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Monday Morning Attitude


Good morning.  I have a treat for you today.  It should go under the category of ATTITUDE.  


The Menace is loose again, the Hell’s Angels, the hundred-carat headline, running fast and loud on the early morning freeway, low in the saddle, nobody smiles, jamming crazy through traffic and ninety miles an hour down the center stripe, missing by inches…like Genghis Khan on an iron horse, a monster steed with a fiery anus, flat out through the eye of a beer can and up your daughter’s leg with no quarter asked and none given; show the squares some class, give em a whiff of those kicks they’ll never know…

— Hunter S. Thompson, Hell’s Angels 


That is from the first page of the first book Hunter ever published.  He was twenty-nine years old when he wrote it, and thought that if he didn’t publish a book by the time he turned thirty, he would have to call it quits and become a barber. 

Hunter had been riding with and studying the Hell’s Angels for a year. He spent six months writing the first half of the book, which is the scholarly and methodical half of the social and political phenomenon of the Hell’s Angels. One day, he looked at the calendar, and it occurred to him that he had four days to complete the entire second half of the manuscript!  So, instead of panicking, he rented a hotel room on the outskirts of San Francisco, loaded up with a supply of dexadrine and Wild Turkey, and finished the book.   Many people agree that that second half is by far the best– the part that kicked off his career.

Don’t be one of the people who get fooled into thinking that it was the drugs and alcohol that produced the wild gonzo attitude in the second half of Hunter’s Hell’s Angels.  Here is the secret: It was the previous 15 years he had spent studying the art and craft of writing. Remember that Hunter had read the classics by the time he was 18.  He skipped school to, yes, drink and smoke, but while he was drinking and smoking and cutting classes, he was reading Plato’s Allegory of the Cave Joseph Conrad, and the Louisville Courier Journal cover to cover.  He would spend the rest of the evening WRITING.  It didn’t matter to him if he was writing an article or a love letter to a beautiful girl.  The most important thing for him was to learn the craft – from the masters. And if he didn’t have a letter or a story to write, he would copy pages out of Fitzgerald or Hemingway to “feel the rhythm” of their writing.  This kind of discipline turned into a habit. 

That is why he could stay up for four days and four nights and produce one of the best books on American sociology in recent history.  Hunter explained to me one night that it was his “muscle memory” of having those many years of practice that enabled him to pull it off. 


Until Tomorrow, your friend,

Anita Thompson




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