PW: Is your new book, Kingdom of Fear, all new material?
Hunter S. Thompson: It's totally new. It's supposed to be a memoir. I'm not sure what a memoir is; I had to look it up. I've got the definition up on the wall.
PW: What is it?
HST: Shit, it seems to be gone. [Now that I've finished writing the book,] I'm trying to take down the machinery of it. I have huge storyboards all over the walls. I work off of those boards.
PW: Do you write on a computer?
HST: No, I write on an IBM Selectric. I don't really take a screen as seriously as a page. I guess it's my newspaper background. Unless it's black and white on a page, it ain't written.
PW: True. You can't erase it as easily.
HST: Exactly. I've tried it. I have all the Apple equipment.
PW: So why did you write this book?
HST: Why? Because I'm a writer! This is not one of those autobiographies or "confessions of." I never really intended to do that. Shit, all my work is autobiographical, in a way. I like the book now. But I've never sent a book in that I liked when I sent it off. It's always, "Dear God, let's just get rid of this fucker."
PW: I guess that's what editors are for.
HST: Yeah, my editor at S&S is a good friend, and she's a good editor. But figuring out what classification it is has been a problem all along. What do we tell the New York Times bestseller list? Is this a novel? "Fiction" and "nonfiction" are 19th-century terms.
PW: Well, book publishing is kind of old-fashioned.
HST: Part of that's nice. But those kinds of roles and lines are not going to last forever; they never do. What was Mark Twain? A novelist or a journalist?
PW: Both, I think.
HST: Yeah. Well, I'm a writer.
PW: What do you think about your work being taught in journalism school?
HST: I like it, but I'm not sure how it's being taught. I'd like to sit in on a class sometime and wear a wig or something. My impression of journalism school is that it's basically something that teaches the publishing side of writing.
PW: I think the schools would like to think that they teach writing. But of course, a lot of people don't think journalism school is even necessary. What kind of writers do you think should be taught in j-school?
HST: Hang on, hang on, there's some kind of animal outside. Good God, what's happening? Get out of here, you bastards! I'll bang your fucking heads together! Okay. So you're in New York?
PW: Yes. It's a good place to be for writing. Do you feel removed, living in Colorado?
HST: Not really, because, shit, it seems I'm always on the phone all over the world all of the time. I'm not sure how it would've turned out if I had stayed in New York. I figured if I was ever going to beat New York or conquer it or whatever, I'd have to move out of New York. I can't conceive of writing a book in New York now.
HST: I know too many people. I got the book today, by the way.
PW: How's it look?
HST: The first time you hold a copy of a book you've been working on all this time in your hands, it's hugely gratifying. It looks good. You haven't seen it, have you?
PW: No, but I've got a galley, which I enjoyed reading. For a memoir, it's got a lot about Bush, September 11 and terrorism.
HST: I think it'll get some people going. But I'm curious. I like to hear something come back at me about what I've written. I think the country right now is in the worst trouble it's been in anytime that I've been alive.
PW: Do you think journalism can do anything to pull us out of our predicament?
HST: Oh, yeah, absolutely.