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Hunter S Thompson
by: egon 25 february 05
I first discovered the work of Hunter S Thompson by watching the film of his most famous book Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, while drinking stupidly strong home brewed alcohol and having inhaled a large quantity of cannabis, when I was 18 years old, and I was mesmerised, resolving to search out the book and, having devoured that, his others.
Watching the film again, this time on Decmber 30th 2003, in a studio apartment on the seafront in St Ives. This time- beer, cannabis, and a first experience of magic mushrooms, and you realise what the feeling of hallucinogenic drugs is. And realise that the way Thompson explained it, the way he wrote of it, the way his junkie oddyssey encapsulated the feeling of losing control of your own perception was right.
Hunter Stockton Thompson, the founder of Gonzo journalism, started his journalistic career as a sports reporter. But, writing about the Kentucky Derby and America's Cup for Scanlan's magazine, Thompson found himself not even remotely interested in the sports,a nd instead wrote articles about what he was doing when he should have been watching them. When he went to cover the "Rumble in the Jungle" boxing match in Zaire, he missed the match as he was relaxing in a swimming pool with his drugs.
It was this kind of behaviour which got HST a job with Rolling Stone, predominantly a music magazine, but also a counter-cultural icon. They sent Thompson and his attorney-at-large Oscar Acosta to las Vegas to cover a motorbike rally. This became the two massive articles, consolidated into one book that were "Fear and Loathing in las VEgas", Thompsona dn Acosta renamed as Raoul Duke and Dr. Gonzo. The FEar and Loathing column became one of Rolling Stone's most popular, as HST continued to make himself the centrepiece of reports, as he did at Scanlan's, and in his first book "Hell's Angels" where he, strangely enough, integrated himself with the Hell's Angels, and wrote a book about it.
HST's masterpiece, however, emerged from his unilkely assignment as RS's political correspondent for the 1972 election. "Fear and Loathing on the CAmpaign Trail" is a rolelrcoaster work of genius, as Thompson flings himself into the fray of the Nixon-McGovern presidential campaign, telling,a s he does in most of his work, the story of the sad truth of 20th Century America and the death of the American dream, telling us more truths in his drug-crazed ramblings than any politician tells us.
His 80s and 90s output is scant, with the "gonzo papers" trilogy of newspaper article anthologies and the 92 election coverage of "Better than Sex" all that is worth mentioning.
By the 21st century, along came HST's autobiography, "kingdom of FEar", a tale of what has driven him and what has happened to him which cannot be put down, along with a mammoth colelction of letters to and from the man who claimed to be a Doctor of journalism, and who managed to articluate all that was wrong with America even as he rambled about drugs and constantly referred to police as "pigfuckers".
On Sunday the 20th February, 2005, Hunter Stockton Thompson shot himself in his secure compound in Woody Creek, Colorado. Ralph Steadman, animator of many of Thompson's books, recalls that thompson once said "I'd feel real trapped in this life if I didn't know I could commit suicide at any time."
SUnday night was the time he chose.
"It is Nixon himself who represents that dark, venal, almost incurably violent side of the AMerican character that every other nation on earth has long learned to fear and despise."
-Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail
"There is no honest way to explain the Edge as the only people who really know where it is are those who have gone over"
"We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold."
"We had two bags of grass, seventy-five pellets of Mescaline, five sheets of acid, a salt shaker full of cocaine and a whole galaxy of uppers, downers, screamers, laughers...Also a quart of tequila, a quart of rum,a case of Budweiser, a pint of raw ether, and two dozen amyls...not that we needed all that for the trip, but once you get locked in a serious drug collection, the tendency is to push it as far as you can..."
-Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
He stomped terra.
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