When I once complained to him about an unflattering mention I’d gotten in a New Yorker article about Allen Ginsberg, Warren Hinckle shot me a derisive look and said out of the corner of his mouth in his distinctive gravelly voice, “Listen, Collier, the only bad press you ever get is your obituary.” This was not just a bon mot but a first principle, so it was ironic that, when Hinckle died in his native San Francisco a few weeks ago at age seventy-seven, his own obituaries were the best press he had gotten in many years, acknowledging his significant achievement midwifing the rebirth of muckraking journalism as the editor of Ramparts magazine in the mid–1960s and giving New Left ideas a raucous four-color presence in the political culture that calamitous era created.

When I joined Ramparts...