I cannot pinpoint exactly when I became aware of and following Hunter S. Thompson but I’m pretty sure it was during the run-up to the 1972 elections when he was writing for Rolling Stone magazine. During the 1972 election season, I would literally wait at the mailbox every two weeks for my copy of Rolling Stone so that I might read the latest missive from Thompson on the campaign trail. These articles were compiled into the book Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail 1972 and published in early 1973.
Thompson’s best known work is most likely Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas The following quote is from the first part of the book:
We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold. I remember saying something like “I feel a bit lightheaded; maybe you should drive…” And suddenly there was a terrible roar all around us and the sky was full of what looked like huge bats, all swooping and screeching and diving around the car, which was going about a hundred miles an hour with the top down to Las Vegas. And a voice was screaming: “Holy Jesus! What are these goddamn animals?”
It is just one small example of Thompson’s writing style. Another example from the same book:
We had two bags of grass, seventy-five pellets of mescaline, five sheets of high-powered blotter acid, a saltshaker half-full of cocaine and a whole multicolored collection of uppers, downers, laughers, screamers . . . Also, a quart of tequila, a quart of rum, a case of beer, a pint of raw ether and two dozen amyls. Not that we needed all that for the trip, but once you get into a serious drug collection, the tendency is to push it as far as you can. The only thing that really worried me was the ether. There is nothing in the world more helpless and irresponsible and depraved than a man in the depths of an ether binge and I knew we’d get into that rotten stuff pretty soon . . .
Goodreads.com offers three full pages of quotes just from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.
From his Goodreads.com intro:
Hunter Stockton Thompson was an American journalist and author, famous for his book Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. He is credited as the creator of Gonzo journalism, a style of reporting where reporters involve themselves in the action to such a degree that they become the central figures of their stories. He is also known for his promotion and use of psychedelics and other mind-altering substances (and to a lesser extent, alcohol and firearms), his libertarian views, and his iconoclastic contempt for authority. He died at his own hand in 2005.
Many times wiki just gives a short paragraph for an intro. Thompson’s wiki intro alone is four long paragraphs.
Hell’s Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga is Thompson’s first major work. It began as an article for The Nation and was expanded into a full book. Thompson eventually spent more than a year riding and drinking with the Angels.
There are four Thompson books that collectively are called The Gonzo Papers. These four books pull together many of his columns from various newspapers and magazines. The Great Shark Hunt was first published in 1979. Generation of Swine: Tales of Shame and Degradation in the ’80s was first published in 1988. Songs of the Doomed came out in 1990 and Better Than Sex: Confessions of a Political Junkie was published in 1994.
The first time Thompson’s work was categorized as “gonzo” looks to be when he wrote an article for Scanlan’s Monthly on the Kentucky Derby titled The Kentucky Derby Is Decadent and Depraved. This is the first collaboraiton between Thompson and cartoonist Ralph Steadman.
In the Doonesbury comic strip, the character “Uncle Duke” began as a caricature of Thompson.
And a closing quote:
When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.
Picture from John Fischer licensed under Creative Commons