William McKeen


Outlaw Journalist
A biography

New York: W.W. Norton, 2008

When Hunter S. Thompson killed himself, I was on the call list for reporters putting together obituaries and tributes. In my comments, I did my best to rescue this great and under-appreciated writer from caricature.

It was my brilliant wife who said, “Honey, that’s your next book.” I resisted the been-there-done-that cliché — because it is one of the most loathsome clichés I know — and decided to do what I had always wanted to do: update my 1991 book on Hunter and again try to focus more attention on the art, less attention on the antics. I think it works.

Christopher Hitchens called it “admirable” and “haunting” in his review for the Times of London.

Here’s a collection of quotes from the book.

listen to an interview from psychjourney.com
listen to an interview from The Biography Podcast
listen to an interview from National Public Radio

buy now from amazon.com
order unabridged audio edition

“Talking About Hunter” on the Australian Broadcasting Network.


U.S. hardcover edition

U.K. edition


Reviews and interviews
A multimedia extravaganza

I was very pleased with the reviews for Outlaw Journalist.  I have also archived some of my favorite interviews. Enjoy!

For Hunter’s “review” of my first book on him,scroll to the bottom of this page.


Stephen Amidon in the Guardian

David Gates in Columbia Journalism Review

Christopher Hitchens in the Times of London

Michael Washburn in the New York Observer

Jonathan Yardley in the Washington Post


Steve Bertrand of Barnes and Noble’s “Meet the Writers”
Michael Conniff on KNFO’s (Aspen) “The Con Game”
Bob Garfield of National Public Radio’s “On the Media”

Other kind words
Blurbs and other reviews

”William McKeen has wonderfully captured Hunter S. Thompson in Outlaw Journalist and in doing so has captured a significant time in our national life. Thompson changed how we think about and practice journalism. McKeen gives us a telling insight into how that happened.”


“There had to be more the Hunter Thompson than we knew. If you’ve ever wondered what was behind the sunglasses, drugs, and booze, what was beyond the craziness and the midnight motorcycle rides with no helmet, not even lights, here it is.”


“Outlaw Journalist is painfully honest—which is good. But listen! Hunter was no Jesus Christ—though by now I reckon is sitting at God’s right hand screaming ‘More Ice! More Ice!’ while Jesus fixes the drinks.”


“What a wild and wonderful ride Outlaw Journalist is for anybody interested in the literary legacy of Hunter S. Thompson. William McKeen hits all the right highs and lows in this fine roller coaster of a biography. Simultaneously, McKeen manages to be both scholarly and hip. A truly admirable achievement.”


“This is the Great Red Shark of Hunter biographies. McKeen gives us full frontal HST, horrific and heroic, the class clown of the class war. Read it or die.”


“William McKeen has done it. Outlaw Journalist will be applauded as the seminal biography of the life and literary legacy of the legendary cultural icon, the late Hunter S. Thompson. It is a benchmark unlikely to be surpassed.”


Coeditor, Conversations with Hunter S. Thompson



The Miami Herald

“McKeen gives a clear-eyed, detailed accounting, from Thompson’s rebellious youth to his revolutionary writing career….[He] fires another shot for Thompson with Outlaw Journalist.”


The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

“Delivers a copiously chronicled account of an extremely lived life. It’s the reportorial equivalent of cracking open a fifth of Wild Turkey and sharing it with a grave.”


The Miami Sun Post

“[P]aints a vivid, detailed picture of a charismatic and complicated man… The book not only perfectly contextualizes Thompson’s writings, it is full of exquisite vignettes which are tantalizing glimpses into the sheer lunacy that was his life.”


Time Out London

“McKeen has delivered rare, superbly researched insight into one of the most fascinating American writers of the last century—a must-read for those who want to peek under the curtain of Hunter’s gonzo mystique and discover what really made this guy tick, like so many of the bombs he set off at his Colorado ranch.”


Author of NuclearJellyfish

“The most complete and extensive biography of Thompson ever written.”


The Albuquerque Journal

“A definitive biography.”


The (Louisville) Courier-Journal

U.S. paperback edition

Audio edition

“Admirable . . . haunting.”

The Times (London)

“[McKeen] gets it all in: the boozing and drugging, the violence, but also the intelligence, the loyalty, the inherent decency.”

The Washington Post


    for the Outlaw Journalist

    Facebook page, a good source

    for information on HST

HST FOR BEGINNERS: Click here for “A Learning Curve,” a couple of pieces I wrote about about separating Hunter S. Thompson from Raoul Duke

INTERVIEW WITH MARTIN FLYNN: Click here for a transcript of my talk with the Irish writer -- an expert on Thompson, the Beat Generation and most other things cool.

“[A]n accessible look at Thompson’s personal life and his eternal struggles to earn a living and leave a legacy.”


The San Francisco Chronicle

“Dig[s] deeper than most of his previous biographers to reveal a vital component of Thompson’s genius…A welcome addition to the Gonzo library and one of the best starting points for HST novices.”


“[McKeen] has interviewed diligently and deeply among the writer’s wide circle. His portrait of the formative early life is as telling as his account of the later descent is depressing.”


The Philadelphia Inquirer

“[A] rock-solid, more fully dimensional, empathetic, and rollicking portrait. Here is the hectic life, the scorching personality, the audacious acts and improbable triumphs, and, most importantly, a keen assessment of how Thompson revolutionized journalism.”


Booklist (starred review)

“[A] robust, readable, and altogether illuminating biography….superbly rendered….the best on Thompson to date.”


The Tampa Bay Times

“William McKeen’s Outlaw Journalist does what a good biography should do: it makes you feel as though you knew the person…. a colorful take on Thompson’s extraordinary life.”


The St. Louis Post-Dispatch

HUNTER’S LETTER TO ME (below) after he read my

first book on him, Hunter S. Thompson (Twayne, 1991).

The letter is reprinted in Outlaw Journalist.

Click here for my 1990 interview with Hunter S. ThompsonHunter_S._Thompson_Interview.htmlshapeimage_3_link_0