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Outlaw Journalist

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4.06  ·  Rating Details ·  649 Ratings  ·  47 Reviews
Hunter S. Thompson detonated a two-ton bomb under the staid field of journalism with his early magazine pieces and revelatory "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" and "Fear and Loathing" campaign coverage in Rolling Stone. When Thompson was on, there was no one better at capturing who Americans were and what America was, be it in politics, at the Kentucky Derby, or in the Hell ...more
Hardcover, 448 pages
Published July 17th 2008 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published 1991)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Kahn
Aug 28, 2012 Kahn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Hunter was many things to many people - not all of them good. So it is fitting - and a measure of McKeen's biography - that Hunter's life is covered here warts n all.
Yes, he shot at his neighbours, yes lived a life that would have killed most of us, but that was Hunter. Uncompromising.
Outlaw Journalist captures all that, bringing to life the inner struggles of a man many of us only know through Johnny Depp and Doonesbury.
The pace of the book also manages to mirror Hunter's life - frantic at firs
...more
James
May 20, 2011 James rated it it was amazing
Like Wild Turkey into the Good Doc’s mouth, so too go volumes on the shelf about him. While most books about Hunter S. Thompson are good because they are about Hunter S. Thompson, William McKeen’s “Outlaw Journalist” is good on its own accord, revealing the allure and talent of Thompson to an audience beyond his indoctrinated disciples. For all his presence and popularity, a Hunter S. Thompson biography could be accomplished with the literary equivalent of connect-the-dots or paint by number. ...more
Brian R. Mcdonald
Okay, one of the book groups in which I participate has developed a tendency of late to pick an author each month rather than a single book. Each participant reads what she or he chooses by the writer selected and we gather the compare and contrast, This being HST month, I inteneded to reread F&L on the Campaign Trail, in keeping with my past tendencies to pick political or electioneering books when possible, but this critical analysis of the Doctor's writings had been sitting on my dresser ...more
David
Oct 21, 2011 David rated it it was amazing
Like Jim Morrison of The Doors, Hunter S. Thompson pushed the limits of reality via drugs and alcohol to make art...and he destroyed himself and others around him in the process. Thompson devised a new and interesting mode of journalism, but I do not see that as justification for glorifying this guy. Excellent book, and it will lead me to a study of Hunter S. Thompson's writings (Hells Angels, etc). I just saw a movie version (Johnny Depp) of Thompson's "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" and it is ...more
Diann Blakely
"Night of The Hunter"

Artists, consciously or unconsciously, tend to choose one of two paths after finding, through years of apprenticeship, a signature style: continue pursuing that style, attempting to hone and improve it with each new effort; or make their vocation one of varying, even destroying, that initial means of self-presentation through words, music, paint, or performance, and embark on another fork in the road.

Examples of the latter include Faulkner, Picasso, and Bob Dylan. Examples
...more
John Hood
Sep 08, 2008 John Hood rated it it was amazing
Bound August 14, 2008 Miami Sun Post

Homage to an Outlaw

Bill McKeen on the Late, Great Hunter S. Thompson

By John Hood

It’s tempting to say that when Hunter S. Thompson blew his brains out with a shotgun in 2005, the event marked the end of an era. The problem is his death didn’t mark the end to anything but his life. See, Thompson belonged to no era, unless you’d care to consider him an era all his own.

You already know the gonzo details: Journeyman reporter breaks big after hanging with — and gett
...more
Violet
May 04, 2016 Violet rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Given normal circumstances, I would have never picked up a book on Hunter S. Thompson on my own. First of all, I’m not a big reader of biographies. Second of all, I’ve never read any of his stuff and you’d think that kind of would be a prerequisite for reading around 360 pages on his life. The only reason I read this thing was because I had to for my journalism history class at Boston University.

My professor for the course wrote this biography actually. He claims that he assigned it not out of e
...more
David Ball
It's funny. I moved country almost one month ago from Denmark to Canada. I left my wife and kids back in Copenhagen to start a new job and to find us a place to live. One would think a month on my own, with all that time to myself, my reading would accelerate, but the opposite has occurred; this my first book review in five weeks. What happened? I guess my daily routines have changed. In Canada there is plenty of sport on tv, a novelty I've allowed myself to indulge, which has eaten into my ...more
Michael Schmidt
Mar 15, 2015 Michael Schmidt rated it really liked it
Shelves: journalism
Well, HST wasn't actually a journalist; or was he? That really, rather than the pill-popping, gun-slinging, wild exaggeration and Wild Turkey, was what lay at the heart of his personal pain. A frustrated novelist, perpetually stunted in his attempts - most stillborn - to write the Great American Novel, HST vented his frustration along with his spleen (never, despite the posturing, his ammunition) on the political establishment, especially his favourite five-o'clock-shadowed villain, Richard ...more
John McNeilly
Sep 21, 2010 John McNeilly rated it really liked it
There was a lot I didn't know about HST.

He hit many women, as just one loathsome example. He took his reputation as an influential American writer deadly serious. In OUTLAW JOURNALIST, well written by a friend and University of Florida journalism professor, Thompson consistently comes across as an unlikable person. And, despite the biographer's willingness to (mostly) overlook Gonzo Hunter's lifelong drug and alcohol abuse (both developed into raging addictions as he aged), it ultimately, inevit
...more
Adam
May 12, 2014 Adam rated it liked it
A good but flawed Hunter S. Thompson biography. On the whole, I enjoyed taking in the whole sweep of Thompson's life; however, I finished the book wanting more, feeling almost as if McKeen made sure to cover all the important stuff but could have included a hundred more great anecdotes if his publisher had let him do 700 pages instead of 350. The man lived a sprawling, crazy life, and deserved a sprawling, crazy biography. McKeen did a competent job, yet somehow mere competence doesn't do ...more
Andrew
Dec 20, 2008 Andrew rated it it was amazing
An excellent unvarnished biography of Hunter S. Thompson. Surprisingly there have been quite a few rushed to the market but this one by William McKeen, a professor of journalism at the University of Florida, is very complete -- and has great footnotes and citations.

McKeen starts the book by suggesting an epitaph for the Gonzo journalist: "He had a problem with authority." But he chronicles Thompson's life in detail, in part thanks to the access to Thompson's extensive collection of letters, unfi
...more
arterialturns
Mar 18, 2009 arterialturns rated it really liked it
It seems the Hunter Thompson gravy train is rolling strong, but hell-vultures need to eat, too. This tome, however, at least seems to be examining HST from a different angle: that of his actual writing. While it would be next to impossible to delve into any aspect of the man without in some way referencing his larger-than-life image, exploits and personality, this book does so only to illustrate how his writing was affected by those things. This is somewhat of a relief. As much as I've grown to ...more
Brendan
Jan 01, 2009 Brendan rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Ken
Nov 24, 2008 Ken rated it really liked it
The best biographies are so successful in painting a time and place that the reader feels like he or she is there with the subject. The best example that I can think of is Peter Guralnick's "Last Train to Memphis," where you feel like you're with Elvis as he begins his rise to fame.

McKeen has achieved a similar thing here with his excellent biography of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson. Of course Thompson is a relatively easy subject because there are so many stories about him. Many of the stories are fa
...more
Ken
Dec 20, 2009 Ken rated it liked it
Picked this up at City Lights during my every-couple-years visit to that San Francisco institution. I don't know why I got it; I've read the other biographies of Hunter Thompson, years ago, and didn't have any unanswered questions.

Anyway, it reads like rehash from those other books, including a lot of the same quotes. Maybe a lot of it is new research, but it's hard to tell when the well-told story is told again.

Only real revelations are in the final chapters. I did not realize HST was such a p
...more
Stephen
Oct 24, 2008 Stephen rated it really liked it
I've read a lot about the counter culture in the 60s, including some of Hunter S Thompson's gonzo journalism. I've lost my battered copy of one of his anthologies, but some stories stick in my mind. William Keen is helping me remember stuff I've read and raved about, plus giving loads of insights into the newspaper/ publishing industry. It starts with sad beginning, so I can only wonder where things are heading to.

Updated two weeks later: finished. Helluva engrossing, baring Hunter's tortured b
...more
Autumn Doughton
Oct 18, 2008 Autumn Doughton rated it it was amazing
I picked up this book knowing nothing--absolutely nothing--about Hunter S. Thompson. I didn't even see the movie! But my husband knows the author and I like books so I thought I'd give it a whirl.
From the first chapter I got the impression that most of the people who would be picking up a copy of Outlaw Journalist would at least be familiar with Thompson and I felt a little like a fish out of water... But that disappeared quickly and I got into the groove. The book was a smart easy-read--my fav
...more
Gail Katz
Nov 30, 2011 Gail Katz rated it really liked it
Gomzo Journalism....bringing the reporter into the story. Often making the reporter's experience the key to the story. We all owe it to Hunter S Thompson. Again. I got this as a 13 cd's to pop in my little Sion as I drove the mountains from Eugene,a Oregon past MountShasta and down the central california valley to East Bay and San Francisco. lOVED IT. STARTED WITH NTER AS AN OTRGEOUS CHILD IN lOUISVILLE, ky> THEN ON TO HIS TIME AT eGGLESTON afb NEAR WHERE i LIVED FOR 4 YEARS,,,THEB IBWARD ABD ...more
Christel
Nov 18, 2013 Christel rated it really liked it
I don't normally go for non-fiction (I'm 100% escapist), but this was excellent. I saw myself growing up with Thompson, tearing up the town, talking shit, being young and not caring what people thought. I learned so much about him from this book...some things I was shocked to know...some things I really could have lived without knowing. It's no wonder that HST sent McKeen that threatening note after reading his initial biography. I found it both informative and enjoyable, and very well written, ...more
Carrie
Jul 06, 2016 Carrie rated it liked it
Fascinating read. It did feel, though, like McKeen was trying a little bit too hard to convince us that Hunter was a great guy and mighty talent, rather than just letting the facts speak for themselves. For example, he repeatedly describes Hunter's work ethic, especially in his early years, and while I think the man was a damn genius that is one thing I wouldn't give him credit for, at least not by any normal standard. Although in fairness he does catalog some of the shitty things Hunter did, ...more
M. D.
Jul 24, 2013 M. D. rated it it was amazing
A truely amazing book. I, like so many people, only knew Hunter Thompson as the wild drug-crazed maniac from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. This book introduced me to the brilliant writer that he was. I sadly confess that I have only read Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and The Rum Diary and not any of his other work. I promise this is a lack in education that I plan on rectifying as soon as possible. And that pledge is thanks to Mr. McKeen's wonderful book.
Lynnell
Oct 14, 2008 Lynnell rated it it was amazing
Fantastic! I knew Thompson's writing a little (what good citizen of Louisville does not know "The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved"?) but knew little more about his life than rumour and fable. McKeen resists the temptation to mythologize or engage in flights of lyric fancy, and instead tells a great story about a great writer. Meticulously researched and documented - a terrific book.
Paul
May 27, 2009 Paul rated it liked it
Pretty good bio as far as HTS goes. Of course, reading Hunter bios is typically more interesting than reading actual Hunter S. Thompson -- aside from Hell's Angels, of course. The new movie (Gonzo) is pretty lame outside of about 10 minutes of classic archival footage of HST on The Dating Game. Pick this up instead.
Frederic Murray
Jun 21, 2009 Frederic Murray rated it it was amazing
HST was staying at the Watergate the night of the break in...how's that for timing. McKeen did a solid job of telling the tale, warts and all, of the good doctor. My highest praise: I now want to read the letters edited by Brinkley.

Riki
Feb 08, 2010 Riki rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What an amazing insight into a profound figure in the writing world. Absolutely loved this book and got learn of the real Hunter Thompson and not the Roal Duke so many people came to know. His story has inspired me to keep on with my own writing.....a definite must read for all Gonzo fans
Grindy Stone
Dec 13, 2013 Grindy Stone rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Top-notch bio, with thoughtful analysis of Thompson's life and work that doesn't get bogged down in minutiae. McKeen does a nice job comparing/contrasting Thompson to Fitzgerald and Raoul Duke to Jau Gatsby.
Leah
Dec 31, 2011 Leah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sometimes I don't feel so crazy. Those times often coincide with learning about other people's craziness. Still, it sounds like it was never boring to be Hunter. Now I want to read some of the stuff he's actually written instead of just something written about him.
DJMikeG
Mar 16, 2009 DJMikeG rated it it was amazing
This is the best book written about Hunter Thompson. For serious fans of the man and his work, this is a must-read. Much better than "Gonzo", which was tainted by a bit of Jann Wenner's personal beefs with Thompson.
Dave White
Jan 02, 2015 Dave White rated it it was amazing
Very insightful look into life and work of Hunter S. Thompson. This book helped me through some rough times in life, by helping to realize that there are things you can't control in life and you might as well have fun while out of your comfort zone.
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Author of Mile Marker Zero, Outlaw Journalist, Highway 61, Rock and Roll is Here to Stay and several other books, William McKeen teaches at Boston University and chairs its department of journalism. He lives on the rocky coast of Cohasset, Massachusetts.
More about William McKeen...

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