a night in California when I almost killed myself on a motorcycle ... I was too full of pain to sleep, so she made me a pot of tea that was half Wild Turkey, as I recall, and then she sang for me until I finally passed out around dawn."
Rosalie told another story: Years later—at Hunter's funeral—she wore a fuchsia skirt and orange shirt (or vice-versa). And a man came up to say, "I'm Johnny Depp." She said, "I know." He said, "Yes, but who are you??" When she told him, he said, "Hunter loved your music."
By October 7—his return address still the P.O. Box in Aspen—Hunter had tracked me down at my parents' (on my birthday). Gleefully, he writes, "I trust you understand the implications of questioning the seekout ability of a man who can locate the right Harrell—on the first call—in Greenville NC."
The idea that my research should require verification is in itself absurd, but I suppose that's the way you people do business. I trust, however, that it's RH money that's being used to pay Pierce, and not a levy on my royalties—as in the case of Ginsberg's poem. If it were left up to me I wouldn't pay a cent to get verifications; I'd rather take my chances in court.
Anyway, I've sent the necessary stuff to Pierce, whom you'll be seeing sometime soon. I was half-planning to zap off to NY with him, but the fact that Esquire claims an IBM machine ate my check has pretty well eroded my fiscal position for a while. The bank of Aspen has agreed to pay all my checks, at $2 each, until the Esquire check arrives to wipe out the overdraft. In the past two days I've chalked up service charges (bounced checks) totaling $14, and I expect about $10 more on Monday. For this, and other very similar reasons, I don't think I'll be able to make a quick trip to NY next week.
I told Pierce to get all the verification material back to you by Nov 1, and I suspect he will. If it necessitates any changes I'll dole out apologies all around the board.
I'd playfully suggested he paste the galleys on the walls. He replied, "I don't own—or even rent—any walls these days." He didn't need "more useless work to confuse me. All I want is to get the goddamn book published and out of my head." He fantasized, "Maybe the Greenville paper has an opening for a good sports writer...or a crime reporter. I'm tired of this cannibal league." Signing "Sincerely," he printed: "*I am, however, concerned about the cover—art & copy—send material on this ASAP."
Letters intensified—as Pierce's trip to NYC neared. Oct. 12:
I was a little disturbed yesterday when Pierce's investigator showed up here in Aspen. He wasn't aware of the rush on the verifications and seemed to want to do the job totally—to immerse himself, as it were, in the author's experience. I tried to impress him with the urgency of things and this morning he left for the Coast. But when you see Pierce you might warn him that his people are getting a trifle over-zealous.
As for other matters,...to wit:
1) I still haven't sent the About the Author bullshit back to Marilan [Jim Silberman's secretary], but Jim says it will all be put into "jacket-ese" anyway, so I don't see where anything I write will make much difference. (Maybe tonight I'll re-do that first graph...if it's enclosed, you'll know I stayed up long and tragically.)
2) I want another name added to the dedication. Let it read this way: "To Ron Boise, Sandy Bull & Carey McWilliams...for various good reasons." Yeah, we'll have to drop that last "Sandy"...it changes the tone....
That's about it for now. My infamy seems to have preceded me here and the local hoods can't seem to distinguish between writer and subject. I may have to take an ad in the Times to assure the populace that I'm not here to look for a fight.
O. K. Tell Jim I want to be put on the mailing list for any and all publicity material regarding the book. I feel left out. My aged mother, who works at the library in Louisville, assures me that the book will be out Nov 8, but I think she might be mistaken. I want to know these things. And don't give Pierce any grass; it scrambles his motor impulses.
Hunter's book had been combed by lawyers, which was standard
procedure. Except the concern went so far as to balk at his use of the term Pepsi
in context, it might provoke a law suit by Pepsi!
Since August, Hunter and I had been conversing under the kindly middle-aged lady caveat—warriors together, late-night talkers oblivious to our appearance or past. Now his representative arrived with verified police records of charges never filed. Fortunately, Pierce has removed the restriction from revealing his role. I caught up with him in 2008 in, of all places, Durham, North Carolina, thirty minutes from my house (en route to Thailand indefinitely)! He took me to an Indian buffet for lunch. And we reminisced. Wearing a Panama hat, carrying a Thai bag, standing in the lobby of an office building he used to own, he was vividly alive. His skin still smooth, his face full, his body trim, his head covered with silvering hair, his smile contagious. Years removed from politics, he laughs at the tale but doesn't remember what files he brought. No doubt, a valise stuffed with classified reports. Rosalie Sorrels confided, "Pierce has a criminal mind."
Random House on Left
Vetter, "Hunter Thompson: A Freewheeling Conversation with the Outlaw
Journalist and Only Man Alive to Ride with Both Richard Nixon and the Hell's
2. Thompson, The Proud Highway. The Fear and Loathing Letters 1: 429, 524.
3. Ibid., 541.
4. Ibid., 529
5. Ibid., 569, 573.
6. Thompson, Hell's Angels, 24.
7. Ibid., 29.
8. Ibid., 27.
9. Ibid., 274-275; 259-260.
Correspondence from Hunter is reproduced by permission of Hunter Thompson Literary Executor Douglas Brinkley, Professor of History at Rice University.
Random House photograph by Dan Beards.
Hell’s Angels: The Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs. New York: Random House, 1967.
The Proud Highway: Saga of a Desperate Southern Gentleman, 1955–1967. The Fear and Loathing Letters Vol. 1. Edited by Douglas Brinkley. London: Bloomsbury Publishing Plc., 1997.
Vetter, Craig. “Hunter Thompson: A Freewheeling Conversation with the Outlaw Journalist and Only Man Alive to Ride with Both Richard Nixon and the Hell’s Angels,” Playboy. November 1974. http://www.playboy.com/articles/hunter-s-thompson-interview/index.html?page=1; http://www.playboy.com/articles/hunter-s-thompson-interview/index.html?page=2.
[This excerpt is from Chapter 6 of KEEP THIS QUIET! My Relationship with Hunter S. Thompson, Milton Klonsky, and Jan Mensaert, by Margaret A. Harrell, originally published by Saeculum University Press, 2011. Reprinted with permission from the author.]