My Mentor: Bill Borrows On Hunter S Thompson

Thanks to Dr Thompson, I found myself in the midst of a bar-room brawl
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The Independent Online

Most teenage boys find Hunter Stockton Thompson at some point. Fast-forward 15 years and I'm working for Loaded - in the days when it actually had words in it. "Go to America and get in trouble," said James Brown, the then editor. "And don't come back until you have." I've had more difficult briefs.

We were near Colorado and it was Super Bowl day. After several hours in the Woody Creek Tavern, bribing waitresses to go up to Thompson's compound with a copy of the magazine, we received news that the Doctor would see us now. He loved the magazine and, in particular, the name.

Sometime later he climbed out from behind the wheel of his car with a glass half full of whisky and two young female "admirers".

Subsequently, I and the photographer were covered in green criminal identification ink and, thanks to Dr Thompson, in the midst of a bar-room brawl - as he later signed my copy of Better Than Sex (his most recent paperback), "Dear Bill, you should not have strangled that poor bastard at the Tavern... Good luck, HST."

We went to his attorney's house and were told to head for the state line. Which we did.

A couple of years later, when he was doing press for The Rum Diary, his agent sent a fax to the Loaded office. Handwritten over the top of it he had scrawled: "Send that swine Borrows. I enjoyed his last visit." It was not a request. It is on the wall of my office.

I watched him tap away at a piece for Time magazine in his kitchen as a TV (with the sound down) flashed away in the corner. An honour and a privilege barely covers it.

He asked me to read from The Rum Diary. I was less than impressed by his "Great Puerto Rican novel", and told him so. It was a controlled explosion. But an explosion nonetheless. He was furious. We left the compound as the sun was rising with the threats of physical violence ringing in our ears.

As his illustrator and long-time friend Ralph Steadman has recently termed his approach to personal relationships, "There was a kind of love wrapped in an insult." I can vouch for that.

So, what did I learn from my mentor? 1) If you've never been sacked you're not pissing the right people off. 2) Tell the truth by any means necessary. 3) Unorthodox is almost always the correct way to go.

Oh, and...

If you're going to commit suicide, get it right first time.

Bill Borrows is the editor of Time Out Manchester

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