Gustav Hasford

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Gustav Hasford
Gus Hasford in Vietnam
Born (1947-11-28)November 28, 1947
Russellville, Alabama
Died January 29, 1993(1993-01-29) (aged 45)
Aegina, Greece
Occupation Writer

Gustav Hasford (November 28, 1947 – January 29, 1993) was an American journalist, novelist, and poet. His semi-autobiographical novel The Short-Timers (1979) was the basis of the film Full Metal Jacket (1987).[1] He was also a United States Marine Corps veteran, who served during the Vietnam War.


Early life[edit]

Born in Russellville, Alabama, Hasford joined the United States Marine Corps in 1967 and served as a combat correspondent during the Vietnam War. As a military journalist, he wrote stories for Leatherneck Magazine, Sea Tiger, and Pacific Stars and Stripes.[2]

Early literary career[edit]

Hasford associated with various science fiction writers of the 1970s (including Arthur Byron Cover and David J. Skal, and he briefly shared an apartment with author Harlan Ellison[citation needed]). He had works published in magazines and anthologies such as Space and Time and Damon Knight's Orbit series; he also published the poem, "Bedtime Story", in a 1972 edition of Winning Hearts and Minds, the first anthology of writing about the war by the veterans themselves;[3] the poem was reprinted in Carrying the Darkness in 1985.[4])

First novel and film[edit]

In 1978, Hasford attended the Milford Writer's Workshop and met veteran science fiction author Frederik Pohl, who was then an editor at Bantam Books. At Pohl's suggestion, Hasford submitted The Short-Timers, and Pohl promptly bought it for Bantam.[5]

The Short-Timers was published in 1979 and became a best-seller, described in Newsweek as “The best work of fiction about the Vietnam War".[1] It was adapted into the feature film Full Metal Jacket (1987), directed by Stanley Kubrick, and the screenplay written by Hasford, Kubrick, and screenwriter Michael Herr was nominated for an Academy Award. Hasford's actual contributions were a subject of dispute among the three, and ultimately Hasford chose not to be attend the Oscar ceremonies.[1]

Library books theft charges[edit]

In 1988, shortly before the Oscars ceremony, Hasford was charged with theft after campus police from California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, California, found nearly 10,000 library books in his rented storage locker. At that time, he had 87 overdue books and five years of Civil War Times magazine issues checked out from the Cal Poly-SLO library; the materials were valued at over $2,000.[6]

Hasford's book collection included books borrowed (and never returned) from dozens of libraries across the United States, and from libraries in the United Kingdom and Australia. Others were allegedly taken from the homes of acquaintances. Among them were 19th-century books on Edgar Allan Poe and the American Civil War.[6] He had obtained borrowing privileges at Cal Poly-SLO as a California resident, but submitted a false address and Social Security number. In 1985, he had borrowed 98 books from the Sacramento, California public library and was wanted for grand theft there.[6]

Hasford initially denied the charges, but he eventually admitted possession of several hundred stolen books and pleaded nolo contendere ("no contest") to possession of stolen property. He was sentenced to six months' imprisonment (of which he served three months) and promised to pay restitution from the royalties for his future works.[6]

Hasford claimed that he wanted the books to research a never-published book on the Civil War. He described his difficulties as "a vicious attack launched against me by Moral Majority fanatics backed up by the full power of the Fascist State."[6]

Second and third novels[edit]

In 1990, he published a second novel, The Phantom Blooper, a sequel to The Short-Timers. Hasford's final novel was A Gypsy Good Time (1992), a hardboiled, noir detective story set in Los Angeles.


Hasford, suffering from untreated diabetes, moved to the Greek island of Aegina and died there of heart failure on 29 January 1993, aged 45.[1]



  1. ^ a b c d Lewis, Grover (June 4–10, 1993). "The Killing of Gus Hasford". LA Weekly. BronxBanter blog. Retrieved March 16, 2014. 
  2. ^ Lewis, Grover (June 28, 1987). "The Several Battles of Gustav Hasford: A Candid Conversation With the Co-Writer and Fierce, Real-Life Protagonist of Full Metal Jacket". Los Angeles Times Magazine. Retrieved August 2, 2012. 
  3. ^ Barry, Jan Barry & Paquet, Basil T. & Rottmann, Larry (Editors) (1972). "Bedtime Story". (1st Casualty Press). Retrieved 2 August 2012. [dead link]
  4. ^ Ehrhart, W.D. (Editor) (1985). "Bedtime Story". Carrying the Darkness (Texas Tech University Press). Retrieved August 2, 2012. 
  5. ^ Pohl, Frederik (January 26, 2010). "Gus Hasford: The Libraries’ Very Best Customer". The Way The Future Blogs. Retrieved January 26, 2010. 
  6. ^ a b c d e "Book theft articles". 

Additional reading[edit]

External links[edit]