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Outlaw Journalist: The Life and Times of Hunter S. Thompson Hardcover – July 17, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

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*Starred Review* Even as a boy in Louisville, Kentucky, Hunter S. Thompson was charismatic, mischievous, and fearless. As the world’s most outrageous journalist, he even looked like a court jester from another planet, with his long limbs, jutting cigarette holder, big aviator glasses, and shorts. But the foulmouthed author of such incendiary works as Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and the reluctant model for Uncle Duke in Doonesbury wasn’t just a prankster; he truly cared about the world. He covered presidential campaigns with such passion, insight, and literary firepower he makes today’s trivial-pursuit pundits look like robots. After a sequence of spectacular firings from various newspapers, he found a home at Rolling Stone with editor Jann Wenner, who, after Thompson’s 2005 Hemingway-style suicide, put together an oral biography, Gonzo: The Life of Hunter S. Thompson (2007). Now McKeen, who also knew Thompson, presents a rock-solid, more fully dimensional, empathic, and rollicking portrait. Here is the hectic life, the scorching personality, the audacious acts and improbable triumphs, and, most importantly, a keen assessment of how Thompson revolutionized journalism. A voracious imbiber of booze and narcotics, Thompson declared, “I haven’t found a drug yet that can get you anywhere near as high as sitting at a desk writing.” --Donna Seaman

Review

Outlaw Journalist is painfully honest—which is good. -- Ralph Steadman

If you've ever wondered what was behind the sunglasses, drugs and booze...here it is. -- Rick Bragg

This is the Great Red Shark of Hunter biographies. McKeen gives us full frontal HST...Read it or die. -- Greg Palast, the author of the New York Times bestsellers Armed Madhouse and The Best Democracy Money Can Buy
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 424 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1st edition (July 17, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393061922
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393061925
  • Product Dimensions: 0.7 x 0.2 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,083,216 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

William McKeen is the author of eight books and the editor of four more. His most recent books are Too Old to Die Young (2015), Homegrown in Florida (2012), Mile Marker Zero (2011), Outlaw Journalist (2008), Highway 61 (2003), Rock and Roll is Here to Stay (2000) and Literary Journalism: A Reader (2000).

Before beginning his teaching career, he worked for several newspapers and magazines, including The Saturday Evening Post, The American Spectator, The Courier-Journal (Louisville, Ky.), The Palm Beach (Fla.) Post and The St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times.

His writing has appeared in Holiday, American History, Maxim, The Saturday Evening Post, The New York Times, The Boston Globe, and many other newspapers and magazines. He has appeared on "The Today Show," "The O'Reilly Factor," "The CBS Evening News" and many other news programs.

He earned his bachelor's degree in history and his master's degree in journalism from Indiana University and his Ph.D. in higher education administration from the University of Oklahoma. He taught at Western Kentucky University 1977-1982, the University of Oklahoma 1982-1986 and the University of Florida, 1986-2010.

He teaches at Boston University, where he chairs the Department of Journalism. His major teaching areas have been literary journalism, history of journalism, reporting, feature writing and history of rock'n'roll.

He is married, has seven children, and lives on the rocky coast of Cohasset, Massachusetts.


Please visit www.williammckeen.com

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

30 of 31 people found the following review helpful By A. Kneeland on July 10, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Sure we've heard about his famous friends, his Rolling Stone cred, all the legendary drug abuse, so much so that it's made him a pop culture caricature. William McKeen is perhaps the first to step behind the curtain, cozy up to the good doctor's real posse and find out just what made the man behind the gonzo tick. This is a history book written for pleasure readers, filled with storytelling, charm, wit and yes, pain. McKeen manages to step back from the HST fame cycle and look again at the writer, the journalist and the very flawed spirit and tell his story with a discerning eye. While other fame-seekers and hangers-on have delved into the mystique with their own bio books, this one brings you the most respectable and honest cast of Thompson and his crazy life. A history and bio that's hard to put down.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By J. Marvel on July 7, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
McKeen has quite simply put together the definitive biography on Thompson, a work that would have Hunter writing and sending screeds via fax to everyone, yet deep down secretly admiring for its depth and brilliance. There are many legends, but "Outlaw Journalist" sorts fact from fiction and gives an honest take of Gonzo from beginning to end. There would be no higher tribute to the good doctor than buying McKeen's book and throwing it on the expense account along with three bottles of Wild Turkey and some Doritos ...
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Rory Feehan on August 4, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Here is what Anita Thompson had to say on her blog\about Outlaw Journalist:

" Of all the "Biographies" about Hunter that have come out in the last year, this is definitely the best. William was a friend to Hunter, had an academic history with him, and his book shows his interest in Hunter's work, more so than just tawdry gossip. It has far fewer inaccuracies than the others. William also managed to put out the book while dealing with his own health issues. So Huge congratulations to him. As Hunter's wife, I highly recommend this book to you!

until next time, your friend,

Anita Thompson"
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By James Borowy on November 16, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Like Wild Turkey into the Good Doc's mouth, so too go volumes on the shelf about him. While most books about Hunter S. Thompson are good because they are about Hunter S. Thompson, William McKeen's "Outlaw Journalist" is good on its own accord, revealing the allure and talent of Thompson to an audience beyond his indoctrinated disciples. For all his presence and popularity, a Hunter S. Thompson biography could be accomplished with the literary equivalent of connect-the-dots or paint by number. Connect Hunter's rebellious childhood with his breakout book about the outlaw motorcycle gang Hell's Angels. Color in Hunter's hyperbolic writing style with black blotter acid. In the parlance of Gonzo: load and shoot. Don't aim.
So much has been written about Hunter S. Thompson, and his story is so mythic in its sweep, that it is difficult to summarize his career without restating stereotypes that have already been digested like so much mescaline by tens of thousands, if not millions, of his fans. With careful aim, McKeen avoids these trappings with "Outlaw Journalist." There is very little of the hero worship and simple recounting of drugs and carousing that typify a story about Hunter S. Thompson. An acquaintance of Thompson's and a professor of journalism at the University of Florida Gainesville, McKeen is uniquely situated to provide an atypical contribution to the growing cannon of criticism and analysis on such an outrageous and singular subject that is refreshingly divergent and illuminating in its academic classicism and straightforward tradition. In the David McCullough sense. In the Doris Kearns Goodwin sense. Which I felt was a fairly appropriate comparison for "Outlaw Journalist," and then I got to page 216 and learned that Hunter once ran off with the Goodwin's babysitter.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By L. Pareigis on August 20, 2008
Format: Hardcover
There are very few books I read that I simply don't want to end, and your stunning biography of HST is one of those. Even as the narrative moved to the heartbreaking conclusion, it suddenly struck me: of all the Hunter books I've read (and I've read all of his and all the biographies), yours was the most comprehensive look at the man, warts and all. You took the full measure of a remarkable and maddening life, and that's hard as hell to pull off.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By S. Marcus on March 15, 2010
Format: Paperback
You have to hand it to McKeen. He managed to portray Hunter Thompson without glorification or condemnation. After reading Jann Wenners sadly demeaning "Gonzo: the life of Hunter S. Thompson" I had thought it to be an impossible job. The subject matter just about demands taking a stand! Unfortunately - and I don't know if it was just my edition (Aurum Press, London) - but the book seemed to be edited in classic Hunter style: chapters pages and even sentences seemed crudely taped together. Spelling mishaps and simple errors abound. But who cares? The flaws only add to the honesty of the experience. Thank you Mr McKeen for portraying Hunter without an ax to grind!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By D. Saverino on October 26, 2009
Format: Paperback
An essential read for anyone wanting to obtain a deeper understanding behind the madness of Hunter S Thompson's life and writing. In fact, his life was based on numerous personas, many of which were created to uphold his public image. The way he chose to live his life, as well as its tragic end, bore a striking similarity to that of one of Hunter's greatest idols, Ernest Hemingway.
Mc Keen summarizes Hunter's life best when he writes."He was a work beast, and it shows in the quality of anything he wrote in that period. But then came fame, and cocaine, and the suffocating persona he had created...Fame cost him the ability to lose that gift."
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