Sunday, July 18, 2010

It Happened in History: Hunter Thompson

You could have loved him. You could have hated him. But few people were ever unaffected by him. On July 18, 1939, Gonzo journalism founder Hunter S. Thompson was born in Louisville, Kentucky. His father was an insurance agent, and Thompson grew up in a comfortable, affluent southern home.

In high school, he was accepted into a prestigious club called the Athenaeum Literary Association along with many of the city's other wealthy and socially elite young people. But around the same time, Thompson's father took seriously ill and died from a rare immune disorder. His mother had to take a job as a librarian to support the family, and Thompson suddenly became the poor member of his group of friends, the only one who couldn't afford to go to an Ivy League school.

Thompson rebelled against the club and became famous for his outrageous pranks. He flooded the first floor of his high school with three inches of water during an assembly and once dumped a truckload of pumpkins in front of a downtown hotel. He began publishing a series of bitterly sarcastic essays for the literary association's newsletter, including one called, "Open Letter to the Youth of Our Nation," signed "John J. Righteous-Hypocrite." He wrote, "Young people of America, awake from your slumber of indolence and harken to the call of the future. Do you realize you are rapidly becoming a doomed generation?"

Thompson was arrested several times in his senior year for vandalism and attempted robbery. He was banned from the literary association, and he spent thirty days in jail. When he was released, he joined the United States Air Force as a provision of his parole. He spent most of his time in the service writing for the newspaper at his base. He was honorably discharged in 1958 and began writing for any small newspaper that would take him. In his spare time, he obsessively studied his favorite novel, The Great Gatsby, outlining it and rewriting passages. He said, "I wanted to teach my neurological system how it felt to write that kind of prose."

In 1964, the California attorney general issued a report on a dangerous new motorcycle gang known as the Hell's Angels, and the national media picked up the story. Thompson was hired by The Nation magazine to write a brief investigative article about the gang. After his article was published, a publisher called him, offering him fifteen hundred dollars to write a book on the same subject. Thompson was so broke at that point that the electric company had recently shut off his power. He later said, "For fifteen hundred dollars I would have done the definitive text on hammerhead sharks and stayed in the water with them for three months!"

Thompson bought a motorcycle with his book advance and began biking around the country, meeting fellow bikers and writing about them. He was nearly killed one day when five Hell's Angels suddenly turned on him and beat him senseless. But he survived, and in 1967, he published his book, Hell's Angels: The Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs.

The first edition of the book sold out immediately and broke onto the New York Times bestseller list, although Thompson had a few problems on the book tour, as he showed up drunk for most of his interviews.

Nevertheless, Thompson soon became one of the most prominent journalists of his generation. In 1969, Playboy magazine hired him to write a piece on Jean-Claude Killy, an Olympic skier turned pitchman. What Thompson produced was the first true piece of Gonzo literature to be published, entitled "The Temptations of Jean-Claude Killy."

Playboy turned it down because the editors felt that it was too mean-spirited. In reality, Thompson had stepped beyond the who, what, where, when, and why of mainstream journalism and delivered something quite different: a piece where the writer was not objective but subjective, allowing his own personality and impressions of his subject to emerge. The article eventually appeared in Ramparts magazine, the first magazine to recognize that Thompson was doing something radically new and revolutionary in journalism.

Soon after the Killy piece, Thompson, along with the illustrator Ralph Steadman, were assigned to cover the Kentucky Derby for the magazine. The result was "The Kentucky Derby Is Decadent and Depraved," which provided readers with a vicious and, at the same time, hilarious description of the Southern sporting classic. Steadman's illustrations were done in lipstick and were perverse and humorous, well suited to Thompson's own literary style.

In 1971, Thompson published his most famous book, Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas, about a trip he took to that city, how it almost drove him crazy, and his realization that the idealism of the 1960s had disappeared forever. His most recent book is Kingdom of Fear.

Thompson has often written about the drug culture with which he has long been associated, but he once said, "I haven't found a drug yet that can get you anywhere near as high as a sitting at a desk writing, trying to imagine a story no matter how bizarre it is, [or] going out and getting into the weirdness of reality and doing a little time on the Proud Highway."

A long-time resident of Woody Creek, Col., on the outskirts of Aspen, Thompson received his Doctorate from a mail-order church in the Sixties while he was in San Francisco. In 1970, he ran for the position of sheriff of Pitkin County on the Freak Power ticket and narrowly lost to the incumbent.

Numerous treatments of Thompson's work have appeared in the media over the years. The most recognizable is the "Uncle Duke" character in Doonesbury by Garry Trudeau, followed by the cult movie, Where the Buffalo Roam, starring Bill Murray and Peter Boyle. The most recent is a Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas audio CD and the movie version of the same name, which was released May 22, 1998, starring Johnny Depp and Benicio Del Toro, with direction by Terry Gilliam.

Thompson once wrote to friend Susan Haselden:

"In brief, I find that I've never channeled my energy long enough to send it in any one direction. I'm all but completely devoid of a sense of values: psychologically unable to base my actions on any firm beliefs. I seem to be unable to act consistently or effectively, because I have no values on which to base my decisions. As I look back, I find that I've been taught to believe in nothing. I have no god and I find it impossible to believe in man. On every side of me, I see thousands engaged in the worship of money, security, prestige symbols, and even snakes. I'm beginning to see what Kerouac means when he says, "I want God to show me his face": it is not the statement, but what the statement implies: "I want to believe in something." The man is more of a spokesman than most people think...and he speaks for more than thieves, hopheads, and whores."

Hunter S. Thompson, 67, in failing health, shot himself in the head at his home on Feb. 20 after a long and flamboyant career.


Copyright 2010 AmSAW

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

What's in a Name? Not Much for PublishAmerica

Remember what we've always said. If it looks like a duck and walks like a duck and talks like a duck, it's PublishAmerica.

How dirty and despicable a corporate leech is this company? Would you believe dirty enough to advise the thousands of authors it has taken for a ride over the years to join them in a scam to attempt to fool book buyers into believing that books actually published by PublishAmerica weren't actually published by PublishAmerica?


I mean, try to understand the implication here. PublishAmerica knows it has the worst reputation in the history of publishing, so it is openly advocating that its author-victims join them in a scam denouncing its own PA label in deference to a new publishing "spin-off" the company is calling "Independence Books."

And then PA is actually dumb enough (or is that smart enough?) to think its clientelle authors are dumb enough to believe that none of those book buyers is going to catch on to the "change in monikers" scam. Of course, PA is charging its PA authors to change the name and ISBN numbers on their books from PublishAmerica to Independence Books to imply that the books were never paid-for publications through PA but, instead, published through "legitimate" conventional publisher, Independence Books.


But don't take our word for it. Check it out yourself, in PA's own e-mail correspondence to the very authors it has raped time and again over the years.  You gotta read it to believe it.  'Nuff said.

From: ""
To: [email address redacted]
Sent: Tue, July 13, 2010 12:57:52 PM
Subject: A new start for your book

Dear author:

Sometimes a book deserves a new start.

Not labeled in book vendor databases as POD.
A low list price.
A new publisher.


Independence Books.

Independence Books is our new subsidiary. It is treated as an independent publisher. Not registered as POD in vendor databases. Not registered as PublishAmerica. Uniform list prices are $14.95.

Want a new start for your book? We will cause it to be published as an Independence Books title. It will receive a new ISBN and the new $14.95 list price. It will not show as POD. It will not list as PublishAmerica. ISBN-fed databases will show that your book is an Independence Books book, readily available from Independence Books.

Go to, find your softcover, add to cart, use this discount coupon: IndyBooks40. Minimum volume is 7 softcovers. For 12 or more softcovers use the IndyBooks45 coupon.

This will cause your book to be published as an Independence Books title. It will no longer be available from us as a PublishAmerica softcover. (Your book's paperback or hardback versions, if already activated, will keep their PublishAmerica designation.) Your order today will be printed under the new Independence Books logo (, with its new ISBN. Transfer may take up to 6-8 weeks to be completed and will be permanent. Book remains under contract with PublishAmerica. Use this coupon for your softcover only; other applications will not be processed. PublishAmerica's online bookstore will re-list the book as an Independence Books title generally within 24 business hours. Other vendors may do so at their discretion.

Thank you.

--PublishAmerica Author Support Team


Copyright 2010 AmSAW

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Author Jefferson's "Freudian Slip"

Thomas Jefferson revealed a Freudian slip, according to preservation scientists at the Library of Congress. Even while declaring America's independence from England, Jefferson had difficulty re-training his mind to free itself of monarchial rule.

In an early draft of the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson wrote the word "subjects" whenever he referred to the American people.  He then erased that word and replaced it with "citizens," a term he used repeatedly throughout the final draft.  The LOC released news of the struck word for the first time on Friday, July 2.

Fenalla France, a research chemist at the Library, said her lab made the discovery last year by using hyperspectral imaging, which employs a high resolution digital camera that compiles a series of images to highlight layers of a document.  Some of those layers reveal erased text and even fingerprints that pop into view on a computer screen.

In switching from "subjects" to "citizens," France said it appears Jefferson used his hand to wipe the word out while the ink was still wet. A distinct brown smudge is apparent on the paper, although the word "subjects" is not legible without the help of the digital technology.

"This has been a very exciting development," France said, calling the findings "spine-tingling."
Historic, handwritten documents reveal clues about the past that word processors cannot illuminate, said James Billington, librarian of Congress.

"It shows the progress of his mind. This was a decisive moment," Billington said. "We recovered a magic moment that was otherwise lost to history."

Accompanied by police escort, the document was unveiled outside its oxygen-free protective case for the first time in 15 years for an additional round of hyperspectral imaging. It normally can only be viewed through a 130-pound oxygen-free safe.

Donning a pair of white researchers' gloves, Maria Nugent, director of the Library of Congress' top treasures collection, slowly lifted a piece of off-white corrugated cardboard to reveal the rough draft of the Declaration, which includes handwritten corrections by both John Adams and Benjamin Franklin.

"That's a pretty good editorial committee," said Billington, who was present for the procedure. The rough draft was written on two sheets of white legal-sized paper, on both sides of the sheets.

The document was returned to the library's vault on Friday after the testing. A copy of the rough draft of the Declaration can be viewed online at


Copyright 2010 AmSAW

Friday, July 02, 2010

International Crime Next Publishing Hottie?

A Nigerian detective unravels a web of corruption, suspecting an inside job when a bomb goes off at the mansion of a rich political candidate.  A Japanese physics professor gets sucked into a murder investigation targeting a single mother in Tokyo, and tangles with his old university rival. A Turkish-German investigator in Frankfurt takes on a gang of neo-fascist Croatians involved in human trafficking.

It seems a certain Swedish hacker heroine with a dragon tattoo has paved the way for a surge of international crime fiction.

Spurred by the popularity of Swedish writer Stieg Larsson's trilogy, which has sold more than 40 million copies world-wide, U.S. publishers are combing the globe for the next big foreign crime novel. While major publishing houses have long avoided works in translation, many are now courting international literary agents, commissioning sample translations, tracking best-seller lists overseas and pouncing on writers who win literary prizes in Europe and Asia. The result is a new wave of detective fiction that's broadening and redefining the classic genre.

In the coming months, Minotaur Books, a mystery-and-thriller imprint of St. Martin's, will publish new crime and suspense fiction from Iceland, Japan, Nigeria, South Africa and, naturally, Sweden. A few years ago, most of the imprint's international authors were British.
"A lot of publishers are looking at this because they don't want to miss the next Stieg Larsson," says Kelley Ragland, Minotaur's editorial director.

Some have pegged Japan as the next crime-writing hotspot.  Literary agent Amanda Urban of International Creative Management, who represents Cormac McCarthy and Toni Morrison, took on Japanese suspense and crime writer Shuichi Yoshida, a best-selling author in Japan, because she saw his novels as literary works with commercial potential. "Crime really crosses over," says Ms. Urban.


Copyright 2010 AmSAW