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greatsharkhuntMost writers know the drill: Get an assignment, turn it in roughly on time and in generally the shape that it was desired. If not: kill fee, if you’re lucky. This is how it works.

Unless you were Hunter S. Thompson. In 1970, Hunter convinced the long-defunct Scanlan’s Monthly that “somebody” needed to cover the Kentucky Derby, dammit. S0 off he went to the races, with an expense account and a vision.  In Michael McCambridge’s excellent piece for Grantland on the epochal article that resulted, he provides a few illustrative details of what was required for Scanlan’s afterward for editor Warren Hinckle to actually get any workable copy out of Hunter. To wit:

… [according to Hinckle] within a couple of days (“as soon as he could walk”), Thompson flew to Manhattan, “where we locked him down for five days in a room in the Royalton Hotel, just up 44th Street from the Scanlan’s office in an abandoned ballroom above an Irish bar a block from Times Square.”

The story didn’t come easily. “I would lie in the bathtub at this weird hotel,” said Thompson. “I had a suite with everything I wanted — except I couldn’t leave…. They were sending copy boys and copy girls and people down every hour to see what I had done, and the pressure began to silently build like a dog whistle kind of scream. You couldn’t hear it but it was everywhere.”

… [Scanlan’s copy boy Harvey Cohen] kept Thompson “supplied with cigarettes, Heinekens and Chivas. When production slowed, Harvey would seize the time and rip pages out of Hunter’s notebook” and relay them to the Scanlan’s office, where they were read by managing editor Donald Goddard, and then sent by fax to Hinckle in San Francisco.

We should all be so lucky.

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