The Mother of all Cover Letters
By N Mark Castro
If you’re a writer or journalist and do not know Hunter S Thompson, then consider yourself lucky … at least you’re walking around on earth naive from its ills and divorced from malice.
If you happen to have come across this man, however, then welcome, my fellow crazy human being.
To say that Hunter reshaped global journalism as we know today is to be polite. He rocked it. And he rocked it hard. The Establishment was never the same again since then, either for good or bad, depending on which side of the fence you’re in.
It’s also the reason why most HR platforms don’t know how to measure effective talent when confronted with a seemingly despicable character. For instance, a local company bought the franchise of a media brand but gave the HR screening to corporate HR. They needed to fill in hundreds of positions but couldn’t find any that fit because most candidates kept failing their Psychological Test.
It was in this context that I told my friend she needed crazy but competent people to hire, and that none of her existing corporate HR models could be applied to the candidates she sought.
She asked why.
I told her that Mt Sinabung is currently spewing volcanic ash, erupting like hell, while thousands of people flee the vicinity.
Name me one corporate executive that enjoys free parking, an air conditioned cubicle with automatic coffee-machine, and a secretary, that would fly in to the disaster area, identify dead-bodies, dodge imminent death, fight off soldiers, and report the truth to the audience?
No, my friend, for that you need a different set of tools, something borne out of facing the ugly truth of war. You need different set of people: the daring ones, the crazy ones, the arrogant ones who don’t listen to authority, who respond only to the Truth.
I say this because my friend was complaining about the Cover Letter that she received from someone she was convinced was arrogant and had the gall to ask her: “Do you have disaster protocol? If not, then I won’t work for you.”
And that’s just a one-sentence telegram that got my friend into a frenzy.
So I told her that if she thought that was an arrogant Cover Letter, then she hasn’t seen mine. Nor has she seen a pre-fame Hunter S Thompson’s Cover Letter, before he redefined journalism, his best-selling books became Hollywood films, and a cult-figure for Gonzo journalists.
Of course, there are only certain industries to which it might work. Or, depending on your conviction, might work at all every where so long as you can back it up. Your integrity, personality, and honesty depend on it.
But what about you? What do you think?
Here’s Hunter S Thompson’ Cover Letter, if you were the editor, would you have accepted it?
TO JACK SCOTT, VANCOUVER SUN
October 1, 1958 57 Perry Street New York City
I got a hell of a kick reading the piece Time magazine did this week on The Sun. In addition to wishing you the best of luck, I’d also like to offer my services.
Since I haven’t seen a copy of the “new” Sun yet, I’ll have to make this a tentative offer. I stepped into a dung-hole the last time I took a job with a paper I didn’t know anything about (see enclosed clippings) and I’m not quite ready to go charging up another blind alley.
By the time you get this letter, I’ll have gotten hold of some of the recent issues of The Sun. Unless it looks totally worthless, I’ll let my offer stand. And don’t think that my arrogance is unintentional: it’s just that I’d rather offend you now than after I started working for you.
I didn’t make myself clear to the last man I worked for until after I took the job. It was as if the Marquis de Sade had suddenly found himself working for Billy Graham. The man despised me, of course, and I had nothing but contempt for him and everything he stood for. If you asked him, he’d tell you that I’m “not very likable, (that I) hate people, (that I) just want to be left alone, and (that I) feel too superior to mingle with the average person.” (That’s a direct quote from a memo he sent to the publisher.)
Nothing beats having good references.
Of course if you asked some of the other people I’ve worked for, you’d get a different set of answers.If you’re interested enough to answer this letter, I’ll be glad to furnish you with a list of references — including the lad I work for now.
The enclosed clippings should give you a rough idea of who I am. It’s a year old, however, and I’ve changed a bit since it was written. I’ve taken some writing courses from Columbia in my spare time, learned a hell of a lot about the newspaper business, and developed a healthy contempt for journalism as a profession.
As far as I’m concerned, it’s a damned shame that a field as potentially dynamic and vital as journalism should be overrun with dullards, bums, and hacks, hag-ridden with myopia, apathy, and complacence, and generally stuck in a bog of stagnant mediocrity. If this is what you’re trying to get The Sun away from, then I think I’d like to work for you.
Most of my experience has been in sports writing, but I can write everything from warmongering propaganda to learned book reviews.
I can work 25 hours a day if necessary, live on any reasonable salary, and don’t give a black damn for job security, office politics, or adverse public relations.
I would rather be on the dole than work for a paper I was ashamed of.
It’s a long way from here to British Columbia, but I think I’d enjoy the trip.
If you think you can use me, drop me a line.
If not, good luck anyway.
Sincerely, Hunter S. Thompson