THE HELL’S ANGELS LETTERS: HUNTER S. THOMPSON, MARGARET HARRELL AND THE MAKING OF AN AMERICAN CLASSIC – Margaret Harrell
9 x 12 PB ∙ 298 Pgs ∙ $60.00 ∙ ISBN 978-1-60052-167-6
Collaborator: Ron Whitehead
Book available to Order HERE
Beatdom review by the serious critic and publisher David Wills
Finding the truth amidst the Gonzo madness of Hunter Thompson’s life story is not easy. He was an incorrigible self-mythologiser and the books about him tend to incorporate many of his own fantastic – and totally untrue – stories as though they were fact. Harrell attempted to dispel at least one of these myths in Keep This Quiet and digs deeper in The Hell’s Angels Letters, determined to set the record straight about how and where Thompson got the idea for a book on the Death of the American Dream and how his pet snake can to a violent end.
As the title implies, this book is mainly comprised of letters between Harrell and Thompson, some typed and some handwritten, and all printed here in colour. Of course, there are already two collections of Hunter Thompson’s letters available, but somehow they are even more enjoyable when read in the original form. Whether typed or scrawled in giant letters with a red pen, Thompson’s correspondence is invariably annotated and corrected in his unique way, adding a layer of personality that was missing from the collections, as well – of course – as Harrell’s explanations that provide further insight.
First official reader review in:
The Hell’s Angels Letters is a unique combination: at the center is Hunter Thompson’s letters to his contact person at Random House as his bestseller Hell’s Angels comes into being. (That contact continues thereafter.) Beside this is the admiring and excited perspective of that beautiful young woman at Random House, who then changes course to set off on some adventures of her own. (She turns out to be very interesting and deep in her own way, becoming more complex as she matures.) Interwoven is a history of the times, from literary and political perspectives, with a cast of characters from then. Plus interviews and short articles by authorities exploring Hunter Thompson’s legacy. Photographs. And witty cartoons.
I found this highly accessible book intriguing in a down-to-Earth very human way, requiring not metaphors, but rather—it seems to me—a deeply self-revealing honesty. I have liked it tremendously.
Virginia Williams, PhD, President of Williams LifeSkills
Official Launch July 18 – Hunter’s 83rd birthday – at the Canessa Gallery in San Francisco. That event is postponed due to Covid. But the book is LIVE. And there are online events planned.
The Hell’s Angels Letters: Hunter S. Thompson, Margaret Harrell and the Making of an American Classic is an important revelation in the legacy of Thompson, with letters that survived precarious shipping and travel over decades, cloaked away from the public. “If Hell’s Angels hadn’t happened I never would have been able to write Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas or anything else . . . I felt like I got through a door just as it was closing,” Hunter told Paris Review. When he secured a hardcover contract with Jim Silberman (Random House), the known part of the story breaks off. To whip up the final edits, Margaret A. Harrell, a young copy editor/assistant editor to Jim, was—in a break from the norm—given full rein to work with him by expensive long-distance phone and letter. This galvanizing action led to a fascinating tale. She uses the letters to resuscitate the cloaked, suspenseful withheld drama. The book peaks in their romantic get-together at his ranch twenty-one years after they last met, a moving tie maintained over the years.
Details: 150 scans, mostly in color
abt 75 full-page scans of letters by Hunter to Margaret
Collaborator: Ron Whitehead
Illustrator: Grant Goodwine
Aspen Photographer: Alan Becker
I am happy to finally be able to say this is days away from publication. It’s a monster of a book. With flaps and the works. Printed by Norfolk Press of San Francisco, headed by a publisher who has a strong artistic bent used to printing high-end magazines and art books.
Though technically paperback, it is a high quality, stiff, heavy – coffee table durable, ultra-solid cover. If you would like a copy, please order on the above website, as it is NOT available on Amazon, to keep the price down.
This is a book of a writer trying to make his way through the publishing world, meeting another writer, at Random House. It is also a love story. The book itself is heavily, creatively designed. Thank you for your interest in this.
Margaret had a challenging and trusted relationship with Hunter as his Assistant Editor in 1966 while working on his first published book, Hell’s Angels, at Random House. Margaret’s energy was noted by Hunter as she chose to be available 24/7. Thus dealing with Hunter’s “many demands” . . . My guess is that Hunter said: “I have certain punctuations and wording that must be accepted as is . . . Never change anything without running it by me.” Margaret gets an award for “Rolling with Hunter” at a very important time while launching his first book.
—Deborah Fuller, longtime personal assistant
and trusted confidante of Hunter Thompson
Margaret is a natural resource and I’m not sure what the world would do without her. We’re lucky that she shares with us a saga of a long friendship, the work it produced and the legacy it left behind.
—William McKeen, author of
Outlaw Journalist: The Life and Times of Hunter S. Thompson
Hunter was famous for taking limits—to expense accounts and word counts, to deadlines and behavior—as a challenge to blow through. “Never call 911. Never. This means You,” he wrote in a note pinned to a wall in his house, a remarkable admonition when you think about it. That attitude inspired wild books and wild behavior. For too long, the latter obscured the former. Finally, as his life recedes into history, we are beginning to see the work plain. The Hell’s Angels Letters: Hunter S. Thompson, Margaret Harrell and the Making of an American Classic a fine gift that tales is back to where it all began.
—David Streitfeld, New York Times Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist,
author of Hunter S. Thompson: The Last Interview
It was no easy task working with Hunter. . . . A select few people, however, were held in high esteem by The Good Doctor. One such person is Margaret Harrell . . . Five decades later, she is still correcting errors in the narrative in aid of the truth.
—Rory Patrick Feehan, author of the Irish PhD dissertation The Genesis of the Hunter Figure
Most people wind up going against their instincts, and it makes them miserable for the rest of their lives.
—Hunter S. Thompson