Skip to main content

tv   Peter Richardson Savage Journey  CSPAN  April 21, 2022 8:14pm-9:22pm EDT

8:14 pm
>> cspan2 online store, browse through latest collection of c-span products, apparel, books, home to core, and accessories for their something for every cspan2 fan and every purchase helps support a nonprofit operation. shop now or any time at ♪ ♪ ♪ c-span now is a free mobile app featuring unfiltered view of what's happening in washington live and on-demand. keep up with the day's biggest events with live stream before proceeding and hearings of the u.s. congress, white house events, the courts, campaigns and more for the world of politics. all at your fingertips. also stay current with latest episodes of "washington journal" and find scheduling information for c-span tv networks and c-span radio plus a variety of podcasts. c-span now is available at the
8:15 pm
apple store and google play downloaded for free today, c-span now your front row seat to washington. anytime, anywhere. >> tonight we are celebrating the master hunter thompson's at the launch of a new book by peter richardson it is titled the savage journey that weird road to gonzo's posed by a friends universe of california press focusing on hunter thompson's influence, development and unique a model of authorship. argues thompson's literary formation which largely a sannc francisco story. and indeed those of us pass through the barrier, thompson's are regular at thehe café just across the street seem pretty regular basis. his wife was intertwined with northeast coulter you also see them walking on the street withe henkel or jenness owner, so
8:16 pm
peter sent a stellar job piecing together the trace elements of thompson's literary influences in a really compelling read. we are thrilled he can grace our halls peter peter richardson is written critically acclaimed books ramparts magazine, but breaking magazine and mcwilliams theoretical journal authors. it's going to be joined tonight by none other than david talbot actually cannot think of anybody better to be doing the honors. david is the esteemed author of popular history books in the found original editor chief of salon magazine. current senior editor of mother jones magazine. he is a journalist, called this he's written for the new yorker, for time, for "rolling stone", the guardian, much, much more. his book is of course legendary san francisco chronicle esalen for years as most recent books is titled by the light of
8:17 pm
burning droops the triumphs and tragedies of the second american revolutions co-authored with his sister margaret talbot.e david is a neighbor of ours here at city life's offices are just on the street from us you can easily a say it's all the family tonight. please join us not giving a warm welcome to her evening guest peter richardson, it is a great pleasure to have you both gracing our virtual halls welcome to city lights live it. >> think you peter. many peters tonight we have peterit richardson and peter frm city life. it's a great honor for me too be here with the author of savage journey peter richardson. i'm very pleased to be here hto tonight. i've been a big fan of peters for some time now. i've read with great interest his history of ramparts magazine which played a big role in my development as a young journalist. and hunter thompson did too i have to say. i first read hunter thompson and
8:18 pm
i was a student at uc santa cruz back in the early 1970s. later his coverage of the 1972 presidential campaign had a huge impact on me as a young journalist. so i read with great interest peter richardson's new book about hunter. i knew hunter a little bit myself, later on editor of the san francisco examiner. i actually had the great pleasure of editing a couple columns by hunter thompson that was late in his career of course. but to me he was an icon, still is an icon. had a huge impact on me and many other young writers and journalists in america. so i'm delighted to beer tonight with peter pirtle jump in with the few questions and then we are going to open it up i think and take questions from some of you, peter will help up there.
8:19 pm
good to see you. you look like you are in woody creek colorado, where are you? what; glen allen which is not far from where you are. but it is another spot where hunter thompson lived briefly before he decamped for colorado. actually before he moved to san francisco. >> oh peter let's talk about hunter's san francisco roots. since we are being sponsored tonight by the iconic city lights bookstore in north beach, let's talk about what drew hunter back to san francisco what in the early 60s late 50s? what. are we talking about? >> he writes for the first time in san francisco in 1960 he had hitchhike he driven a rental car hor had driven a car cross country and dropped it off and then hitchhiked from seattle down to san francisco.
8:20 pm
i would drew him here frankly was a place like city lights books. he was very into what they were doing he did not idolize but he really respected especially with jack could do in terms of getting a new kind of writing not only published by major publisher, but to become kind of a publishing phenomenon. it was very strongly attracted to san francisco. one a to learn more about up at this time was out of the air force had written for some newspapers. when he arrived in san francisco he applied for work at "the san francisco chronicle" in san francisco examiner fruitlessly. almost immediately decamped to big sur which was a another beat outpost and was also the home of henry miller who was one of his real heroes. but the original poll was the beat impulse which had not quite
8:21 pm
crested yet but was starting to give way already, neil cassidy would go to san quentin and would move back east and canonsburg would move away as well. but for what they accomplish while they were in san francisco is very important to hunter thompson. >> and you did write a great booke about ramparts it's a very important magazine edited by warren henkel and bob scheer too bay area journalistic figure heroes of mine. your book was fascinating about ramparts. that was also a very important magazine for hunters outlet in those years. was it beyond? >> yes really after he had written right the time he published hells angels it was a very important magazine for him it was a veryin important kind f social nexus for him he never
8:22 pm
published think and ramparts but he felt very strongly connected. i actually heard from bob today. and it is worth noting he worked at city lights books for three years. right around the time he was starting with ramparts. so it ramparts was still finding its feet. it had not even begun really when hunter thompson arrived in san francisco and began as a catholic or a quarterly in 1962. it's really only when warren henkel takes over as editor and brings the magazine to san francisco that it becomes the legendary san francisco muckraker that we know today. >> hunter could have really developed the way he did as a journalist anywhere else in the country? or is there something about northern california in particular in those years in the 1960s that was more open to his style of writing? >> i don't think there is any
8:23 pm
doubt -- i don't think he could have done in new york he certainly could not of done in louisville, aspen or chicago or boston. not only that i don't think he could have done in san francisco ten years before ten years later. i think he needed to be in san francisco right when he was in san francisco. and he acknowledged too much later in life a even first and s vegas talks about is san francisco. as a peak air a. and then later on in life of course he comes back and works t in san francisco in the 1980s and even much later than that. looking back he said those are my people mid- 1960s in san francisco those really formative for him and that's one of the arguments i want to make in the book is that even though he lives and a woody creek, colorado for decades after that i think in many ways he is best
8:24 pm
seen as a bay area. >> he did live in ashbury for some time to talk about hunter drink that. what is he absorbing? what is he learning? how is he growing as a writer when he's living in the heat? >> he had moved down he went down from s big sur appear wheri am comic glen ellen not far from here that did not work out very well and he moved to 318 parnassus avenue in san francisco near uc san francisco. he was not really cut out for urban living. he would really rather live in these places like big sur, glen allen or aspen. i think is really important he didn't come into the city during that time. he was still writing for the national observer which is the wall street journal, dow jones publications at the time. but he wasn't really thriving
8:25 pm
there. he attended the 1964 gop convention in san francisco. and learn some things there that was kind of a -- an important lesson for him, got him on a conservative movement he wasn't really into politics at that time. in short order he was really trying to do what tom wolfe was doing back east which is take these kind ofre exotic west coat subcultures and turn them into stories were big national magazinesfe. t >> i am like tom wolfe i have to say tom wolfe to me is someone who got a lot of credit for very little. he was more of a dandy i think. hunter really got involved with what he wrote about. he got stumped by the hells angels for god sake, right? >> yes that's really important.
8:26 pm
he did not generate that story, he left national observer kind of sort of broke up his relationship with them. he was always a freelancer but that wasedts always his main out pretty new needed new outlets we wrote a query letter really carry mcwilliams at the nation they only paid $100 for an article. they barelyea pay more for that now. he was trying to make a living as a freelancer. d he said i'll take whatever you have and carry mcwilliams as well to write about the motorcycle gangs because a california state attorney general just issued a report on them as a threat to law and order. and thompson said great you are right he went straight to one of their meetings. he had kind of a buffer, bernie jarvis was a crime reporter for
8:27 pm
"the san francisco chronicle" and a member of the hells angels. so we had kind of an entrée it was all participatory reporting. not very many, many people could do that i don't think tom wolfe could do that. don't think jon vivian could do that. writing with the hells angels took a physical courage that not very many reporters had. hunter dined out on that for the rest of his career. he got the kindat of respect sot of war correspondence because he rode with the angels. first for a couple of weeks he wrote the article for nation magazine. then he parlayed that into a book deal and it became his first bestseller. and then he rode with them for a another year. and at the end of the years when he got stumped by some of the hells angels in a dispute which remained a little bit fuzzy. probably had just the fact they
8:28 pm
thought they were going to benefit directly from his story. they said they he promised them a keg of beer he didn't pay up. he had other story. the point is that of the book ended with his stomping. laugh at participatory journalism to the max. let's talk a little bit about the legendary bay area editor warren henkel again ramparts, scanlon saying but very important. and "rolling stone", the could be no hunter thompson of course without the young editor of "rolling stone" and without warren henkel you're right about how important those editors were to him, encouraging the kind of enterprising swashbuckling journalism everybody becomest gonzo journalist. >> that is a really, really
8:29 pm
important time for him. so yes he has his first bestseller. he moves to colorado even before that book comesd out. but he maintained san francisco connection and continues by this time he has met warren it was presiding over a lot of success really read part magazine not financial success but in terms of impact and circulation. there is a famous story about them going out to lunch and when they came back the cappuccino monkey that warrant kept in the office had gotten into hunters dexedrine it was going around the office. they were friends, they meant by. >> peter tells a little bit about warren what a character he was. >> so they hit it off. immediately. even though it warren never got them to write for ramparts they remained friends.
8:30 pm
and then frankly, hunter began to struggle a little bit. he signed some contracts but he was having trouble with the second book. he could not finish it. that logjam does not really break until another writer novelist james salter had a dinner party gave them the idea dto go right about the kentucky derby pretty pitch that storyd toward. if you don't know who warren was, he could match hunter thompson in terms of the size of his personality and his stamina as well. he had it really great feeling for hyatt conceptual stories and he realized this could be a really great way to work together. now scanlon's was just starting. that was the first issue ofas scanlon's. and so he was recruiting people actively. even though he could not get thompson into ramparts he did get him into the debut issue of
8:31 pm
scanlon's. and again, thompson thought the story was an abject failure he thought it was going to kill his career he was ashamed of the story and warren once he saw. >> why was he ashamed, peter? >> he just didn't feel like you finish the story. he claimed he began ripping notes out of his notebook, pages out of his notebook and faxing them in. he could not write the story, could not fill in the patches of the story, just felt just a mess that he sent to warren. warrants are to put the pieces together, polished it up and warren said he knew as soon as he saw ralph stedman's illustration and it was warren who introduced those two, they had never worked together before, they had never met. so once warren puts those two
8:32 pm
together it takes a little while but people begin to realize this is a franchise. >> so worn midwife income of the midwife in a way. >> absolutely by pairing him with ralph stedman and then publishing and scanlon know i misspoke the first issue of scanlon's ran hunters jean-claude piece that did not have ralph stedman's illustrations is not usually regarded as an example of gonzo journalism. once you puts stedman and thompson together. thompson thought he had failedak but then everybody was saying this is a big breakthrough in journalism. and he described that feeling is falling down an elevator shaft, landing in a pool full of mermaids saying he thought was a huge success and immediately 'went back toward and said this
8:33 pm
is it. masters charter and the mardi gras. scanlon's was already going under there would never be, i think they publish their last in january of 1971. and unfortunately because i think worn deserves a lot of credit for not just pairing those two but conceding conceiving and birthing thompson would eventually find anotheray outlet for that kind of work for. >> her in some ways had gotten him started under warren henkel but of the benefited think he
8:34 pm
ended up getting a lot of the credit the conception was really scanlon's plan thompson was great match is not a college graduate's a lot of ways he didn't quite fit the mold he saw his stuff might click with "rolling stone" readers. and he encouraged him actually first contact came when hunter
8:35 pm
ewrote after the coverage came out and "rolling stone" and said i was the death of the 1960s where the hells angels concert going and stabs them to death. cook so-called providing security. >> exactly. thompson followed that story was some interest because of course having written about in a written and with the hells angels he was very tuned into that story. he really thought "rolling stone" did a fantastic job with it. they won the first national magazine award. so "rolling stone" was coming ialong very quickly. i think hunter as a freelancer is always on the lookout for new outlets and he began to see that "rolling stone" could be won.
8:36 pm
now, the first couple of pieces he wrote for "rolling stone" were not n gonzo type styl pieces. there's a whole story about how gonzo back so i was going to ask you, peter let's talk about fear and loathing in las vegas to me was the peace it introduced me as a young reader to hunter thompson nay stedman illustrations again were of course leapt off the page. but that was a collector's item issue of "rolling stone" in which hunter thompson really gave birth to gonzo journalists as we know it. so my first question about that is to you, to define gonzo journalism those may not know what that means what exactly is gonzo journalism? >> it sounds like a genre but it's not really a genre is kind
8:37 pm
of a description i think of hunter thompson's -- a strain of hunter thompson's work after 1970. the label was not really a label at the time that it sprang from bill after he read the kentucky derby p said man that piece was totally gonzo. hunter had heard him use that term when they are both covering a primary in 1968 in new hampshire and he thought let's call what i am doing gonzo journalism was a very as a kind of branding exercise is not really the name of a genre. it was a super important step. but it was never the predictable result. he was in l.a. to cover different story.
8:38 pm
he was working with the activist attorney. in the middle of that research he got an offer to cover a road race on the las vegas desert he comes back, submit such as sports illustrated they reject it. though a lot of people would say onto the next thing. and he is furious he doubles down, expands the story is already ten times longer than what sports illustrated wantedes and he sent it to "rolling stone" who is already written two pieces four. and as soon as he does the people in the office of "rolling stone" say this is magic it. >> so again is participatory journalism he put himself in the story as well as oscar. he took a lot of drugs he had
8:39 pm
this insane coverage of las vegas, high often he made no bones about that.di and have a heightened realism, gonzo journalism and absurdities seeing the absurdity or other reporters who are more objective may not y see it. i'm hitting on some of theen things that entertained me but what are some other aspects of gonzo journalism do you think? >> first it's taking the new journalism out to the conclusion pending the writer at the very center of the experience. in this case the writer is not just an essential character but the entire world kind of reveals its meaning through his sensibility. so he is the indispensable part of the story it's all about him, oscar and their adventure. now i would go back to one of
8:40 pm
the points youou made their, thy did not have a lot of drugs actually in the car the witch las vegas where they had some alcohol they had some benzedrine which oscar likes they had some dexedrine which hunter liked. and that was about it. of the reasons and of course they don't go as oscar and hunter the go is doctor gonzo and duke. i think there is good reason to see this as a kind of -- not a traditional novel some kind of hybrid, fictional form we see working the crease between journalism and fiction. i think considering this drug cap sheet outlines at the beginning of the book, none of that was there almost none of it was there. andnk so i think we need to thik about it more as fiction that is
8:41 pm
journalism though of course the label remains to the day, gonzo journalism. and, it is still classic if you go to a bookstore, which you should do by the way. you do have a way to buy books in your resume. on the link, think a little bit about that. so, it was a brand-new thing for sure but i'm not sure it's comfortably a either as a form f journalism or traditional form of journalism brickwork so want to drill down on this point. think this is the essence of hunter thompson in this whole hybrid style of writing. today i think journalism is pretty drab. and you know, there is no voice to it, very little voice to it. it's been taken out largely in
8:42 pm
magazine writing on the line some writers, some bloggers. but certainly in the main stream journalism you don't come across voice writing the weight hunter thompson really pioneered. and so, i don't think he could succeed in today's marketplace. had a difficult enough time as you write in savage a journey as a journalist in those days. he had his run of the 1970s. but it got increasingly difficult for a writer like hunter. but, there's something about it peter we were talking at this beforehand. hisn writing got at the inner truth of america particularly in those years when he is writing. in the so-called lunacy of gonzo journalism is a kind of heightened realism. a kind of truth that other
8:43 pm
journalism cannot get up. talk some about that particularly the 1972 presidential campaign when nixon was running for reelection. and, to share with us your insights into that which you go into in the book. >> so the first point to make about his coverage in 1972 i want to trail back and talk a little bit about how we got that assignment which i think is really important. by the time he had collected his dispatches from the campaign trail and put them in the book which became critical and commercial success, triumph, he had decided. >> there the campaign trail, 72 right. so he hadto decided to take this assignment, later his work was
8:44 pm
described as the least factual and most accurate description of the and there i think you have the paradox, least factual that is he got a lot of things wrong he didn't even try to get it right there is a lot of satire, there is a lot of exaggeration. there was a lot of hallucination even. [laughter] you are right there is a heightened realism there. he was trying to get at some truths that he realized his colleagues on the campaign trail either did not see or could not express any kind of hard news stories their editors demanded. so, he decided to try a different way of covering thet story. now, in some ways he had to come up with a different way to do it because he had no advantages in the traditional way to do it. he is surrounded by very seasoned reporters from major
8:45 pm
news organizations who had a lot of support. who had resources, who had connections, who had readerships. they had everything they needed. herd was at the bottom of that totem pole. he had to think hard about how he could make his mark. he did that by saying i'm not going to try to do any of the stuff they are he took his own weakness and turned it into a kind of strength he had no intention of coming back to the campaign trail. he could burn all of his sources if he decided to. it did not matter. so the fact he represented a fledgling iraq magazine from san francisco, that should have been a disadvantage but he turned ito to his advantage by just telling the unvarnished truth as he understood it. not only about the campaign and politicians, who he went after w viciously. democrats as well as one
8:46 pm
republican, richard nixon who we hated, openly detested and he made no bones about it about his preference. you weren't getting any think like objective journalism he dispensed with all of those conventions. instead he gave you the unvarnished truth as he understood it. not only about the campaign about the other media outlets. and i think that is super important about his work he is always looking both ways pretty's looking at the thing is writing about and he's looking at the way other people are covering it. so every time you read something by hunter thompson you got a good laugh, some crazy ideas and also you learn something because he showed you what was by the curtain. >> he had a radical vision i think that is what i took from his writing as a young journalist. and as you point out in the book, here he is from republican
8:47 pm
kentucky kind and a libertarian his politics werere very diffus. and yet he saw america awash in greed, violence, addiction to war. and frankly the country is not changed all that much in the last several decades. but, i think there is a kind of insane insight into what america wast all about. >> i think that he it that is right. i think that's why it's held up over the years. some of it has not aged well i don't think is going to get a lot of for how he handles race for women, feminism, homophobia. if you. reporter: him now you're going to see that very quickly especially ifba you lead read hs letters which is probably it's best one. you really see that is his voice. but you're quite right about his
8:48 pm
politics. he only really becomes interested inte american politis after he goes to the democratic national convention in chicago in 1968. and he is traumatized by what he witnesses. by the police right he witnesses there. only then that he pivots away from the kind of tom wolfe journalism stuff and starts taking a direct bead on american politicians like hubert humphrey, like musky, likee richard nixon, like daily in chicago, so really it is a kind of journey in no way a multistep journey. and then some more serendipitous things happen as well to shape his body of work. let me ask you a question, david. t you mentioned his affinity for warren henkel. i don't think warns of politics were really worked out clean i
8:49 pm
think he was also kind of a rebel and iconic. would you putim them both in a similar category in that way? >> i think warren is more of a product of san francisco. he grew up here i think he, along with the water he drank the t kind of the liberal progressive those of san francisco i would primp to the left of politically of hunter thompson i think consciously left. but they are both mavericks and they both liked their drink. they both like to have a good time. that was very much a part of the spirit of the 60s and 70s when they were operating at their best. there was something that link the two. i think journalism in the bay area in those years of ramparts in the early days "rolling stone" before it moved to new york. i even my salon during
8:50 pm
era, were all examples of a bear journalism that i think could not exist anywhere else. i am proud of that. even reading some of the obits that went on and on what and iconic and great figure she was, she obviously produced she was a great writer produce a lot of great writing. but i think again and again california is not given it to do and that's why peter, i am so grateful for the work you have done over the years on rampart and mcwilliams in a hunter thompson because i think the west coast does not get its due from the new york media meanderings to this very day. i'm glad to see you give hunter thompson the do that he deserves. >> that is very much in my mind when i sit down to do this work.
8:51 pm
i think the funniest version of the feeling you are expressing, i was at the san francisco public library when the rampart but came out. warn is there some of his family members and other people who had contributed. and the person who organize the event listened carefully to the presentation and conversation for then he stood up from the floor and asked a question and said seems to me that if a ramparts had been published in new york city there would've been a broadway musical about it 20 years ago. [laughter] i thinknk there is some real trh to that. in a way that was an advantage to be in san francisco. because you could try new things without fear of an immediate failure. there is a nurturing culture underneath that that was more experimental, innovative, do-it-yourself, a collaborativey so i think all of those things
8:52 pm
helped. ramparts magazine was helping out "rolling stone" at all the early issues and then all of the guys that left ramparts of an to start brother jones. iy. think there was a real synergy. >> yes absolutely. look, i won't talk about your process, archives and how you went about your research on this book and then open it up i think peter will be ready in about five minutes to open up to questions from the audience which we are very anxious to hear. but let's talk, peter about your process of your writer. you know you were frustrated to what you faced in trying to access hunter's archives. many researchers brought in blocks and they bring in their own work. tell us something about that and
8:53 pm
hope for the future? are these archives going to be open to the public at some point? >> the good news is hunter keptt everything. there something like 800 boxes of stuff mostly correspondence. he kept copies of his correspondence going back to teenage years. maybe even before that. it is just an enormous treasure. we have seen two great edited volumes come out of that both edited by douglas brinkley. if you haveou not read it and yu love thompson i highly recommend that. again it is some of his best stuff. not on deadline, his voice not edited, not written for money just him expressing himself direct.ha and then you see what a great literary network heer was. maybe that is why he kept everything the way he did.
8:54 pm
i think it was inspired by some other people like henry miller who posted up in big sur and used his t correspondence to kep his literary network h alive. that is what you have to do for going to livemo in these remotea places. hiss model of authorship was so unique he had to do things a little bit differently. one of them is right letters like crazy. except the ones were published unavailable to everyone including his son has only seen the archives once when he was writing his. shhe's responsible. >> it's a consortium thompson sold it to a consortium that includes johnny depp. there has been some talk about trying to do something with it.i
8:55 pm
you probably know finances and personal life are a little messy right now. i don't think these are the top of the list of things to conduct to the short term. i also think they might be trying to sell them to a different place. if i understand they have librarians, research librarians working p on them, processing tm and so on. they are supposed been a storage facility in los angeles right now. then may be made available, who knows. >> go but your research for the book. >> so you can go out and talk to people and work with them which i did that as much as i could. of course i would put a kibosh on a lot of the face-to-face interviews. as youpe probably inferred i spt a lot of time thinking how he worked with his editors and i think they were very important. the only more important person
8:56 pm
in the success he achieved. >> it's easy to overlook his contributions to that franchise. this fantastic illustrations so could go to the oscars archives same thing shut down because of coded.nd but i did talk to as many of its editorss as i could and try to tease out what it was like to work with them. and in a word it was excuse excruciating. as the 70s wore on is not doing any new drafts and 82nd draft, third dress which he always did when he was younger. note first drafts after he begins to live into his persona
8:57 pm
more and more. hii was not that interested in s celebrity think his biography helped cover his celebrity adequately. i wanted to get what made him distinctive as a writer but that's why focus my research and my assessment. just trying to read it and then situated using the correspondence and some the oral history that has been done so you can figure out this decision making during this time. it was not a smooth frictionless process it was haphazard, uneven, the stuff that made him famous. took him years to figure out those things were his most important dairy literary. when he finally figured that out he stuckro with it. in fact for probably a little too long. i think he was getting diminishing literary returns and
8:58 pm
i like to ask you about that because when you work with them insl the 1980s obviously most of his best work was behind him. and then talking to the editors there knows be very illuminating. what did you see, david in terms of 1980? >> as and editor in san francisco examiner. the hearst corporation runs a chronicle. back in the day was very enterprising as an editor about bringing in people like warren henkel and hunter thompson and other uniqueun voices. and dave mccumber was the news room editor who usually edited his columns. yetr a unique relationship i think he talked to david. >> i could not get him to go on record but he saidti he would tt happen a couple of times. i think these interactions with
8:59 pm
hunter thompson are so valuable i think writers are tempted to keep it to themselves although he never said that. >> i told you the story i know. it is my one great memory, he did come into the newsroom my colleague who is aib great chapl described ms. walking upright like a praying mantis he had a turkey jerky movement's frame was really funny w and interestg to watch as he made his way across the newsroom. t but i did work on a couple columns when it was out. a he was sick or on vacation. i alwaysti remembered rewriting the great hunter thompson to meet was like repainting michelangelo. [laughter] i was in that position because we were on deadline and he had not filed. he filed something that was
9:00 pm
unprintable. and so i had to rewrite the great hunter thompson. i read it to them back over the phone he was in the newsroom that day. i think he was up ins woody creek. i read to him there's a silence over the phone and i'm thinking oh my god this is terrible is going to hate what i've done. he said hey that's not bad. he changed one or two words and they were brilliant. what he actually recommended i do more hunter thompson liked. so by then he had one brain cell left or maybe two brain cells but god bless him he had enough self-respect to change my writing back here or there to make itri more hunter thompson original. : : : long forgotten about how
9:01 pm
difficult it was for writers to make a living. that's where the book is set and it evokes the great hardships the writers have to go through. so someone like thompson to not only break through the
9:02 pm
difficulty and establish a lifelong career it didn't end well for him. god bless him he still to me is a blazing white. and to h acknowledge the great contribution. >> let me say one thing about the marketplace and open up after that maybe peter can guide us on that. in the 1980s for example it's interesting to me of course he went after the newspapers. they were a real target for him on the media criticism. some ofck it's funny at the examiner's expense and then there he is working for the examiner. he had the books going during that time. but f for the end of the careere
9:03 pm
is writing for espn. he s comes full circle as a spos writer but don't forget espn was owned by the hearst corporation and thet people that were his editors there he knew from rolling stone. he met well hearst so those networks and connections turned out to be very helpful for him. the literary productivity was t declining, there were thee old friends. they were two of his best friends towardsgr the end. >> i think we should take questions from our wonderful audience.
9:04 pm
>> joseph asks can you talk aboutt the first novel that appears in the book the song of the doomed. it's still not been released. is there more to it? >> the person i would look to for that is the biographer. we don't know that much about it. i don't think that he was a great fiction writer. if you read the rum diary as you can see why it took so long to come out. the journalist was so energetic and powerful and funny, over the top. the fiction is pretty traditional by comparison. if prince jellyfish was not as good as the rum diary i know he
9:05 pm
pitched it to the editor at random house. he had been blacklisted in the 1950s, he was very successful but had been blacklisted. arthur schlessinger junior led the charge and anyway he and cameron struck up a correspondence which turned out to be super constructive and interesting but it never made it over the top. if anyone else is on here that knows something else i welcome them. >> we have a question from stuart. consider nixon as a tolightweight, can you imagine what he would have said about the country today?
9:06 pm
>> a couple things about that. i write in the book that i don't think donald trump or his supporters or the media reaction would have surprised hunter thompson. he had been trying to warn us about people like this a long time and at thehe time he wrote that stuff it seemed hyperbolic. but hyperbole has its place and overc time seemed more prophetic all the things he was imagining. and i think nixon, i mentioned the biographer he said about hunter that nixon was his muse and brought out hunter's best work because he hated this
9:07 pm
intensity that is sort of pushed and don't forget that after nixon is elected in a landslide, thompson writes in rolling stone a few days later comparing him to a werewolf. the problem is once you compare nixon to a werewolf, what do you say about reagan so that is one of the downsides of hyperbole as you have less running room once you've gone over the top in that particular way but i do think thompson got lucky that when the presidency goes down in flames most of hisom best work comes ot before nixon resigns. >> david asks can you tell us about how the friendship between
9:08 pm
hunter s thompson and bradley came to be. >> great question. i don't know the answer. i do know that thompson befriended charles, the cbs news guy very early on, like in latin america in the 60s and they remained friends for a long time. so he hadad a ton of friends. i'm sure there are many of them on the call right now. and many girlfriends. many of them had contacted me with other stories. and it's all interesting, believe me. but i'm not quite sure how they crossed paths. ofor course he was doing a lot f political reporting so it wouldn't be uncommon for him to run across anybody that fit that kind of political coverage a alg the way, but it's true they had a close friendship.
9:09 pm
he would come to the farm and watch football. there was a real kind of social network that was important. hunter ran a lot of show that had a lot of betting but it wasn't about the bedding. it kind of brought them closer together and hunter backed with the political journalists. if you read on the campaign trail you will see he was very proud of his record betting against experts but he didn't do it just to win. he also said it to bring us closer together. he wasn't part of that group when he joined the campaign. so his personality and then these other mechanisms to stand out is one of the many things he
9:10 pm
was very good at. >> if we see fear and loathing in las vegas as a work of fiction, what distinguishes it from on the road? >> great question. i think that is what he really admired that he was taking this slightly fictionalized experience and turning it into fiction. his own experience, fictionalized in it and selling it as fiction through the major publishers and it included stuff about taking drugs, which was very important to hunter in the 1950s. his other favorite novel is the same sort of transgression and there's this kind of road at the
9:11 pm
center of the story. and of course that was sold through a print. all of that was for hunter thompson at the same for henry mills. thene fact that his staff had bn banned i think for someone like thompson was important. he took henry miller's and sent it to norman mailer. they never met. it was the introduction 80 really interesting letter, a sort of announcement that there is this young kind of bureau fiction writer on the rise. that's how he presented himself, the person writing the great puerto rican novel.
9:12 pm
>> the recent nation piece checksra when they are added up. can you elaborate on what you think he meant by this? >> i think that he meant there are certain kinds of truths that fiction can get that nonfiction can't. certainly journalism, traditional journalism, objective journalism. a great example is nixon. nixonul knew how to play the gae and how to manipulate. saluted his campaign staffers. thompson saw that and realized fictionalized ingot, not worrying, go for the truth in a way that fiction lends itself to
9:13 pm
in a way that traditional journalism didn't. another wayab to put it, you can get more theoretical about it. i don't think that was hunter's interest,no but later historiographers would say just facts straight isn't always going to get you to the truth. that every list of facts is a theory. so that is a theoretical concern but i think hunter came off the pointuf of view that fiction is better at getting at this stuff than traditional journalism. i think that's what he meant. certainly his critique of campaign journalism suggested that. they are missing the real story. the real story is about nixon. >> and writing the boys on the bus.
9:14 pm
>> what they added, and of wcourse they end up writing the most memorable accounts of the 1972 campaign. again least fractionally the most accurate. it was a more sustained look at the media and its shortcomings. hunter was a little bit more intuitive. >> i think we have time for a couple more questions. asking what surprised you the most about writing this book? >> i guess two things. one is i mentioned the letters. at the end of the day i didn't expect to reach that conclusion. the other thing i've eluded to -- >> he wrote the letters.
9:15 pm
would write complaining but that took it to a level of art. he would write to the television station in grand junction coloradoin telling about the garbage that they are burying. letters to tony barger, letters to phil gramm, the "washington post." it's incredible how many people he wrote to but the letters themselves arere incredible so that's one thing. i read the letters but after you sit with them for a while i think he knew that, also he said. that was one thing. the other thing and i have to sit with us for a while he didn't know what s he had. some of the stuff was almost accidental, some of the success thate he had.
9:16 pm
they were opportunities and very serendipitous, just pursuing this and even after being successful he didn't alwayshi realize that that that was his future. that the franchise was going to be this. there is an example i don't think i mentioned but should have. his editor and his agent wanted him to include the las vegas material in the second book that he was supposed to give and he said no i don't want that stuff printed with my other stuff. it will ruin me and make a fool out of me. that's why they called it nonfiction because he had a contract to write a book for fiction and that's why it cannot separate and of course it became the most important thing maybe be arguably that he had written. but he thought if it wasn't handled just right that it would
9:17 pm
ruin and heab thought the same thing about the kentucky derby. i think that's really interesting. he really knewu the business, experienced, seasonedd freelancr but didn't see that path even as it was opening up. once he saw it of course he couldn't walk away a from it. i talk about that a little bit in the book as well and to start writing another mode. but it just was hard for him having to work so hard to achieve that success and even though the celebrity was kind of a mixed bag, he couldn't let that go. >> we have time for maybe one more question. are there any future projects you hope to tackle that developed out of the work that you did for this book?
9:18 pm
>> the one-word version, one word answer, yes. i had another idea but the more i think about it and getting advice including from davis, i might want to keep turning on this a little bit because in many ways i realized again after i finished thiss whole thing the last three books hunter thompson kind of our informal trilogies about the san francisco counterculture. of course if you add he's not a countercultural figure left of center political journalism. some advice that i've been getting from very knowledgeable maybe there are not enough books ndabout san francisco. there is certainly a lot of good
9:19 pm
ones. but i think that there is still some work here and the fact that people have responded positively to it is a sign that there's still some stories to tell not just for us but for the broad audience as well. >> we look forward to the next book and the thing that i regret the most about these virtual events, you can't go out for drinks after. so a rain check to you. thank you so much. >> a lot of familiar faces. i don'tt have time to acknowlede all of them, plus a lot of new ones. thanks for coming. >> at least six presidents recorded conversations while in office. here many of them on c-span's new podcast presidential
9:20 pm
recordings. >> season one focuses on the presidency of lyndon johnson. you will hear about the 1964 civil rights act, the presidential campaign, the gulf of tonkin incident, the march on selma and the war in vietnam. not everyone knew they were being recorded. >> certainly johnson's secretary is new because they were tasked with transcribing many of the conversations. in fact they were the ones who made sure the conversations were taped as johnson was a signal to them through an open door between his office into theirs. >> you will also hear blunt talk. >> i want a report of the number of people assigned to kennedy on the day that he died and the number assigned to me now and if mine are not less i want them less quick. if i can't ever go to the bathroom i won't go. i promise i won't go anywhere i will just stay behind these black gates. >> presidential recordings on the c-span now apple or wherever
9:21 pm
you get your podcasts. house and senate members continue the district into state work period. the senate will be back monday . lawmakers are expected to debate several of the federal reserve nominees including to serve as the vice chair. also lisa cook who is confirmed would become the first black woman to serve on the board. when congress returns we will have live coverage of the house and of course on c-span watch the senate on c-span2 and online on or with the free video app c-span now. >> i'm from the carter presidential library. we are glad you could join us tonight. i happen to be a johnny cash fan so i'm really interested in this but it's also appropriate for ther carter library because president carter used to joke that he was a


info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on