I saw Hunter S.Thompson…and he was terrible

I saw Hunter S. Thompson perform in a bar in Baltimore on February 5, 1991, and he was awful. He was drunk and incoherent. My buddy and I (along with others) walked out. Here’s the Baltimore Sun account. I was a big admirer of his Fear and Loathing books and this was very disillusioning.

I thought of Thompson yesterday because of this Instagram post:

The first time I read anything by Thompson was his account of the Kentucky Derby in Scanlan’s magazine in 1970. It was the first time he had illustrations by Ralph Steadman that were the perfect match for his writing.

Here’s an annotated copy of the article, unfortunately without the illustrations.

In 1999, Steadman went back to the Derby.

Clockers (book and film)

Clockers is an outstanding novel by Richard Price from 1992. It preceded The Wire with its focus on cops and drug dealers. I saw Price read from it at Chapters in Washington, DC and got a signed copy. The book is almost 600 pages long.

Clockers, the film, was directed by Spike Lee from a script by Lee and Price. They do an outstanding job of boiling the novel down to its essence, stripping out less important characters and events.

Price also worked on The Wire and even made an appearance in the second season leading a book group in a prison.

Imani Perry’s great essay on Gayl Jones

Imani Perry has written an outstanding essay on author Gayl Jones that appeared in the New York Times. Jones wrote three fine books of fiction in the 1970s – Corregidora (1975), Eva’s Man (1976) and White Rat (1977). I have read them but not her later works. Eva’s Man is my favorite of the three. They are tough, uncompromising works. If you read about her, you’ll see she has had an eventful life. She is getting attention now because she has written a new book.

Wideman is a fine author too, Start with Sent For You Yesterday

Atlantic profile from 2020

Noted writer resurfaces in a tragedy Author: Gayl Jones, once heralded by Maya Angelou, turns up in a bloody confrontation in Kentucky.

Broadsides from Black Oak Books

I used to go to a lot of author appearances in Washington to hear authors read and get books signed. Black Oak Books from Oakland printed broadsides with book excerpts which they distributed at readings. I got some through the mail and brought them to readings. The one from Maxine Hong Kingston was sent to me already signed.

I eventually got most of them framed. They are signed unless noted. I saw the authors of three of the four unsigned ones (Johnson, Sayles, Stone) after I got the broadsides.

The top group of 9

top: Maxine Hong Kingston (sent to me signed), Paule Marshall, Charles Johnson (not signed)

middle: Martin Amis, Tim O’Brien, Don DeLillo (not signed)
bottom: Julian Barnes, Gloria Naylor, Ivan Doig

The bottom group of 6

John Sayles (not signed), Robert Stone (not signed), Elmore Leonard, Jayne Anne Phillips, TC Boyle, Amy Tan

Seth Morgan’s novel Homeboy

I was reminded about Seth Morgan yesterday when I watched a show on the last 24 hours in the life of Janis Joplin. She tried to get a marriage license to Morgan but couldn’t since it was a Saturday.

Morgan later wrote the novel Homeboy which was published in 1990. I read it when it was new and remember that it was excellent. I recall he referred to shock treatments (which a member of my family had) as Edison medicine which I thought was great. Morgan died in 1991 in a motorcycle crash,

Here are the Washington Post obituary and the New York Times obituary.

The New York Times review of Homeboy.

Homeboy is in print in paperback and I strongly recommend it.

Nathanael West’s A Cool Million would make a great Tim Burton animated film

A Cool Million is a 1934 novel by Nathanael West. It has modern parallels since the depression is similar to the hardships many face today. The main character, Lemuel Pitkin, loses limbs during the novel. It would look like a horror movie if it was live action instead of the satire it is. West skillfully skewers eternal optimism.

It would make a great Tim Burton animated movie. It would be gruesome but the gore would not be the point and would not obscure the humor.

The Friends of Eddie Coyle

The Friends of Eddie Coyle is an excellent 19673 film based on a fine 1970 novel by George V. Higgins. It was shown recently on TCM and is on disc as part of the Criterion Collection. The book is largely dialogue and Higgins, a former prosecutor, really understands how his small-time criminals talk and act.

Higgins was a big influence on Elmore Leonard. Remenber Jackie Brown, the Tarantino film based on Leonard’s Rum Punch? Jackie Brown is the name of a character in Eddie Coyle.

His novel Cogan’s Trade was filmed as Killing Them Softly and revived interest in Higgins.

James M. Cain

James M. Cain was born on July 1, 1892. He was born in Annapolis, MD and worked for the Baltimore Sun early in his career. He is best known for three novels that were also successful films – Double Indemnity, The Postman Always Rings Twice and Mildred Pierce. These are tough crime novels that are well worth reading. The films are good, too.