Brautigan > The Hawkline Monster: A Gothic Western

This node of the American Dust website (formerly Brautigan Bibliography and Archive) provides comprehensive information about Richard Brautigan's novel The Hawkline Monster: A Gothic Western. Published in 1974, this was Brautigan's fifth published novel. Publication and background information is provided, along with reviews, many with full text. Use the menu tabs below to learn more.



The Hawkline Monster was Brautigan's fifth published novel and the first to parody / combine literary genres. Subtitled "A Gothic Western," the novel was well received by a wider audience than Brautigan's earlier work.

As in earlier novels, Brautigan played with the idea that imagination has both good and bad ramifications, turning it into a monster with the power to turn objects and thoughts into whatever amused it.


This novel is for the Montana Gang.

Writing History

Brautigan wrote The Hawkline Monster in 1972-1973(?) in a rented tourist cabin at the Pine Creek Lodge and Store in Pine Creek, Montana, in Paradise Valley, just south of Livingston. He went there at the invitation of writer Thomas McGuane (92 in the Shade). Living nearby were writers Jim Harrison (Farmer) and his wife, and William R. Hjortsberg (Falling Angel) and his wife Marian. Actors Peter Fonda and his wife Becky (Portia Crockett; McGuane's ex-wife), Jeff Bridges, and Warren Oates, film director Sam Peckinpah, cinematographer Michael Butler, and painter Russell Chatham also lived nearby. Other visiting writers (like Guy de la Valdene), artists, and musicians often visited. The group called itself "The Montana Gang." Brautigan was impressed with the machismo and the ability of some members to achieve financial security by turning their novels into movies.


Livingston, Montana, members of "The Montana Gang," and others were profiled in several newspaper articles, some of which mentioned Brautigan.

Robert Cross's article, "A Refuge in Montana: The Gossip-Column Set Slips Quietly into the Woods" (Chicago Tribune, 20 Sep. 1992. Travel Section, p. 1), focuses on Livingston, Montana, as the town near where author William R. Hjortsberg lives and writes. READ this article.

Phil Patton's article, "The Dude Is Back in Town" (The New York Times, 18 Apr. 1993, Sec. 9, p.10), focuses on the reemergence of popularity of Western style in furniture, furnishings, clothing, and collectables. Patton offers a time line "When Easterner Met West," detailing the history of the popularity of the Western style. He mentions Brautigan as part of Livingston, Montana, "Big Sky Bloomsbury." READ this article.

Toby Thompson's article, "Out There: Livingston, MONT: A Rumble Runs Through It" (The New York Times, 11 Apr. 1993, Sec. 9, p. 3), focuses on The Murray Hotel in Livingston, Montana, which has long been a watering hole for the rich and famous and otherwise noteworthy. READ this article.


In a letter dated 15 February 1967 to Robert Parks Mills, his literary agent at the time, Brautigan wrote about "plotting a Western novel that I will write this year. I've always wanted to write a Western and so that's what I'm going to do." LEARN more.


Hal Ashby, director of the movies Being There and Harold and Maude, purchased the screenplay rights to The Hawkline Monster. Brautigan wrote a screenplay for a movie adaptation but abandoned the project when asked to rewrite the first draft.

After Brautigan refused to write a second draft, Ashby asked writer Michael Dare to write additional scenes for the screenplay. Despite this new treatment, the project was never completed. Of the project, Dare said, "I worked with Hal Ashby on Tom Robbins' Another Roadside Attraction, Tom Wolfe's The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, Thomas Berger's Vital Parts, Saul Bellow's Henderson the Rain King, and Brautigan's The Hawkline Monster. When Richard wouldn't do a second draft, Hal asked for my input and I wrote several new scenes. I thought your readers might like to know he [Ashby] had Jack Nicholson and Dustin Hoffman lined up to play the cowboys" (Michael Dare. Email to John F. Barber, 25 February 2008).

Douglas Avery adds these details. "Through Michael Dare and Hal Ashby's biographer, Nick Dawson, I discovered that Ashby had tried to get the movie made his entire career. The first incarnation, as Michael Dare said, would have starred Nicholson and Hoffman. Later versions had Nicholson and Harry Dean Stanton, and then Jeff and Beau Bridges" (Douglas Avery. Email to John F. Barber, 17 September 2009).

Brad Donovan, coauthor, with Brautigan, of the 1982 screenplay, Trailer, provides some additional details about Brautigan's involvement with the original screenplay. "Kate Jackson (the smart Charlie's Angel) was behind that project. Richard got a kick out of the association. He also received $30,000 for the option and first draft. Later, he tried to apply for unemployment in California and listed his earnings as a thousand bucks a day, just in case the state could find him suitable employment—a story he told with glee" (Brad Donovan. Email to John F. Barber, 29 October 2007).

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