Watch this panel at 10 p.m. – 11:15 p.m. October 23rd Las Vegas time or watch it later online at the Las Vegas Book Festival. It’s very lively and fun, with panelists – besides me – Juan F. Thompson, Tim Denevi, and Rory Patrick Feehan. And tell me what you think! An honor to participate.
Faces in Sun Blast, a Film (not digital) photograph of a cloud scene, has been selected for the International Prize “New York City” October 21 – 24, 2020.
Looking at the cloud photograph, which I took in Belgium in the late 1990s, when I took several rolls of these sky images every day, then sorted out which ones to later have professionally scanned, I see painting-like scenes in patches. Isolated areas where a “painter” set up an easel and made a work of art. Only, it happened in the clouds. Also, before snapping the image, I did some intentional staring meditatively. For me, this brought it into focus. This image is the cover of a book in progress – very short – by me on cloud artwork, its history, its effect on me, with examples of painting-like clouds.
The event takes place at The WHITE SPACE Gallery CHELSEA (555 West Street N.Y.). The Italian art curators sponsoring the event, Salvatore and Francesco Saverio Russo, are going ahead in spite of Covid. And so they must have a plan. My work is on video display. Other painters, sculptors, photographers, video makers, performers, graphic designers, stylists, also included in the event, may have full-size paintings or other artwork or may present on video. The curators write:
New York brings together the best of art, design, architecture and music of all the world. A place of dreams and emblem of the “new world,” New York is a symbol of travel overseas, of different cultures and styles that meet every day in its frenetic and very rich extra-ordinary daily life.
Besides the video exposure of Faces in Star Burst at the White Space Chelsea Gallery, October 21 – 24, 2020, the cloud giclee film photograph will be displayed in the Italian magazine Art International Contemporary Magazine in the September/October issue. And in an exhibit catalog “The Stars of Contemporary Art.”
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.
In case you missed it, there’s a Gonzo Today review of TheHell’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!
Editor’s note: One can only buy a copy of the book via the publisher, Norfolk Press. The link: https://norfolkpress.com/the-hells-angels-letters-hunter-s-thompson-margaret-harrell-and-the-making-of-an-american-classic-margaret-harrell/
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.
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. . . .
Above is Dr. Rory Patrick Feehan at the Gonzofest 2019 exhibit at the Louisville Speed Museum. Rory spoke at the August 28 Wonderland Book Club meet.
It was a blast, the panelists and audience agreed. You can see it here on YouTube.
Wonderland book club, founded in 2008 by poet, musician, writing coach, and editor Alice Osborn, held a Zoom discussion of Hunter Thompson and the new book, The Hell’s Angels Letters: Hunter S. Thompson, Margaret Harrell and the Making of an American Classic August 28. Here is the description of the event.
It brought together an authoritative, amazing panel of Hunter Thompson scholars and authors in their own right, professors at prestigious universities and friends of Hunter, all in one wrap: Peter Richardson, William McKeen, Dr. Rory Patrick Feehan, and Ron Whitehead. Read about the event at the link above.
Wonderland Book Club is co-sponsored by the NC Writers Network. Panelists include:
Ron Whitehead, who collaborated on the book and is the founder of the Louisville Gonzo Fest. Ron is a poet, a former professor, a speaker, a spoken word performer, an arts events organizer, with a profound reputation.Dr. Rory Patrick Feehan, owner/editor of the popular Irish blog totallygonzo.org. Dr. Feehan is the recent author of the PhD dissertation The Genesis of the Hunter Figure: A study of the Dialectic between the Biographical and the Aesthetic in the Early Writings of Hunter S. Thompson. William McKeen, author of many books, including Outlaw Journalist, and chair of the Department of Journalism at Boston University. Peter Richardson, a professor of humanities and American Studies at San Francisco State University. His latest book, about Hunter S. Thompson, will be published by the University of California Press. His previous publications include books about the Grateful Dead, Ramparts magazine, and Carey McWilliams, Thompson’s editor at The Nation magazine.
Jim was beloved by many. The New York Times obituary reminds us of his stellar career:
James Silberman, a revered book editor whose meticulousness, intuition and patience helped propel the publishing careers of a distinguished roster of authors, including James Baldwin, Marilyn French, Hunter S. Thompson and Alvin Toffler, died on July 26 at his home in Manhattan. He was 93
In his office the photo brings him to life. How many times I walked into that office, how many authors did, to find this assured editor, at home in his own skin, a listener, astute, ready to find a solution to whatever problem existed. He was gentle but firm, a true lover of books. He figures strongly in the plot of The Hell’s Angels Letters: Hunter S. Thompson, Margaret Harrell and the Making of an American Legend. After all, he was his Hunter’s book editor, which is how I come in, as Jim’s copy editor (also assistant editor) on that book, Hell’s Angels. As with James Baldwin and others, Jim just plucked them out of the obscurity or a difficult position and righted their careers. Decades later, for the Letters book, I interviewed Jim four times. Below is a miniscule excerpt of one of those interviews that you can find in the Letters:
As the telephone interview with Jim begins (in 2011), I tell him I’m going to talk into the tape recorder. I open by asking how he got involved with Hell’s Angels.
JS: [Bernard] Shir-Cliff read the piece in the Nation and sent it to me.
MAH [repeating into the tape recorder]: So, you’re saying Shir-Cliff read the piece in the Nation and sent it to you.
MAH: OK. And then you went out to San Francisco, I guess.
JS: Ballantine and Random House made a deal with Hunter.
MAH: Yeah, and I guess after that—
JS: I went out to San Francisco to collect a manuscript from him.
Ed’s Note: In June 1966
MAH: [laughs] That was still a hard thing.
JS: He wasn’t sending it. I went out there to get it away from him.
MAH: Yeah. And I guess you had some luck.
JS: [explains about Hunter being under contract] He was having trouble—not writing, but he was having trouble pulling the book together.
MAH: OK. So you went out there. But you were a wonderful influence. I’m sure that you would give a steady hand to him; I’m sure he would feel that. And pressure too.
JS: He must have all those years ’cause we were together a long time.
MAH: I’m going to repeat that: “He must have all those years’ cause we were together a long time.” You surely were. I mean, all the time you were with him he was productive.
We cover many topics. But that is a snippet. What stands out about it is that the official line in Hunter’s biography omits the fact that Jim went out there and builds an incredible tale around the fact that he did not. To read about Jim in the New York Times obituary, click here. It’s well worth a read: a true giant, very very intelligent, meticulous, gentle sharp on the money, my friend, my boss for a while. Central to my New York City years. His wife Selma Shapiro Silberman was also part of the Random House scene back then. And she survives him after decades of a happy marriage in which, near the end, he said, “We laugh a lot.”
I am so pleased that the day before Jim died, I emailed (which I rarely did) with an announcement of the book publication and a photo of the cover. I think it would mean something to him, as he always rooted for me. Suppose I hadn’t phoned two weeks before. Suppose I hadn’t sent the email. But I did:
Hi, Jim and Selma,
This is the book. A complimentary copy is in the mail to you and should arrive next week.
Would you let me know you received it. I hope you like it. The interviews in the back are a very important part of the story, and Jim was vital there to adding context. I so appreciated that. I enjoyed talking with you and hope Jim is faring better. Warmly, Margaret
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
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
The collage was made by Geoffrey Smith in Belgium in 2000 or 2001. We sat there in his apartment as he started building my first website (he was a friend and an Oracle expert). So I laid out photos and he said, Ah. Have to use this. It was a Fred Astaire of Park Avenue, New York, photo of me with my legs wrapped around my professional male partner’s waist. He was holding on to me only by his thumbs! And I was like the masthead of a ship. It was for a competition. I had characteristically kept the dancer photos in a drawer. My Belgian boyfriend, Willy Van Luyten, had hung them on the walls. Now, Geoff was making them even more public.
In The Hell’s Angels Letters, I interview Hunter Thompson’s Random House editor, the editor-in-chief Jim Silberman. I ask him if he remembers why I left Random House to teach briefly at the Fred Astaire studio:
Transcriptions of Telephone interview with Jim Silberman Early in February 2011—only my side of the conversation is on the tape
I start by telling him I have a publisher/editor for Keep This Quiet! My Relationship with Hunter S. Thompson, Milton Klonsky, and Jan Mensaert who pleases me and this publisher wants me to turn the narrative about my leaving Random House into a scene.
That’s not, you know, the only reason I called. But I thought, wouldn’t it be wonderful to mention that to you, to see if you have any reaction. I remember that it was just after Robert Kennedy was assassinated; that prompted me to think how life could change at any moment, and you know I was working on [my own book] and I was just spurred and triggered to put all my intention onto it. That was my motivation—his assassination. So I think it was without any real warning that I went in and said this to you. Do you remember it that way or differently?
JS [bringing the scene into his mind, recalls how I spent time at the dance studio] I thought you were getting ready to move on to whatever would be the next part of your life.
MAH: [Laughs] You sound like the very wisest man in the world, to me.
I want to ask one more question about that and then move on to Hunter. Can you describe your office to me? I think there were windows behind you and a desk, with the back to the windows. Is that even right?
MAH: And was it a kind of big desk or what?
JS: I inherited a formal, old-style office desk.
MAH: What exactly—what was it made of?
JS [mentions a leather top on a wood desk, “as I remember”]
The interview of course goes on. Jim and I had last had contact probably in the 1980s. This was about 25 years later. He was approaching over 80. (Don’t ask about me.) One of the riches the Letters book bestowed on me was the walks down memory lane. If you want to read on, go to the Norfolk Press of San Francisco website (I think Firefox works best, as Norfolk is updating its software that Apple discontinued). Or buy directly from me, signed.
In August I will be teaching “Building Your Luminous Body,” which is Part Two of “Evolving into Your Luminous Body.” Prerequisite: Awakening Your Light Body. If you have taken Part One, “Discovering the Luminous Body,” that is all the better. But some people will be able to join this class (online or in person) if they only have the prerequisite. Check with me if interested.
In this course learn more about freeing yourself from limiting thoughts and beliefs.
As you build your luminous body you will have more ability to notice the details and energy of thoughts, also called “thought forms,” and to notice the higher order thought forms, such as those that contain divine ideas that will unfold as ever-increasing love, joy, peace, and positive circumstances. You will learn how to recognize and release thoughts and beliefs from society so that you can look out at the world and your circumstances with greater clarity, wisdom, and understanding. You will be able to experience life in the light of the “real” and to let go of the misconceptions and fogs of the unreal that cloud humanity’s thinking.
You will be able to let go of being influenced by lesser thought forms and beliefs held by much of humanity such as those that bring pain, suffering, lack, and limitation. You will be freer than ever of the confusion caused by the ever-present lesser thoughts that you live in and around. You will become aware in greater detail what thoughts and assumptions you take for granted, giving you the ability to shift them. You begin to let that be a way of being, building the luminous body so that it encompasses your entire presence and being on the earth plane, so that energy and clarity is always available to you at any level, including at a personality level.
As you build your luminous body it becomes easier to stay connected to a higher, clearer light and to have the thought forms that support you in staying connected to the higher energies. Through these experiences you can move into a deeper sense of peace, beyond the limitations of language and words to describe, that is a great reward in itself.
Plus much more. I can’t begin to describe how much shift it brings, how much ease of being in the world and bringing your Presence to it. Let me know if you are interested by emailing marharrell[at]hotmail.com