Books ó In Remembrance Of HST

In Remembrance Of HST

 

By Will Stewart
 

It never got weird enough for him

What is this madness? Hunter Thompson dead?

Iíve never been one to mourn public figures, even ones I liked and whose demise was untimely. Yeah, it sucked when Kurt Cobain killed himself, but news of his death didnít stop me cold.

But when I read Hunter (Iíve always referred to him by his first name and will continue to do so, journalistic rules be damned) committed suicide Feb. 20, I was floored. This was a man whose no-holds-barred writing and insistence on truth probably inspired me more than anything else to enter the field of journalism. Iím still having a hard time coming to grips with his death.

But to tell you the truth, after reading his accounts from the í60s and í70s, Iím kind of surprised he made it to 67. By nearly all reports he should have overdosed or died freakishly years ago. It appears he felt the same way, and wanted to go out at the top (or near top) of his game.

Hunter, of course, is best known for his book Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, which was made into a movie of the same name, starring Johnny Depp and Benicio Del Toro. In it Hunter/ Raoul Drake (his alter ego) attends a district attorneyís conference on illegal drugs in Las Vegas. The book pointed out the hypocrisy of the establishment, but sadly it led many to mistakenly dismiss Hunter as a maniacal drug-freak. He was a maniacal drug-freak, of course, but that was just a part of him.

Hunter was a teller of the truth. He pioneered Gonzo (or New) Journalism, in which the reporter is as much a part of the story as is his subject. He totally dismissed the idea of objective reporting, believing it was impossible and not worth the effort to attempt.

Some of his best reporting was for Rolling Stone magazine, putting the magazine on the political map. His best work for the magazine was done in 1972, covering the presidential campaign. These reports were compiled in the book Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail Ď72.

This collection is probably the best political reporting ever attempted. It pulls no punches, it outs the B.S. typical of any campaign and itís totally original. If youíre a political junkie, this is a must-read.  (On a side note, Hunter describes Manchester as ďa broken down mill town on the Merrimack River with an aggressive chamber of commerce and Americaís worst newspaper.Ē)

I appears that Hunterís death is, like that of many other celebrities, spurring his career. Three of his books are currently on Amazon.comís Top 25 sellers list. Normally Iíd scoff at such Johnny-come-latelys, but in Hunterís case Iíll make an exception. The more people who get to know him, the better.

The best of the rest

Hellís Angels

This piece of reporting is what really got Hunter on the map. He lived with, and almost died at the hands of, members of this most infamous of all motorcycle gangs to get the ďreal storyĒ of their ďclub.Ē The writing is brilliant and brutally frank. A must read.

The Great Shark Hunt

The first volume of the Gonzo Papers, this book is a collection of Hunterís essays and articles spanning from the beginning of his career as a correspondent in the Caribbean and South America to his Gonzo heyday in the í70s. If youíre looking for an introduction to the Good Doctor, this is your best bet.

The Proud Highway

This collection of letters, beginning in 1955 and ending in 1967, shows Hunterís evolution as both writer and person. Directed at everyone from girlfriends to editors, Hunterís letters are much more entertaining than the letters (or e-mails now) most of us write. There are typical Hunter rants throughout, taking on politics and other current events. A great look at another, often more private side of the author.

Generation of Swine

Here Hunter tackles the í80s. Though some maintain this is where Hunter begins his decline, this work is still pure Hunter. With his usual razor-sharp wit he tackles cable television, the rise of 24-hour news, Ronald Reagan and the í88 presidential campaign. Probably the last of his best books.

Better than Sex

Subtitled Confessions of a Political Junkie, in this book Hunter covers the í92 campaign and Bill Clintonís victory over Bush I, complete with internal campaign correspondence and no-holds-barred commentary on the candidates. Definitely not his best work, but still worth reading.

- Will Stewart

 
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