William S. Burroughs

By Hunter S. Thompson In Rolling Stone

Rolling Stone issue # 769 published 9/18/1997 has an obituary published just after the death of William S. Burroughs.

William had a fine taste for handguns, and later in life he became very good with them. I remember shooting with him one afternoon at his range on the outskirts of Lawerence. He had five or six well oiled old revolvers laid out on a wooden table, covered with a white linen cloth, and he used whichever one he was in the mood for at the moment. The S&W .45 was his favorite. “This is my finisher” he said lovingly and then he went into a crouch and then put five out of six shots through the chest of a human-silhouette target about 25 yards away.

Hot Damn, I thought, we are in the presence of a seroius Shootist. Nicloe had been filiming it all with the Hi8, but I took the camera off her and told her to walk out about 10 yards in front of us and put an apple on her head. Wiliam smiled wanly and waved her off. “Never mind my dear” he said to her. “We’ll pass on that trick” Then he picked up the .454 Casul Magnum I’d brought with me. “But I’ll try this one” He said. “I like the looks of it.” The .454 is the most powerful hand gun in the World. It is twice as strong as a .44 Magnum, with a huge scope and a recoil so brutal that I was reluctant to let an 80-year-old man shoot it. This thing will snap back and crack your skull if you don’t hold it properly. But William persisted. The first shot lifted him two or three inches off the ground, but the bullet hit the throat of the target, two inches high. “Good shot,” I said. “Try a little lower and a click to the right.” He nodded and braced again.

His next shot punctured the stomach and left nasty red welts on his palms. Nicole shuddered visibly behind the camera, but I told her we’d only been kidding about the apple. Then, William emptied the cylinder, hitting once in the groin and twice just under the heart. I reached out to shake his hand as he limped back to the table, but he jerked it away and asked for some ice for his palms. “Well,” he said, “this is a very nasty piece of machinery. I like it.” I put the huge silver brute in its case and gave it to him. “It’s yours,” I said. “You deserve it.”

Which was true. William was a Shootist. He shot like he wrote- with extreme precision and no fear. He would have fired a M-60 from the hip that day if I’d brought one with me. He would shoot anything, and he feared nothing.”


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