“Bold and searching” – BookLife “Gets” and Loves “Particle Pinata Poems”

IN PREMIUM COLOR: BookLife writes:

Harrell’s bold and searching collection takes readers on an odyssey of inquiry, with the first and foremost question being ‘How to establish that / Yes, I am / One with God and God is / One with You.’ But rather than provide an answer, Harrell’s poems seek to use the question as a gateway into a thought-space where the act of seeking knowledge results in spiritual transcendence. In a note, Harrell describes her spirituality as a conscious, living thing shaped over time by a series of spiritual events she calls ‘initiations,’ and through her poetry, Harrell seeks to divulge her spiritual wisdom.

The principle spiritual tenet in Particle Piñata is that all knowledge of the universe is united in an ever-shifting entity to which all people contribute and borrow, including the poet’s literary inspirations Baudelaire, Emerson, Whitman, and Joyce, and major figures from the poet’s own life, which include Milton Klonsky and Hunter Thompson. . . .

Touching on religion, philosophy, particle physics, linguistics, and more heady concepts, Harrell’s collection is a cosmic, often esoteric whirlwind which seeks to bring the poet’s conception of a spiritual being to life.
Takeaway: A cosmic, sophisticated collection that touches on spirituality, philosophy, and physics.

Great for fans of: Milton Klonsky, Delmore Schwartz.

From the Publisher:

The Particle Piñata collection spans over forty years of Life tackled from the heart. The genesis emerged when, living in Morocco in 1980, Margaret Ann Harrell began recording her dreams. And they poured in, introducing her to image trails.” She was in deep contact with the unconscious. In it resided this poet, a “second-class citizen” of herself. The poet to whom words came easily because after all she was in the unconscious, whereas the conscious prose author struggled, edited, cut, sweated, and was published. No longer is the poet in the closet. Having been a spokesperson for “the unconscious,” or collective unconscious, before, in this poetry Harrell brings in the transpersonal nature of us all. From after-death communications to stimulating RUMI-nations to metaphysics in “a bottle,” her poems bring puzzles, thought-provoking, with depth. Many are “To the Earth,” announcing prophetically, in the 1980s, the upheaval we are seeing today. True to the brand of humor of the unconscious, there is a section of brilliant word play, narrating insights about the untold stories of Jesus and Mary Magdalene, theChrist spirit, and the universal Christ consciousness.

From—Ron Whitehead, U.S. National Beat Poet Laureate

The time of the grandmothers, of the nurturing healing feminine energy has arrived. Patriarchy has sewn destruction long enough. We must all, female and male, become healers, seers. In her epic PARTICLE PINATA, author Margaret Ann Harrell stands in direct lineage with the desert mystics, the poet prophets of old and, simultaneously, with the contemporary cutting edge avant-garde. In a whirling dance with the creative forces of the universe Harrell draws explicit and implicit lines to Rumi, Blake, Yeats, Joyce, Jung, and others while forging mystical connections with clouds and coastlines, dancing in the borderlands of space and time, of being and not being, of embracing and letting go. And she accomplishes it all in her own distinctly original poetic voice. Through decades of carrying these poems from continent to continent, Margaret Ann Harrell has continued to add new poems and photos, to edit and revise, to transform her self into an ever evolving being, into this masterpiece book. I can’t recommend it highly enough. Go ahead, open the front cover and enter. You’ll never be the same.


New in 2022 – Poetry and Nonfiction

Beyond Particle Pinata Poems new books by Margaret Harrell (so far) in 2022 – a “galloping” year – are listed below:

New Poems – Patching Me Together – Cover Design: Grant Goodwine

Following the critical success of Particle Pinata Poems, Harrell’s new release doesn’t disappoint. It more than delivers. “Margaret Ann Harrell stands in direct lineage with the poet prophets of old while simultaneously being a modern cutting edge experimental poet. She steps off the edge and into the unknown. In her own distinctly original poetic voice, she performs a whirling dance with the numinous creative forces of the universe, with Rumi and Blake and Rilke and Yeats. PATCHING ME TOGETHER is the work of a master. I can’t recommend it highly enough.”—Ron Whitehead, U.S. National Beat Poet Laureate



Cover Designer: Grant Goodwine

Let’s dive down into our relationship to the universe’s creative impulse, creative energy—the energy that can move mountains, can explode cities— through our common affinity for and content of . . . ELECTRICITY. Electricity “Transport Trains” presents “some personally experienced secrets of how we get roped into the universe’s scenes and stories.” Margaret A. Harrell spent the decade of the 1990s at her computer, but it was no ordinary experience. The computer worked with her, in what is called “computer PK.” In this parapsychological phenomenon, the computer repeatedly restructured portions of a whole page of text that was on-screen, reducing it to mouthfuls. No page printed the same way twice. This was a collaborative experience between artist and, if you will, spirit illustrator (humorously put). With piles of examples of this type of refocusing, not only did she have her consciousness altered and expanded, but she used the illustrations in her Space Encounters series, some of which are reproduced in Electricity “Transport Trains.” The Space Encounters series was published in Romania while she lived in Belgium. Resurfacing out of this ten years of seclusion and artistic hermitage in 2001, she relocated in the United State with a shipping container that held many examples of this nonstop ten years of creativity, all supported, or instigated, by “the spirit world.” Blinking in the light of returned-to everyday reality, she published more books, but shifted focus. Now she is aiming for short, easily accessible, entertaining books that have a very deep undertone. In addition, she brings insights into how human electricity interacts with the electricity-filled universe that she learned but did not understand in an initiation in 1985. Decades later, it’s all so clear. And she shares it in this book.


Cloud Conversations & Image Stories - Leonardo's Theory: Pictorial Consciousness by [Margaret Harrell]

Chuck full of meditative Sun creations. In fact, there is a section title: The Sun as Painter.

Book Description on Amazon:

How does Leonardo’s theory of chance images, “accidental” inspiration, relate to clouds? In Cloud Conversations & Image Stories, Margaret A. Harrell weaves her own cloud photography into the art history of chance images, bringing in related drawings, scrying, and our relationship to Mother Nature. Regarding Robert Desnos’ trance drawings, Andre Bréton called the “tangled web of lines” a result of chance, but the figures that “appear suddenly from this chaos,” he said, were “born somewhat like those one sees in clouds or in the cracks in walls.” Soak up the beauty as these clouds reveal images, many of which look like paintings. In nooks, in corners, of the photo, an unexpected face or whole scene appears. Harrell began photography, walking in the steps of dreams that showed her looking up, seeing scenes unfold, shifting panoramas everyone else failed to notice. One day the dream stepped into reality. In this book, Harrell gives Leonardo da Vinci a prominent role, as he found clouds and other nondescript stimulants to the imagination useful. He had a theory about stains, blots, clouds, as have other artists, such as Victor Hugo. Harrell brings them in, joining with her to take on a relatively untackled topic in art history and creativity: where creation comes from. She asks repeatedly whose images is she photographing? Why do they appear to her in clouds but not on a blank canvas? Printed in full Premium color, each image composed only of sunlight dazzles down on the page.



A Palimpsest of Thanks

—Behind The Hell’s Angels Letters


11, 12, 13


Time with his old face

Death with his skull face

God with his No Face

Under my own face

—Milton Klonsky


What did William Blake have to do with The Hell’s Angels Letters book?

More than you might think. In my mind his artwork was the artbook I didn’t work on in 1971 or so. This was the artbook I did. It all went back to that.

But let’s take the story slowly.

1994. It was an unlikely event for me to be attending – called “Opening to Channel.” Living in Belgium, I had not had much experience personally with this more American practice in 1994. But I had just started taking light body experiential meditation work, which means getting to know the energy around you—your personal field—and from there subtle energy in general: how it works in us (somewhat in line with quantum theory but experientially). That’s where the first signal came that something was up about this book.

But maybe I should earlier, 1978. In the apartment of my close friend, a bit romantically, poet Milton Klonsky, whom Beat-generation author Seymour Krim described as having “an IQ that could stutter your butter.” Krim, by the way was a New Journalist, a “recorder of the scene as filtered through his intellect slanged vision.”[i]  A fabulous author, he  taught writing a Columbia and at Iowa, and received both a Guggenheim and a Fulbright. In this somewhat shabby rent-controlled one-bedroom apartment of Klonsky, a tall bookshelf richly filled almost a wall-to-ceiling of the living room. Among the signed copies, by friends, was one by poet Marianne Moore. There he sat, in his (somewhat shabby too) maroon or gray sweater, surrounded by plates: William Blake printing plates from the Tate Gallery in London. Klonsky and Blake were two deep eccentrics, except for all his mental travels Milton did not talk to spirits the way Blake did. He did, however, get so engrossed in his work it could be almost a trance. Telling me about the illustrated manuscript, Blake’s Dante, he was working on for Harmony Books, he said: “You do the text.”

What??!! Sputter. Sputter.

The text was brief or long blocks of commentary on Blake’s engravings of Dante’s Divine Comedy. About the most erudite thing I could imagine. Certainly not housed in my brain. Plus translated excerpts. Whoo. That meant having at my fingertips all of Dante’s Comedy, plus getting into Blake’s mind at the intersections. And I didn’t know Italian. I was awed. How could he think me capable of such expertise put together wittily? He said, “Come on. I’ll introduce you to the publisher of Harmony Books. I’ll get him to give you $1,000.” $4,821 today!  Temporarily, I said yes, though I backed out when we returned from midtown, but I kept the memory. Including the awe.

Entering his apartment that afternoon now seems a kind of replica in astonishment of the opening pages of his American Review essay Art & Life: A Mennippean Paean to the Flea; or, Did Dostoevsky Kill Trotsky?—in which the natural philosopher Robert Hooke stared, in his dungeon laboratory in April 1663, as “out of the surrounding darkness” under his just-invented compound microscope he looked at a flea—“for the first time truly seen.” The flea was the carrier of the bubonic plague at the time, which he didn’t know.

Dazzled, my mind returned to Klonsky’s first Blake book: The Seer and His Visions. The erudition, the mix with street-talk, the brilliant colors and text-plus-image layout. It seered my awareness.

How does this connect to The Hell’s Angels Letters? It is one of the models underneath the book, a template peeping through, a palimpsest that started there. Or the start might have been—no, the pickup—my visit to Rome, to the da Vinci-inventions museum and the purchase of a book of illustrations/text of his imagined machines I stumbled on. Or my book of Michaelangelo’s paintings, or of my friend pop artist John (Jack) Wesley in New York. Or even, as while living in Belgium, I helped set up an exhibit for a museum, encountering their book Mozart in Belgium (in French).

Just as I began my first book by sitting in a Paris Montparnasse restaurant, Le Dôme, frequented in the past by Hemingway and Sartre, great writers and thinkers, painters, you name it, here was another, older flock of artists, this time visual, with texts digging into their great works. Sitting in that pond of art of the past ties in to The Hell’s Angels Letters, how? Underlying it in palimpsest mode. “Palimpsest,” a word I learned from Milton.

So let’s get down to it. At the channeling workshop in Ghent, Belgium, in 1994, I casually asked—in an exercise in twos—would my book be published? That is, Love in Transition: Voyage of Ulysses—Letters to Penelope, which I had worked on for nineteen years, unfinished because—what else?—of the death of Milton Klonsky (after whom my protagonist was named), after which he seemed to “come back from the dead” to initiate me. Are you following? There are a lot of winding trails like this leading up to the Letters.

The male in my Ghent channeling workshop answered, “I see a book by you in a bookstore window.” Wow.

A year later at the one hundredth-birthday celebration of the famous laboratory parapsychologist J. B. Rhine at the Parapsychology  Association convention in Durham, NC, in 1995, I had been asked to contribute, as I had known and corresponded with Rhine—letters again—and while at an evening event there I asked a parapsychologist, who said she looked for lost children for the New York City police sometimes, the same question. “Will my book be published?” SAME ANSWER. Twice now: “I see a book by you in a bookstore window.” 1995.

Fast forward to 2014. It takes patience to follow how the Universe plants. The players are getting ready in the wings as I enter Carmichael’s Bookstore in Louisville and a friend says, “Look, Margaret, your book is in the window!” Not just one book, but my two memoirs, just published in 2011, 2012, with Hunter S. Thompson as a key character, at last. In Love in Transition it had been Milton whose strange embodiments I had “memorialized.” But here came Hunter.

There, before a sparse audience on a Sunday morning (!) with most all the Gonzo Fest attendees in bed, I gave my presentation of his letters to me, the originals carried inside the plane from NC to Louisville, Kentucky. Spreading the collection, worth tens of thousands of dollars, out, I enthusiastically elaborated, letter by letter. In the audience Jinn Bug, a poet/photographer/graphic artist and importantly for our story, one who could receive energy messages, sat transfixed.

“Remember the spaces,” Hunter had written me: it meant tell the Random House production crew of Hell’s Angels (the printer worked from the manuscript hard copy) to reproduce the space around his newspaper-width quotations. Exactly. That’s an order. In the talented Jinn Bug’s mind, a vision of an artbook, formed. First of all, it was unlikely she would even be there, not often stepping into the Gonzo world. But she did. And that proved vital.

“Remember the spaces” opened up before her into—what else in our scenario?—an ART book, say, like, The Gorgeous Nothings (Emily Dickinson’s scribblings on envelopes, surrounded by barrels of space). Now, Jinn and her husband, Ron Whitehead, the founder/organizer of the Gonzo Fest, who had invited me to speak, together approached me. I had sometime back decided to write no more books without being asked, so as to get readers, not just good critical reviews. Jinn conveyed her vision, intending her role to be then complete. I stood still, rooted to the spot, captured by the image of the artbooks of the past.

A couple of years passed. I did nothing. How could I without my layout templates? Jim Bug had no interest in creating any templates, even one. But reluctantly, one day, hurrying down the airport corridor with me, she relented. (Probably to keep me interested.)

Now the winding trail wound into new corners. Keeping the waning project alive, investing it with dynamite, though so far not a single step in it had been taken, one day Jinn Bug got the idea of inviing in in Ron and Juan Thompson. She broached the idea. I said yes. They said yes. Juan’s entry miraculously guaranteed that the reprint permissions from the Estate.

Without Juan’s nod and generosity, no book.

And everyone felt the book was Hunter’s wish!

The ducks were in a row. But another year passed. I was still in that living room of Blake’s plates from the Tate Museum, or in Leonardo’s book of drawings with text, waiting for my template, the palimpsest of art books in the past standing with me. My stuck brain thought of no one to ask for templates, not yet even thinking of going to a designer. That would have been the obvious act. But I knew no Gonzo-inspired designer.  And I wanted text and template to go hand in hand.

Finally, Jinn and Ron said it was time for the editing—in the form of questions. That meant I had to write text, which was actually easy, given the familiarity I now had with the topic. Immediately, Jinn began drawing my own personal story into the book, where I had not planned on including it much. To bring me in, to widen the audience outside Gonzo, was her idea. Also, that I answer questions in written form in back-of-the-book Notes. Notes to be deleted later.

Then Ron announced he had a narrow opening to read the manuscript in six weeks. Could I be ready? Jinn added: forget waiting for the templates, she and Ron would drag text from my manuscript under and beside each illustration. All they needed was the text to drag, let them choose which. Wow. My heart dropped to the floor. My first reaction was, what a lot of trust that required of me, introvert that I was (extrovert in some ways too). But trust I had (the extroverted me) and in fact wasn’t this a collaboration? I said yes.

Also, they both insisted I leave excess material in for them to see. This required to restrain me in chains, as it were. I, of all people, identified myself by my ability to cut. One author I edited called me “scizzors lady.” How ironic. Because 1) I am an expert in cutting. It was like a trademark, my TM. A footprint of me.

I remember (painfully but gratefully) a lesson—shortcut—from Alan Rinzler, one of Hunter’s editors, who around 2009 read my memoir Keep This Quiet! in manuscript when what would become the first two volumes were still one long text. He berated the excess “ephemera.” Yes! My intuition had already told me that. So I raced through the book, cut one third, slashing away as in an overgrown vacant lot, without a glance backward, with nary a pittance of regret. This sealed the deal for me to always listen to my own intuition at a certain point—siding with it, as it nodded vigorously, if needed.

Now, with trust, trepidation, gratitude and curiosity as well, I turned in the text—at the very same time the Universe granted Ron an artist-in-residence assignment in Estonia, alone! No sooner had I turned it in than off he went.

Well, he would not back out, he soon informed me. He would edit it there, but what would happen to the plan? Unbeknownst to me he knew nothing about the plan.

So he received a text with no chapters, thus no chapter openings and closings. Now, those are  a fabulous tool I refresh myself on in bedtime mystery novels nightly. But this manuscript had no chapters, because (I thought) he was now to “place” portions of text under and around and in between the illustrations! Ron didn’t know! And I didn’t know he didn’t know. As I had only seen him a few times in person and found him rather intimidating (I admit), we had had no long phone conversations (a difficult feat in itself, as he is like a fire hydrant, the words pouring over each other).

I said, “Ron, cut anything—a paragraph, a page, a section—move paragraphs around. But please just do no line editing.

He said, “Thanks. Good to know. OK.” End of instructions.

That was the extent of the communication, except he repeated I was not to cut excess material, as he needed to see it to decide if it belonged in or not (not, definitely!).

So over in Estonia he weighed, wrestled, wondering how the text could be made “conversational,” he later said. I now know he must have meant to deemphasize any hint of anything academic. That was fine with me. A good idea.

I didn’t mention the plan that he and Jinn—now himself alone—were to drag and cut and paste my text under and beside and between illustrations. I mistakenly just assumed he had been told. Possibly Jinn thought I told him. Or that, no matter, it would all fall into place. (Which it did.)

Regardless, he sweated, then returned the manuscript with no markings. Just the finished product. A clean text. No questions.  I looked. YES.  As if my mind had been glued to his (and perhaps it was), he 100 percent agreed. Eye to eye. He deleted everything I’d shuddered at leaving in. And left in what I loved. Talk about mind meld.

But Ron was now emailing out the text for early reading. Ye gods! I hastily made chapters – with openings and closings created for dramatic effect. And by luck found designer Deborah Purdue to do Sample Pages. She just fell out of the sky. Deborah happened to live in Medford, Oregon, I soon realized—the headquarters of my light body work, from whence the Opening to Channel workshop had stemmed.

So now we entered the Art Book arena—layout, color, design fantasia. And lo and behold, as the self-organizing Universe would have it, it fell to me to drag and place the text! We were off to the races.

In the next year, in combing through agent options, I butted against my karma. I reached the spot where with earlier books I would give up. Was it karma? I began to think so. A stone wall I had to blast through. Ron masterfully pushed me, always upbeat, past every rejection letter.

Ron said, “No, keep going.” Jinn: “I think there’s a publisher out there.” What? I believed in her hunches.

And lurking in San Francisco, a needle in a haystack, he was.

(If you do not understand why the book was noncommercial, just imagine the cost of color printing. For sure, traditional publishers would, cost effectively, destroy the whole purpose of the project, by retyping, in black and white, excerpts of letters. Excerpts only. No scans. No primary documents on display, no doodles, no color. No coffee table book. Keep This Quiet! all over again. Why bother? No dice. Imagine the yawning of the Gonzo community!)

Grant Goodwine, the perfect illustrator, came in.

One year later in a phone call magic happened. I thought I was dialing a printing house to test what the color printing fee (in any case unaffordable by me; still, it didn’t hurt to ask) would be.

But the printer had a publishing arm. I’d dialed that by accident; by chance he himself picked up. He interrupted: “I’m the publisher of Norfolk Press. I want to publish your book. Do you have a manuscript?” And that was it. Next day, a contract waited. The book would come home to roost in San Francisco. Ah ha. Home to where Hunter typed the very first letter to me.  Closing the circle.

But that wasn’t the last hurdle. I signed in March 2020. COVID lurked. Frowning and forbidding. We got the book out July 18, 2020—no launch allowed.

However, then another hurdle, another karmic stop, as it were, remained. This one still in effect. Will this roadblock get lightly lifted as well? A proud, open highway? The hurdle now is how readers can get the book—available on just the publisher’s website. Ever mindful of dropping hints, the Universe showed its hand here too. An Amazon distribution center popped up right outside the Norfolk Press window—in 2021, saying: See how accessible I am. Take the leap! Charles Cunningham, the insightful, risk-taking publisher, noted the “hint.” But didn’t budge. Yet. Then one day Fat City Gallery, run by DJ Watkins out of Aspen, offered to put the book up on its site for sale. Ah ha. Another surprise in store. Moving now to Aspen, just miles from Hunter’s Woody Creek home. Are we tracing a trajectory on a map?

As we started with Blake, I think of the plots of the Universe: After his exile from Florence, “poet and politician Dante Alighieri . . . wrote his masterpiece, The Divine Comedy, as a virtual wanderer, seeking protection for his family in town after town.”[ii]

The Gospel of Thomas: (29) “Jesus says: “If the flesh was produced for the sake of the spirit, it is a miracle. But if the spirit . . . for the sake of the body, it is a miracle of a miracle.”

That is, this winding road is the path of the art of old. Hunter won fame. Celebrity. Notoriety. But for a taste of the “old way,” this might round out the picture. Michaelangelo was enormously wealthy. But most artists were not.

I cannot thank Ron enough for pushing and pushing, never washing his hands of this project. Ron always available to give his suggestions, out of years of experience. Quick, unhesitant. If I would doubt, the solution was: Ask Ron. Quick, snap of the finger, he fired back. And I would go back now to nod at my first publisher, Didi Cenuser, in Romania, as he appreciates being remembered. Who could forget him? Jinn Bug, of course, for capturing several Universe messages during this long journey, without which I don’t think the book would exist.  Thanx, one and all.

To Be Continued.

[i] https://www.beatsupernovarasa.com/thebeats/thebeats.htm
[ii] https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/dante-is-exiled-from-florence


Christmas Brainstorm – The Hell’s Angels Letters – buy it personally signed

For the Gonzo aficionado, A Christmas Favorite – The Hell’s Angels Letters, Order HERE

If you would like it personally signed, contact me.  It’s easy and will be a marvelous  Christmas touch. Below are some reactions to The Hell’s Angels Letters followed by photos related to the book and me. Cover: Grant Goodwine. For collectors, looking far into the future, there is a limited edition of 120 (at $120). For the high-end coffee table edition ($60, 297 pages, many in color), you can’t go wrong, as underscored enthusiastically below and by every single reader who reported back:

The eminent reviewer for the Washington Post Michael Dirda has just given a Big Head’s Up to The Hell’s Angels Letters: Hunter S. Thompson, Margaret Harrell and the Making of an American Classic in his October 8, 2020, write-up about it inside a piece called “Can’t get enough Game of Thrones or Star Wars? New editions on cult favorites are here to satisfy:

Among late 20th-century American writers, none can rival Norman Mailer and Hunter S. Thompson in sheer force of personality, both on the page and in person. Mailer, whether in his fiction, polemical essays or reportage, always aimed to be consequential, to be fiercely engaged with his times. Would that he were living now! For a hint of what we’ve lost, check out the latest book-length issue, Volume 13, of “The Mailer Review” at the home page of The Norman Mailer Society. Thompson’s motto might well have been “Nothing in moderation.” For “The ‘Hell’s Angels’ Letters,” Margaret Ann Harrell — in collaboration with Ron Whitehead — has assembled a dossier of all her correspondence with Thompson during the time she worked as the editor of the gonzo writer’s “strange and terrible saga of the outlaw motorcycle gangs.” Typed manuscript pages, scribbled notes, photographs, interviews and all sorts of period ephemera relating to “Hell’s Angels” allow the reader a valuable, behind-the-scenes glimpse into the making of this classic of New Journalism.

Beatdom review by publisher David Wills, author of High White Notes:

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.

Margaret Harrell, The Hell’s Angels Letters launch

In case you missed it, there’s a Gonzo Today review of The Hell’s Angels Letters Letters by Kyle K. Mann, Editor-in-Chief. It opens like this:

This is a big book, literally and figuratively. The short version:

The Hell’s Angels Letters is a must-have text for any Hunter S. Thompson fan. Lavishly documented and illustrated with the actual correspondence that led to the publication of his breakthrough literary effort, ‘Hell’s Angels,’ this coffee-table book literally shows how HST boot-strapped his way from a impoverished nobody journalist to growing legend. The author, Margaret Harrell, who was Thompson’s editor on his inaugural book, and her collaborator, Thompson’s friend and associate poet Ron Whitehead, have succeeded brilliantly to create a fabulous present for you, or anyone in your life who admires Thompson’s numerous achievements. It is not inexpensive, but no matter, it’s worth every penny. The Hell’s Angels Letters: Hunter S Thompson, Margaret Harrell and the Making of an American Classic gets five stars out of five! Bravo!

The long version:

I was delighted to get the package at the Topanga Post Office from Ron. I got it home and opened it eagerly. As I flipped through the pages, I was astounded to see typewritten and even handwritten letters from HST. Beyond amazing! But, how the freaking hell am I going to review it?

It sat on my desk for weeks, demanding attention. I found myself resentful as the days went by… what am I doing with this monstrosity? I’d open it and recoil due to the intensity of HST’s personality, roaring off the page. I tried getting stoned and looking anew, but nope, way too heavy to digest and analyze in that state. Yet, Ron had sent it to me to review, and I knew our Gonzo Today readers wanted, even needed, to get my take.

To continue reading, click here.

In the Hunter Thompson Kitchen, Frazier Museum

First official reader review:

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.

Paul Krassner, a player in The Hell’s Angels Letters

Virginia Williams, PhD, President of Williams LifeSkills

With Rory Feehan at the Frazier 2019

Bill McKeen and Juan Thompson - Gonzo Fest

Juan Thompson, Margaret Harrell, Tim Denevi
Tim Denevi and Margaret Harrell

Hunter, 1991A favorite of Hunter


FINAL YOUTUBE LINKS – July 16-18 – The Hell’s Angels Letters LAUNCH & FESTIVAL

The hard cover of The Hell’s Angels Letters: Hunter S. Thompson, Margaret Harrell and the Making of an American Classic now joins the high-end paperback and e-book, ready to order at Norfolk Press.

Below are the updated, final (corrected) public links to all the Launch events July 16-18. The San Francisco Launch turned into a FESTIVAL.

Margaret A. Harrell Interview by David Streitfeld

Panel with Peter Richardson, William McKeen, Dr. Rory Patrick Feehan and David Streitfeld

The State of Gonzo Address: Ron Whitehead

Dr. Rory Patrick Feehan: Hunter S. Thompson Archives

Tim Devevi Interview and Reading

Live Gonzo Art with Grant Goodwine

At the historic Canessa Gallery where Janis Joplin, Jerry Garcia, and others, over the years, all passed through


Watch Dr. Rory Patrick Feehan display and describe his collection of Hunter Thompson artifacts – old magazine articles, etc. – all the way from Ireland

The hardcover is “the beautiful limited edition of just 120 books, signed and numbered by the Author.  Signature sewn, the hard cover is hot stamped with white foil, on black Italian book cloth.”

Expert and entertaining contributors to the Launch (or Festival) included  the list below, which gathers into One Place most of the Hunter Thompson experts in the world:

Grant Goodwine is a Louisville-Based Illustrator who has long been affiliated with the GONZO movement, including helping illustrate The Hell’s Angels Letters and annual posters for Gonzofest and even for Churchill Downs to help celebrate Hunter’s “The Kentucky Derby Is Decadent and Depraved.” Grant puts in his effort to help conserve Hunter’s Legacy along with hopes of keeping Gonzo going.

Margaret A. Harrell is a three-time MacDowell Colony fellow, who was Hunter’s copy editor and Jim Silberman’s assistant editor on Hell’s Angels at Random House, as well as working on many successful books there. With degrees from Duke University and Columbia University, she studied three years at the C. G. Jung Institute Zurich. She has lived in the U.S., Morocco, Switzerland, and Belgium and has fourteen published books, including the Keep This Quiet! memoir series and The Hell’s Angels Letters. Multifaceted, she is an author, editor, advanced meditation (light body) teacher and experimental cloud photographer.

Ron Whitehead, poet, writer, editor, publisher, professor, scholar, activist, is the author of 24 books and 34 albums. Ron has produced thousands of events and festivals, including 24 & 48 & 72 & 90 hour non-stop music & poetry Insomniacthons, in Europe and the USA. He has presented thousands of readings, talks, and performances around the world. He has edited and published hundreds of titles. The recipient of many awards, his work has been translated into 20 languages. In 2018 Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer presented Ron with a Lifetime Achievement for Work in The Arts Award. Ron Whitehead has recently been selected to become the US National Beat Poet Laureate (2021–2022). He was in 2019 the first US citizen to be named UNESCO’s Tartu City of Literature Writer-in-Residence.. He is co-founder and Chief of Poetics for Gonzofest Louisville. Outlaw Poet: The Legend of Ron Whitehead documentary will be released by Storm Generation Films/Dark Star TV in 2021.

David Streitfeld is the editor of Hunter S. Thompson: The Last Interview and Other Conversations (Melville House, 2018). The Last Interview series, which he edits, includes such authors as Gabriel García Márquez, Philip K. Dick and J. D. Salinger. He is a reporter for the New York Times, where in 2013 he was part of the team awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Reporting. He has won various other prizes for his journalism. In the past he worked for the Los Angeles Times and the Washington Post.

William McKeen is a professor and the Chairman of the Department of Journalism at Boston University; he is the author or editor of thirteen successful books, including Outlaw JournalistMile Marker Zero, and Everybody Had an Ocean. McKeen teaches courses on journalism history, literary journalism and rock n’ roll and American culture and previously taught at Western Kentucky University, the University of Oklahoma, and the University of Florida, where he chaired the department of journalism.

Rory Patrick Feehan, PhD, is a Hunter S. Thompson Scholar and the founder of Totallygonzo.org. He graduated with a doctorate in English Language & Literature from the University of Limerick in 2018. He has spoken at the Louisville Gonzofest and at the Speed Art Museum, Louisville, on the opening night of their exhibit Gonzo: The Illustrated Guide to Hunter S. Thompson. A regular contributor to Beatdom, he has also recently contributed a piece on Thompson to the encyclopedia American Political Humor: Masters of Satire and Their Impact on U.S. Policy and Culture.

Tim Denevi is the author of Freak Kingdom: Hunter S. Thompson’s Manic Ten-Year Crusade Against American Fascism (PublicAffairs, 2018) and Hyper: A Personal History of ADHD (Simon & Schuster, 2014). His essays on politics, sport, and religion have recently appeared in The Paris Review, New York Magazine, Salon, The Normal School, and Literary Hub. He received his MFA in nonfiction from the University of Iowa, and he’s been awarded fellowships by the MacDowell Colony and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. Tim is an assistant professor at George Mason University and lives near Washington, DC.

John F. Brick is a Ph.D. candidate in English at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He specializes in American literary journalism of the 1960s and ’70s with a particular focus on Hunter S. Thompson and Gonzo journalism, and among his long-term career goals is to see the burgeoning niche of Thompson studies coalesce around centralized, comprehensive archives.  To that end, his work involves locating and cataloging—occasionally from unusual places—material by and about Thompson heretofore unknown to literary scholarship.  Alongside his dissertation, Gonzo Eternal, Brick is also presently compiling a thorough annotated variorum of Thompson’s seminal Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (but don’t tell his dissertation director about that).

TK Tran is a Bay Area native who spends his days working in communications for a cybersecurity company. During his nights and weekends, he writes and performs country music locally and leads an off-roading club of over 40 members. In the past, he has hosted two weekly podcasts and moderated over 500 international online webinars. He is active in organizations such as West Coast Songwriters and Musicians on Call.

Alice Osborn is apoet, singer-songwriter, and book editor whose poetry collections include Heroes without CapesAfter the Steaming Stops, and Unfinished Projects. She is hard at work on an album and a historical novel about the ill-fated Donner Party of 1846–’47. Searching for Paradise is her most recent album, featuring crowd-pleasing favorite originals. Alice is the recipient of a United Arts Council of Raleigh and Wake County 2019 Professional Development Grant; the President of the NC Songwriters’ Co-op, and she also plays and teaches fiddle, banjo, and mandolin. She lives in Raleigh, North Carolina, with her accountant husband, two talented teenagers, and four loud birds all named after musicians. Visit Alice’s website at https://aliceosborn.com and check out her music at https://reverbnation.com/aliceosborn.

Nick Storm is the founder of Kentucky Fried Politics, Kentucky’s source for political news. He is a veteran statewide reporter, anchor, and the former managing editor of cn|2 Pure Politics, a Kentucky statewide cable political news program. Nick broke numerous national and statewide stories, including an expose on former Gov. Julian Carroll who sought sex in exchange for help getting a man into art school. Nick’s work has been featured in The InterceptPolitico, Roll CallThe Hill, The Daily Beast, and The Washington Post among others. He is twice Emmy nominated, and the winner of the 2018 Society for Professional Journalists Louisville Chapter Investigative report of the year. Nick is a graduate of Leadership Louisville class of 2020. Nick’s documentary film Outlaw Poet: The Legend of Ron Whitehead, the story of a friend and contemporary of Kentuckian Hunter S. Thompson, is due to be released in 2021. Nick worked for the United States Department of Justice from August 2018 until January 2021.

Timothy Ferris is the author of a dozen books—among them the bestsellers The Whole Shebang and Coming of Age in the Milky Way. . . . A former editor of Rolling Stone magazine, he has published over 200 articles and essays. Ferris wrote and narrated three PBS documentary films—The Creation of the Universe (1986), Life Beyond Earth (1999), and Seeing in the Dark (2007). Ferris produced the Voyager phonograph record, an artifact of human civilization containing music and sounds of Earth launched aboard the twin Voyager interstellar spacecraft. . . . Ferris has received the American Institute of Physics prize and a Guggenheim Fellowship. . . . A Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Professor Ferris has taught in five disciplines—astronomy, English, history, journalism, and philosophy–at four universities. He is currently an emeritus professor at the University of California, Berkeley.




My Escape! Nicole Flemming – Afghanistan inside look

Nicole Flemming – My Escape – Afghanistan



On Amazon , this incredible book will take you inside what it’s like to be a female child in the rural areas of this country. And what awaits the females there as Western troops leave, with most of us not really aware what that means. Read Nicole’s uplifting account. She lived it. Horrifically but inspiringly, she opts to come out on the positive side. I had the honor to edit it, so I know every word, every shock, every choice to be happy regardless, is accurate.

A brutal, frank, and extraordinary account
of true-life stories by Nicole Flemming.

Nicole was born into an Afghan/Irish family in London. Frequently, when people tell stories about their childhood, they remember happy memories playing in the park, their birthday parties, and even adventures with friends.

Yet, such a reality is not part of everyone’s life . . .

This book takes you into the life of a British Afghan female where the male holds all the authority. She experienced abuse from the person who was supposed to look after her. Trapped, afraid, and alone, young Nicole shows us what life was like for her. She also takes us on a life journey of her ancestors, both Afghani and Irish.
Nicole was uplifted by divine intervention from the spirit world; they held her hand and showed her the way, which only deepened her spiritual gifts and enhanced her ability to help others. She reveals many little-known backroads of life that are kept well hidden and unseen, which are not mentioned on this back cover. She will be highlighting some important subjects.
It is not your everyday read. Let’s put it that way.

This book will move you, leaving you gasping with astonishment at just what goes on behind closed doors.


AMFM Magazine Interview: “The ‘Hell’s Angels’ Letters”




AMFM Magazine: The Voice of the Artist

Margaret, the new book is published, THE HELL’S ANGELS LETTERS: HUNTER S. THOMPSON, MARGARET HARRELL AND THE MAKING OF AN AMERICAN CLASSIC. Grant Goodwine, a protégé of Ralph Steadman, did the cover artwork. Could you tell us about this? How did the whole project come about?

Margaret Harrell: It was a series of coincidences—or unlikely events—from start to finish, beginning with the existence of the letters themselves from Hunter Thompson to me, without which there would have been no book, no record of the story. The journey reminds me of pataphysica (“absurd irony”), a word made famous by French symbolist Alfred Jarry. The letters existed because Random House editor-in-chief Jim Silberman, who assigned me to copy edit Hunter’s first book, Hell’s Angels, broke with protocol. Normally, I would have done the copy editing, gotten Jim’s approval, then invited the author to fly to New York City and sit side by side with me to go over the suggestions and penciled marks on his manuscript for a day, or day by day for a week. Just for Hunter, Jim canceled that procedure. So we had to communicate by letter and phone. Then, when I left Random House, I took the letters with me. I won’t go over the ironic coincidence that came up there. Next, they endured FIFTY YEARS—in acidic paper—while I lived in four countries, including Morocco. Fortunately, they were not in my carry-on stolen at the Carey shuttle terminal in New York and were not in my storage that got overrun with fire ants in North Carolina.

So, basically, for years while I lived outside the US—in Morocco, in Switzerland, in Belgium—the letters survived transport and storage, as if they were charmed with an order not to disintegrate or disappear. By the time Hunter died, in 2005, I’d just relocated back to the U.S. He died, coincidentally on February 20, 2005, and I’d first met him in person February 20, 1967, when he had come to New York to start his Hell’s Angels book tour. Soon after he died I (with butterflies) contacted Doug Brinkley, the Estate literary executor, and he knew who I was (Hunter had told me), so he allowed me to excerpt from my letters in a memoir called Keep This Quiet! My Relationship with Hunter S. Thompson, Milton Klonsky, and Jan Mensaert (2011). I knew no one in the Gonzo community, but this book opened the door, and in 2014, I first spoke at the Louisville Gonzofest, by invitation of Ron Whitehead, the poet-performer-scholar who is the collaborator on this Letters book. That opened more doors. . . .

Keep reading this interview by John Wisniewski

Remember that The Hell’s Angels Letters: Hunter S. Thompson, Margaret Harrell and the Making of an American Classic is ONLY available for purchase at the publisher’s website: https://norfolkpress.com. Or check it out here: https://thompson.norfolkpress.com

Below are the updated, final (corrected) public links to all the Launch events July 16-18. The San Francisco Launch turned into a FESTIVAL.

Margaret A. Harrell Interview by David Streitfeld

Panel with Peter Richardson, William McKeen, Dr. Rory Patrick Feehan and David Streitfeld

The State of Gonzo Address: Ron Whitehead

Dr. Rory Patrick Feehan: Hunter S. Thompson Archives

Tim Devevi Interview and Reading

Live Gonzo Art with Grant Goodwine

At the historic Canessa Gallery where Janis Joplin, Jerry Garcia, and others, over the years, all passed through



Editing Services

Get the same quality editing as Hunter S. Thompson in Hell’s Angels.

Hunter often said [Margaret] was the best editor he ever worked with and they were close friends—William McKeen, author of Outlaw Journalist

I have been an editor for decades. I get very absorbed in it. Each work is personal and receives my undivided attention. In my days at Random House I copyedited  or was assistant editor on some New York Times best sellers; some were reviewed on the front cover of the Times Sunday book review section and/or won an award. Yet if I think we are a fit, my prices are reasonable.

Watch your book come into shape

Peacocks at Owl Farm

I love to see a book come into shape--an idea emerge out of a paragraph where it wasn’t there before: where the paragraph was pretty drab. And suddenly it has a lot to say.

Whether you have barely started your book and need developmental editing or are a polished writer and need “final edits,” I can help. In my earliest years I learned some things about editing that stuck me. For instance, a painter writing on art history for Random House confided, “I don’t understand words.” But I noticed that if I asked what he meant - by a dense, confusing sentence - I was often rewarded with a fascinating idea buried under the words that sat on the page without communicating. In the Acknowledgments, he thanked me for “a prodigy of rewriting almost beyond belief.” However, it remained his book, his ideas.

This is an extreme case. For the most part, the author has a knack with language. Whenever I tackle a manuscript, I never lose sight of the fact—most importantly—that there’s a Voice waiting to be supported, to stand out. If it’s not your voice that speaks, the reader will probably lose interest; in any case, you will not have the same level of satisfaction and fulfillment. One of the main reasons to write is to go through the creative process, wrestle with material, sweat out the blank moments, and eventually proudly offer a completed book to an audience. I can help you do that—with the highest attention to ethics. Read on to find out about my editing services.

Below is a list of various levels of editing you can choose from.

  • telephone consultation
  • manuscript evaluation
  • developmental editing—if your book is not yet finished
  • partial or comprehensive editing
  • copyediting and line editing or final edits

Once you contact me, for free I’ll look at a few chapters and give you a tailor-made assessment of how much editing I think the book needs and what the fee will be.

Developmental editing is the most extensive. In that, I work with you while you are writing. Do you need input on the concept and structure (nonfiction) or the plot, pacing, characterization (fiction)? If so, you want developmental editing.

Partial or Comprehensive editing is if your manuscript is already finished, yet needs to be looked over with an editor’s eye.

Copyediting, including line edits, is appropriate if your manuscript is finished and the writing is fairly polished. This is where I look at grammar, punctuation, inconsistencies, light line editing.

Below, an example illustrates how cutting dead words brings a scene alive:

I [must have]told Hunter this, which [then] drew forth his response: “Margaret, you talk the craziest of anyone I know.A pause.[And]I feel like I’m talking to a naked child.” But he didn’t say it dismissively.

Prices typically involve a flat project rate, so that you pay less than my $55 hourly rate. Each fee is customized on the basis of manuscript length and readiness for publication.

POST EDITING OPTION: After the editing is done, what happens next? What type of publication are you aiming for: traditional or self-publishing? I can help you see the options for each. I’ll offer you some free tips on indie publishing if that’s your route. If you want to search for an agent, I can give you some tips or you can choose to have me edit your Query Letter and Proposal.

Since updating this page a year ago, I've edited dozens of books for Self-Publishing School and received dozens of tiptop reviews. They are not below. But to give one example, LaRue Palmer, author ofMan Cave of Health: A Why-To Book About Men's Health: Through The Eyes of a Health Coach Who's Heard It All

Man Cave of Health: A Why-To Book About Men's Health: Through The Eyes of a Health Coach Who's Heard It All,


 Great work all around. You have transformed me into a better writer, and for the first time, an AUTHOR! Thank you for giving me my start. I am forever in your debt.


Some Nonfiction and Fiction Project

Published to sensational reviews:

Freak Kingdom— Hachette Book Group

In this perceptive, dramatic book, Tim Denevi recounts the moment when Thompson found his calling. As the Kennedy assassination and the turmoil of the 60s paved the way for Richard Nixon, Thompson greeted him with two very powerful emotions: fear and loathing. In his fevered effort to take down what he saw as a rising dictator, Thompson made a kind of Faustian bargain, taking the drugs he needed to meet newspaper deadlines and pushing himself beyond his natural limits. For ten years, he cast aside his old ambitions, troubled his family, and likely hastened his own decline, along the way producing some of the best political writing in our history.

This remarkable biography reclaims Hunter Thompson for the enigmatic true believer he was: not a punchline or a cartoon character, but a fierce, colorful opponent of fascism in a country that suddenly seemed all too willing to accept it.

About his experience with Margaret on this book:

Margaret Harrell is a world-class editor whose attention to every aspect of my writing—from prose to context to character development to factual accuracy and thematic movement—was invaluable in the composition and completion of my most recent book, a biography on Hunter S. Thompson.  Whether you’re working on nonfiction or a novel, she brings to your project a wealth of generosity and talent and insight that’s unparalleled. —Tim Denevi, Associate Professor, MFA, George Mason University 

Read Salon's excerpt on the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago from Freak Kingdom


I’ve just finished editing my book with Margaret Harrell. She has been absolutely amazing. She has turned my waffle into short sharp punchy sentences that gets the message across clearer than I could have ever imagined AND reduced my word count by about 8,000 words. After one zoom call, she understood what I was wanting to achieve, gave me constructive feedback and allowed me the space to re-create areas of my book that weren’t working. I’m so happy with my end result. Margaret’s expertise and experience are clearly extensive and I’m so glad she was able to work on my book. Margaret . . . thank you, thank you, thank you!!!!


Nikki Lane





Vesa Lumielle Atlantis novel
A House of Smoke and Mirrors - Annie Berkley


A House of Smoke and Mirrors by Annie Berkley - a memoir

Thank you so much! I never could have pulled this story together without your help!

Few people can write such a book. It has to have been lived. To tell us the story, Annie had to reenter a sexually abusive childhood, the tragic abuse of a five-year-old, and turn it into vivid drama, an inspiration to all survivors. The result reads like a movie. But it's true, every word, every scene.

Fred Grover Jr., MD 

Awakening Gaia - Dr. Fred Grover Jr.
Dr. Fred Grover - Spiritual Genomics

Spiritual Genomics: A physician’s deep dive beyond modern medicine, discovering unique keys to optimizing DNA health, longevity, and happiness!

The subtitle says it all. Fred combines a wealth of material - a holistic and spiritual, experiential perspective matched with his medical training and  years of teaching at the University of Colorado. Check out his website, where the slogan is "Experience the RevolutionaryMD Difference!" And the book website. Thanks to  Fred for this generous Acknowledgment: "So much gratitude goes out to my editor, Margaret A. Harrell, who helped me maintain momentum and provided amazing editorial assistance throughout this long journey." 

Awakening Gaia: The Lemurian Crystal Grid



Fred takes you on a journey of planetary shamanism as he taps into higher-dimensional insights and flows with magical synchronicities to place Lemurian crystals and sacred geometric forms around the world. His ultimate goal is to counter the darkness in our world by re-activating, re-connecting and radiating ancient healing energies and grids of the Incas, Mayas, Native Americans, Polynesians and more." What a joy to be part of the birth of these two books!

Denise Kane, Butterfly Reiki founder

The Violet Flame: A Game Changer








Margaret is timely and gets the material back faster than I can make a cup of tea. She is knowledegable and experienced with the ins and outs of book publishing and can easily read in between the lines. How does she do that??? And she has common sense and intuition to tune into her authors and lend a helping hand in a way they need most.

Testimonials, Reviews, Awards

Nonfiction Developmental Editing

Soul Body Fusion

Testimonial: # 1
My professional and loving editor, Margaret Harrell, was always there when I needed her. She made the solo job of a writer become a partnership.
—Jonette Crowley, Author of Soul Body Fusion: The Missing Piece for Healing and Beyond. Translated into Dutch, German, Romanian, Norwegian, Estonian, Polish, Danish, Swedish, and counting
Review: I was mesmerized and transformed with Ms. Crowley’s energy that permeated the pages . . .
Inspiration: It is not only what you produce in your life, but how your greater life produces a greater YOU . . . that in turn produces a greater world. —MARK, channeled by Jonette

Stupidparty: Math v. Myth

Testimonial # 2

A very special acknowledgment to my editor, Margaret Harrell, with an expertise and unique talent, no doubt burgeoning through her fascinating life experiences and working with truly notable writers, goes beyond the call of duty. Fate brought her to my assistance.
—Patrick Andendall, author of Stupidparty: Math v. Myth, the 2015 Award Winner of the National Indie Excellence Book Award (Politics)


It is possibly the funnest book with an agenda ever published. —Breeni Books
A brilliant book, complete with clickable details to verify the author’s veracity. —Thom Hartmann, New York Times best-selling author of The Crash of 2016

Late Bulletin: Patrick has a THIRD political book just out of the editing stage and into design - to come out, in 2018. The second in the political trilogy was Who Is Jeb!!!: John Ellis “Jeb” Bush and his Horrendously Horrible Histories. These projects, like the first, involved “developmental editing”; in the process, Who is Jeb? doubled in size. Expect the newest book later in the year.

This Is Not for You

Testimonial # 3
I cannot thank you enough for working with me.
—Venus Soileau, author of This Is Not for You—a memoir

Samples of Copyedited Novels

The novels below were already finished when they came to me in manuscript. They could get straight to copyediting, which might range from character, plot, and language questions to excellence of writing, fact checking, consistencies, and the minutiae of spelling, grammar, and punctuation. Whatever the degree of copyediting needed (heavy or light), a reader can tell whether the book went through that process.

Soul of the Sun

Testimonial #4
Thank you so much for this lovely voyage! . . . I learned so much . . .
Vesa M. Lumielle, author of Soul of the Sun—poetry and magical realism
Review: “After all, we live the illusion of reality” is the sentence that I would say sums the book up best. Reads very well, and poetry is magnificent.

Essie’s House

Testimonial # 5
I’d like to thank two individuals who helped Essie’s House to life . . . Margaret Harrell—whose enthusiasm, insights and suggestions helped tighten the story and smooth the rough edges.
—Robert Meyerson


Rodeo of Doom

Testimonial # 6
You’ve been such a big help and I appreciate it so much.
Miguel Lasala included in his novel an “Editor’s Note” by me (he wrote), to add to the Hunter Thompson/Fear and Loathing-like flavor.
Review: [In] Rodeo of Doom . . .  author Miguel Lasala reveals his craft by intricately weaving in fine details for his readers and keeps you anxiously anticipating what will happen next.

The End of Obscenity: The Trials of Lady Chatterley, Tropic of Cancer, and Fanny Hill

Developmental editing–an Early Nonfiction Classic

The End of Obscenity: The Trials of Lady Chatterley, Tropic of Cancer, and Fanny Hill by the Lawyer Who Defended Them is dear to my heart. Random House considered it an important book, and to edit it, I was “loaned out”—assigned to go to the law offices of the high-profile author, Charles (Cy) Rembar, every day for roughly a couple of months. There, I sat at a big table with Rembar, and morning to night (ordering in lunch and taking an evening break for dinner at a nearby Sixth Avenue restaurant), we organized his pile of chapters, which began as stand-alone texts, into a flowing book. It’s also because of Rembar, in part, that I wound up having a private conversation with his first cousin Norman Mailer in a Greenwich Village loft and pondered the prospect of editing Mailer’s introduction. 

Read my blog on “The Time I Almost Edited Norman Mailer.”

Acknowledgments: Cy Rembar
To: Margaret Ann Harrell, a gifted book-tuner—a lass with a delicate ear


Rembar’s book deals not with the why of obscenity laws but with the how, and as a result often has a freshness that little recent writing on this subject can match. Rembar’s is still the best book on that kind of censorship.

I am also glad to help you navigate through the publication process.
I love helping you improve your craft.

What we have to be aware of is that the creation of serious literature—whatever the degree of collaboration between author and editor—is the result of enormously concentrated mental and aesthetic effort. If it is reduced to a series of narrative effects slapped on to paper or screen, if it comes to be seen simply as one among many interchangeable ways to ingest a story, it will soon begin to look like a very poor slice of the leisure industry indeed.—Alex Clark, The Guardian, “The Lost Art of Editing,” February 11, 2011

Why I Might Be the Perfect Editor for You

The photo is of myself with author Ron Whitehead and an audience member, James Mohan, at Carmichael's Bookstore, where I had just given a presentation

Short Podcasts on Editing - What It Is

Below are two very short podcast interviews on how I see editing services. The first interview goes into some of the recent history of editing practic

About Myself as an Editor

My interest in writing began at age seven. By age fourteen I was taking journalism courses and working on the school newspaper. Under my guidance our ...

"Awakening Gaia" Book Launch - Dr. Fred Grover Jr.

This is the second book by Dr. Fred Grover Jr. - just published. I was thrilled to edit it, as I did the first book. From the publisher: Fred takes y

New from Vesa Lumielle

Vesa just emailed: Thank you so much for your work and guidance. Immerse yourself in ancient magical Atlantis. The Black Pyramid, an interstellar

Hear, hear: I was not in The Proud Highway – plus how copy editing/line editing worked then: the insider scoop

Margaret A Harrell – Ballet Bolero
The Hell’s Angels Letters

I’m glad to have the occasion to make these corrections now, while I’m alive. Earlier, I was correcting cemented errors in Hunter’s history. But now I realize there’s an opening for a brand-new 0ne.

I suppose it’s logical. That’s why I want to get ahead of it, before it sweeps the Gonzo world, as other rumors have.

The correction is that, contrary to logic, I am NOT in The Proud Highway, Hunter’s first book of letters. That’s right. It’s not me. Not in the Bal-Random combo, as Hunter put it. Not – repeat, NOT – responsible in any way for the initial comments in the margins of his manuscrip ov Hell’s Angels. All that preceded me. I had never heard of him, not up till August 1966!

There is in The Proud Highway a complete blackout from Hunter about the period in which I worked with him.  For that you have to go to The Hell’s Angels Letters, where he profusely evokes his thoughts in the moment, slapdash or thought through, humorous or deeply touching.


When, May 24, 1966, he writes Bill Kennedy that “the Bal/Random combine [made] a few penciled comments in the margin,” that is NOT ME. I was busy with another book!!!

Bernard Shir-Cliff  and Jim Silberman were the acquisition/developmental editors. My copy editing/line editing, came into play AFTER Hunter turned in the pristine revised manuscript to Jim, around the very end of July.

Receiving it, Jim passed it to me. As you see from The Proud Highway, Hunter did not expect this next step, evidently, because he keeps announcing the book’s impending publication.

The only place he speaks directly and at length about our work together (outside his letters to me) is in Fear and Loathing in America, Aug. 12, 1971, to Lynn Nesbit. He writes:

and he should assign someone to the book [his new book] who will prod me unmercifully, in the same way a copy editor named Margaret Harrell kept me locked to the daily grindstone on the Hell’s Angels book. That is, made sure he kept to the deadline.

Letter Oct. 4 (in The Proud Highway), an oblique reference to me: he has “the book’s finished first draft.” But that’s it. There is no mention of editing issues.

This is presumably just AFTER we began telephone communication, which gave him a sufficient outlet for expressing all his issues in a tight container of communication by phone and letter to me. No external venting.

So why doesn’t The Proud Highway contain samples of his letters to me that are in The Hell’s Angels Letters: Hunter S. Thompson, Margaret Harrell and the Making of an American Classic. Well, there  you’ve got me. I’ve speculated he for some veiled reason no longer had copies! Or he may also have wanted, even then, to preserve my privacy. I opt for the first answer, but who knows? Someone will find out.

Nov 28 The Proud Highway. He’s working with me, using the telephone expense account. Has no verbalized complaints in letters even to his friends He now knows the accurate pub month, January.

The beauty and special value of The Hell’s Angels Letters is that it does not supplement The Proud Highway material but succeeds it – as The Next Step. It is Act Four if that was Act Three. New plot, new players, new scene.

In fact, the two books barely overlap and cover two distinct periods. It is as if someone, acting on my behalf, swept in and said, “No, no, no comment on that, no comment. Save it for Margaret.” Some custodian of who gets to cover what.

So THE HELL’S ANGELS LETTERS picks up AFTER Hunter turns the revised manuscript over to Jim by mail in July. At that point ONLY does Jim turn a pile of very clean, unmarked orange pages (his manuscript)  over to me for copy editing.

Here, The Proud Highway goes silent.  It’s Intermission time between Hunter’s two books of correspondence, and to entertain the audience during intermission we have The Hell’s Angels Letters, entirely different material.

Copy editing is very different from developmental editing, and Jim Silberman and Bernard Shir-Cliff were acquisition editors/developmental editing.

Jim Silberman at his office
Hunter Thompson at his ranch in 1991

Especially in those days at Random House, when everything was done in house, copy editing carried a lot of responsibility: line editing, fact checking, proofing, suggesting in pencil (in brackets) paragraphs I thought needed tightening or transposing. Also, it necessitated psychology.

Imagine the sensitivity of a young author. You have to know how to reach him (him – it was all male authors I worked with then) so that he gets interested in changing even a word.  Therefore, you have to show him an error he is grateful you pointed out. And another one, till he is pleading with you – slight exaggeration – to tell him what more you found. One author even pled with me to show him my secret notes on his entire book.

There was no badgering or haggling, but a seeing of eye to eye, at least in the way I was expected to handle things. After all, Jim said to me regarding Hunter, “Keep him happy.”

They wanted a New York Times best seller, which they got. They wanted to hang onto the author for future books. So his wish would be their command. It’s a very different story today, when sales are so heavily emphasized. Sales were important, but equally or more so a carefully crafted book. The editors were book lovers. They loved ideas and words.

With all of his work as acquisition/developmental editor, Jim had to delegate. He thanked the Universe that he felt safe when we worked as a team. I did too. He did not “read over my shoulders.” We made a plan, I copy edited, I then showed the copy edited manuscript to him, he OK’d it, I sent it to Hunter.

After that, Hunter worked DIRECTLY with me only. Lawyer objections, for instance, were funneled through me to him. Here, of course, he tried to raise bloody hell. But it had nothing to do with me personally. It was about legal interference. And  I sided with him while also getting him to oblige the lawyers.

Hunter even had me writing Sonny Barger and Allen Ginsberg on his behalf. He made me his assistant, in effect, and RH did not mind as long as he was happy.

The Proud Highway is a marvelous source for the first stage.

The Hell’s Angels Letters are THE ONLY source for the copyediting stage and in that sense his relationship with me.


Photos – Highlights – The Hell’s Angels Letters FESTIVAL – A Christmas Bonanza Gift

Above: Grant Goodwine – Hunter on the Coast Highway

One of many images at the Canessa Gallery exhibit – one of the best.

The festival took us back to where it all began, the letters Hunter wrote FROM a tiny apartment in San Francisco in 1966 and after have returned to their original home in coffeetable book form. Join us as we celebrate. Also, this is the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. And the book that started it all, Hell’s Angels,  had it fiftieth-year celebration in 1966! How the years flew by. He left us physically but left these books and memories behind.



These events were streamed live and the videos are now online.




Below are the updated, final (corrected) public links to all the Launch events July 16-18. The San Francisco Launch turned into a FESTIVAL.

Margaret A. Harrell Interview by David Streitfeld

Panel with Peter Richardson, William McKeen, Dr. Rory Patrick Feehan and David Streitfeld

A panel consisting of William McKeen and Dr. Rory Patrick Feehan (on Zoom) and David Streitfeld and Peter Richardson (in the Canessa Gallery Live) will discuss “Hell’s Angels as a bridge to Hunter becoming the Gonzo figure in Fear and Loathing.” This is the fiftieth anniversary year of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1971).

Moderators: Margaret A. Harrell and Ron Whitehead.

The State of Gonzo Address: Ron Whitehead

“The State of Gonzo Address: Searching for Hunter S. Thompson.” A 20-minute talk by Ron Whitehead, followed by a 20-minute talk by John Brick, PhD candidate, on his research for his Marquette dissertation, “Gonzo Eternal,” ending with a 15–30-min. Q & A.

Dr. Rory Patrick Feehan: Hunter S. Thompson Archives

Tim Devevi Interview and Reading

A 45-minute Zoom talk by Tim Denevi discussing Hunter’s development and growth as a writer during the time he wrote the Hell’s Angels article and the book. Followed by 15–30 minutes of Live Q & A from Margaret Harrell and Ron Whitehead.

Live Gonzo Art with Grant Goodwine

At the historic Canessa Gallery

To attend any of these events in person, sign up below. Space is limited.

July 16, 2021— Friday evening at 7 p.m.
A 45-minute Zoom talk by Tim Denevi discussing Hunter’s development and growth as a writer during the time he wrote the Hell’s Angels article and the book. Followed by 15–30 minutes of Live Q & A from Margaret Harrell and Ron Whitehead.

Margaret Harrell, The Hell’s Angels Letters launch