Whilst serving as a combat correspondent during the Vietnam War, U.S. Marine Gustav Hasford began to write a semi-autobiographical novel entitled The Short-Timers. Released in 1979 to critical acclaim and later picked up by Stanley Kubrick, the book was adapted to become Full Metal Jacket, but not without problems, as disputes arose between Hasford and Kubrick relating to financial compensation and Hasford’s screenwriting credit. Whilst living in Australia and writing ‘A Gypsy Good Time‘ (hence ‘DETECTIVE MANUSCRIPT’) just a few months before the film’s release, Hasford – clearly a troubled man – wrote the following fascinating letter to friend Tracy Hayward. She has kindly agreed for it to be shown here, with certain personal information concealed.
Trivia: Hasford served 3 months of a 6 month sentence in 1988 after admitting to stealing 748 books from 9 separate libraries worldwide.
MAR 2 1987
Well, it was nice talking to you, you evil old monster.
Just kidding about that monster thing.
You’re right. I’m pushy. It’s the type of people I deal with. You know, the kind of people who swim around in the ocean with a knife & fork looking for a shark to eat. I use to be such a good-natured boy. I guess I’ve gone Hollywood, after all. I guess the next stage of my degeneration is when I start saying “Ciao, baby” and “We’ll do lunch and take a meeting.” I’m like a cave man. I bonk everyone who speaks to me on the head with a club.
I’m pretty tense right now, too. I’m in a foreign country and no way to get home. I refuse to allow Stanley to get away with his robbery. But then I’m broke. My family is broke. Not that that matters, because they wouldn’t help me anyway. My book BLOOP has fallen into a black hole–I’m not even getting rejections–just…nothing. Bantam Books is refusing to return my calls. I’m being leaned on by the lawyers at Warner Brothers and I’m sick with the flu and I want to go home.
Of course, it’ll work out okay in the end. One of the advantages of having a few years under your belt, and a few campaigns, is that you know what you can take. What these silly people don’t seem to understand is that it’s too late to fuck with me. I’ve survived everything there is, and I will survive this, even if I have to go bush and eat ‘roo steaks. If I couldn’t stand the heat I’d get me a nice comfy job selling tennis shoes.
Meanwhile, I will plan my staff. This is what we call optimism. Do you know the writer Irvine Wallace? He plays poker with my friend Stewey’s dad every thursday. Ol’ Irvine has a full time staff of 17 people. (!) Son-of-abitch churns out books like an assembly line, BOOKS OF LISTS, SEX LIVES OF FAMOUS APHIDS, ad nauseum ad infinidum. Probably never even sees them, just puts his name on them and keeps all the money. Pays his staff with Confederate money.
Secretary, research assistant, computer programmer. Male or female. Harlan has a male secretary.
It’s not my fault that you are both attractive and capable. I could see you as a research assistant and not as a girlfriend. Actually, girlfriends are a lot easier to find that trustworthy and dependable people. A girlfriend can be a spoiled and frivolous airhead, and can be replaced with about as much difficulty as you replace a flashlight battery. I see you as a valuable person and I think that you are a jackpot of admirable qualities. There. I said it. And I won’t take it back.
But you’re right, the timing is all wrong. It seemed like a good idea at the time, he said. Well, maybe you’ll change your mind someday. I’ll still be doing business at the same old stand, if I haven’t opted for a lucrative career in the ever-expanding field of footwear marketing.
I’m sorry I was such a nuisance and discomfort in the petunias.
So I’m sending you some cartoons. To cheer you up.
And nothing perverse. That’s one of my worst character traits–if somebody tells me note to do something in a threatening way, I just do it and do it.
Or maybe I’m just being enormously myself. Cocteau says, “Cultivate that about you which offends–that’s you.” Or maybe I’m just imperfectly socialized. Or an asshole. (Yes, I’ll guess which one you picked, he said, assumingly).
I have a lot of big character flaws, it’s true. A lot of weaknesses and selfishness-es and insesitivities (and I can’t even spell). But I do have, hopefully, some saving graces. I just wish I knew what they were.
Well, read your cartoons now. (See, I’m a Nazi even when I’m telling people to read cartoons.) You will read cartoons, Private Tracy. Do it now.
I miss you, ma’am. Thanks for calling. I appreciate it.