work

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BOOKS + SCREENPLAY

Matt Thompson is the author of three nonfiction books. Two are works of international reportage: the bestselling My Colombian Death and its acclaimed sequel, Running With The Blood God.


Matt's most recent book is the blistering MAYHEM, a manic first-person biography of Christopher BADNE$$ Binse, Australia's wildest bandit of the modern era who is now serving 18 years in inhumane 'ultramax' conditions - because he has just a touch of attitude.


Matt is now adapting MAYHEM into a ferocious screenplay.

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JOURNALISM

A specialist in immersive reportage, Matt has hiked into bamboo forests to dine with Filipino guerrillas, sprinted from Iranian riot police, 'died' in traumatic ceremonies with a Colombian shaman, toured Kosovo with Serb nationalists, wept inconsolably at a pow wow in Oregon, and much else.


This is how Matt became 'the embodiment of Gonzo Down Under'. There's a chapter on him in Fear and Loathing Worldwide: Gonzo Journalism Beyond Hunter S. Thompson (2018, Bloomsbury Publishing).


Matt is published by Australian Foreign Affairs, the Sydney Review of Books, the Weekend Australian, the BBC, the ABC, the Sydney Morning Herald, Dazed + Confused, and many others.

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TEACHING + SPEAKING

Matt Thompson is an accomplished speaker and university lecturer. For the past decade he has taught into graduate and bachelor media programs at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia.


Matt taught journalism at the University of the South Pacific in Fiji during military rule. That was problematic, yet educational.


Matt is a University Medal winner and a Doctor of Creative Arts, with his dissertation in literary journalism examined by New York University’s Director of Literary Reportage, Robert Boynton. 

LIFE + death

THE LAND OF KEN KESEY

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Matt was born in Portland, Oregon, but soon exiled to Australia.

His dad had grown up in Eugene, Oregon, where Matt's grandfather, Charles Thompson, was reportedly doctor to the Kesey clan, and friends with the parents of Merry Prankster George Walker.

Matt's dad never missed a chance to Ken call Kesey a 'bad man' for leading George astray.

Visiting Eugene last winter, Matt and his daughter and sat by the statue of the mighty Ken Kesey.


In 'Running With The Blood God', Matt wrote about attending a pow pow in Portland. Here's a glimpse:


The BOOM-boom-BOOM-boom-BOOM-boom and the surging, wailing chant are overcoming the surroundings: the schoolyard, the portable toilets, the brick buildings, the cars, the Portland out there. They're pounding it down, pounding away the shame of defeat but not the pain, and pounding the sound around and around until it's here again: the past, the future, all the time that's been lost, and they place their moccasins through curves and turns, shaking their shoulders and twitching their staffs and seeing the light of double sight until the drums fall silent.

FIRE & RESCUE IN OZ

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For more than six years, Matt served on on-call as a professional firefighter and rescuer operator until resigning in disgust.


This is from 'Smashed'.


While the driver steps on it towards the accident, I radio FireCOMS for updates and a more precise location, and then allocate tasks.


The driver is not a qualified rescue operator but is useful muscle and he can get a tool dump ready, making sure we have the heavy metal  hydraulic shears, spreaders and other gear likely needed to free the casualties.


I can’t form a plan for getting people out until I see the vehicle and ask the paramedics how much of a hurry they’re in.


Traffic banks up as we close in on the wreck. The crew stuff their pockets with nitrile gloves for protection against blood, urine and other bodily fluids, and grab masks to wear when breaking windows. We don our helmets.


There’s the car – man it must have  flown ten metres before rolling. I pick up the radio to give the arrival  report. The police wave us in.

Go time.

NIGHTSWIMMING

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Matt and his daughter and took some of his dad's ashes back to Oregon, scattering them in forests and garden beds.


In 'Nightswimming in Dungog', Matt wrote about the morning his dad left this world.


As we approach the Harbour Bridge, one of my brothers calls: ‘Dad’s dead.’


Dad’s  on the floor in the breakfast room when we arrive, on his back, eyes  partially open, the neat rows of his teeth showing. He has the last  smile: the smile of final release. The awe of the dead – he’s dead. My father’s dead. Torn out of the world. I touch his cheek, his hand.


Trees  seethe and rustle, their branches and leaves in flux with the air. So  buoyant: here it comes, a wave, a wave, a wave of grief, another and  another over and over and over he’s dead and so much was never said and  now never will, it’s over, and here it comes harder and harder and  harder until I can’t breathe I’m in the trees falling into the air oh  Jesus, oh man. God, it’s so sweet when it lifts, when these rushes of  grief ease, won’t they please never end, now I know I was made, I know I was created, conceived, and the man, the father, is gone.