This Goodly Land

Gustav Hasford (November 28, 1947–January 29, 1993)

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Alabama Connections

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Biographical Information

Gustav Hasford grew up in Russellville, Ala. He was a voracious reader and was interested in journalism. As a teenager, Hasford edited and wrote for his school newspaper and worked part-time for two area papers, the Franklin County Times in Russellville and The Northwest Alabamian in Haleyville. He started a national magazine for writers, Freelance, at age fifteen but was forced to discontinue it after a few issues. Several years later, Hasford left high school and joined the U.S. Marines, where he served as a military journalist in Vietnam. After his discharge in 1968, Hasford moved with his parents to Longview, Wash. He worked at a variety of jobs and took courses at Lower Columbia Community College but spent much of his time reading and writing. Two of his short stories were published in the college literary magazine Mirror Northwest. In the early 1970s, Hasford moved to Southern California, where he supported himself with whatever jobs he could find and worked on a novel about his Vietnam experience.

The Short-Timers was published in 1979, ten years after Hasford had begun writing it, and was well received by critics. In 1982, director Stanley Kubrick bought the movie rights, and Hasford used the money to move to Australia, where he lived from 1982 to 1983. He returned to California briefly, then moved to London to work with Kubrick and writer Michael Herr on the screenplay. The movie version, Full Metal Jacket, was released in 1987. The following year, police in San Luis Obispo, Calif., discovered approximately eight hundred stolen library books in a storage locker rented to Hasford. Hasford served three months of a six-month jail sentence for possession of stolen property. After his release, Hasford lived briefly in California, before moving to Tacoma, Wash., to be near his mother. In the early 1990s, Hasford published a sequel to The Short-Timers and a third novel. He moved to Greece in 1992. Hasford’s health had begun to deteriorate during his time in jail, and he died in Greece in early 1993.

Interests and Themes

Gustav Hasford’s Vietnam novels, The Short-Timers and The Phantom Blooper, are graphic and surreal accounts of the Vietnam War experience. His third novel, A Gypsy Good Time, is a satire of Los Angeles society and culture in the form of a hard-boiled detective story.

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Photo courtesy of Jason Aaron.

Last updated on May 30, 2008.

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