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

4.6 out of 5 stars 33 customer reviews

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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: 6.6 x 1.6 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #891,455 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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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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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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Format: Hardcover
I discovered Thompson's work while I was in high school. I got lucky, I read 72 campaign book, and the Vegas book. Later I would read other writings. The huge question in my mind was "is this stuff real?" Did this guy really go to Vegas stoned out of his mind and seeing lizards? Did he trash the 72 elections? I think the McKeen's basic premise about Hunter was not to hard for a young reader like me to see. Yeah, Hunter replaced the story with story of him trying to get the story. What McKeen does so well, is to sort out what was Raul Duke and the real Hunter S. Thompson. McKeen tries to give you the real unvarnished Hunter S. Thompson. Sadly, I guess I grew up after I laid Thompson's work aside for awhile. Briefly my own kids found out about him and had all my same questions. "Was all that stuff real dad?" I would answer "I dunno, but I think he just got the main ideas and the rest is art." Now I sorta know, thanks McKeen. But as I read this biography, I kept saying to myself. Would you really like to be in the same room or work with the great Hunter S. Thompson? NO. Do I want my kids to make a hero out of a guy, who married three women, had sex with many more, drank and drugged himself so badly part two of his life was just mining up old stuff? Do I want to make a hero out of a guy who shot himself? Do I really like a guy who treated a lot of people badly? I had trouble seeing the nice Hunter. Yep McKeen has given us Hunter in all brutal honesty. I took a look, and now I can walk away saying."Man that guy could write. He did have a way of seeing America with all its flaws. He really is funny." But I also have had my last dance saying "Yeah, but there is a lot in HST's life that just repels me on so many levels." Sad. Music is done. Bye Hunter.
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