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HUNTER S. THOMPSON

The Baltimore Sun reports:

Hunter S. Thompson, the acerbic counterculture writer who popularized a new form of fictional journalism in books like “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,” fatally shot himself Sunday night at his home, his son said. He was 67.

More from the Denver Post and the Aspen Times.

UPDATE. Thompson’s final article.

UPDATE II. The New York Times obit puts Thompson’s age at 65; this evidence points to him being 67.

UPDATE III. I arrived late to Hunter S. Thompson. The first piece of his I read was a 1983 account in Rolling Stone of the Roxanne Pulitzer divorce trial. Not among Thompson’s great works, but it was the first time I’d read anyone cover anything without leaving out all the material reporters usually save for after-hours bar talk.

Within a year or so I’d read all the HST I could find: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Hell’s Angels, Fear and Loathing: on the Campaign Trail ‘72, The Great Shark Hunt. As with many discoverers of Thompson, there was some infatuation; less for his “bad craziness? phrasing than for structure. Which sounds odd, until you re-read Fear and Loathing with an eye for the story arc instead of the episodic hilarity. Check this extract:

It seems like a lifetime, or at least a Main Era—that kind of peak that never comes again. San Francisco in the middle sixties was a very special time and place to be a part of. Maybe it meant something. Maybe not, in the long run ...

My central memory of that time seems to hang on one or five or maybe forty nights—or very early mornings—when I left the Fillmore half-crazy and, instead of going home, aimed the big 650 Lightning across the Bay Bridge at a hundred miles an hour wearing L. L. Bean shorts and a Butte sheepherder’s jacket ... booming through the Treasure Island tunnel at the lights of Oakland and Berkeley and Richmond, not quite sure which turn-off to take when I got to the other end ... but being absolutely certain that no matter which way I went I would come to a place where people were just as high and wild as I was ... You could strike sparks anywhere. There was a fantastic universal sense that whatever we were doing was right, that we were winning ...

And that, I think, was the handle—that sense of inevitable victory over the forces of Old and Evil. Not in any mean or military sense; we didn’t need that. Our energy would simply prevail. There was no point in fighting—on our side or theirs. We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave ...

So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark—that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back.

The book is that wave; remember, it opens with a line about drugs taking hold. Thompson may have written the only coherent allegorical history of the 1960s, and it took him (in my 1982 Warner Books paperback) just 204 pages.

Thompson rode a dying wave himself, turning increasing bitter as he faded towards shore. The most dated elements of his best work—loathing of “the pigs? and Nazi Republicans; those squaresville dudes—became a central feature of his later, sometimes-unreadable, pieces. Not that Thompson’s influence faded; sadly, a solid case could be made that Gonzo journalism (frantically opposed to “greedheads? and the like) gave rise to Margo journalism. Hate the money-people! Hate the suits! James Lileks is cold, but correct:

It was all bile and spittle at the end, and it was hard to read the work without smelling the dank sweat of someone consumed by confusion, anger, sudden drunken certainties and the horrible fear that when he sat down to write, he could only muster a pale parody of someone else’s satirical version of his infamous middle period. I feel sorry for him, but I’ve felt sorry for him for years.

Yes. Yet Lileks also writes, because he knows:

Don’t forget that there was a reason he had a reputation. Read “Hell’s Angels.” That was a man who could hit the keys right.

Undeniably. On deadline yesterday we yanked an item from the last page still open and inserted a quick Thompson tribute. Afterwards, proof-reading the piece, I opened my e-mail to find a note from Ken Layne. I thought it would be about Thompson, but instead Ken had sent photographs of his just-born, beautiful son. The timing was magnificent. So is Ken’s obit:

Even though we’d met only once—one long, sunny San Diego poolside afternoon that affected me deeply and permanently—and even though I was just another young punk writer wanting a little wisdom from the Good Doctor, Hunter S. Thompson was kind and generous to me, and he will always be one of the great pillars of my life. I feel the loss like somebody just kicked me in the stomach. I don’t care if his later work wasn’t as brilliant as the ‘70s stuff, or whatever people like to say. For me and many (but not enough) others, he defined both the good and evil of America, and he made a chicken-shit trade like “journalism” seem vital and romantic. He was wrong, or maybe he was just the last of his kind, or maybe just the last of his kind smart enough to con some moneybag publisher into bankrolling another jaunt to Mexico or Vietnam.

Hunter Thompson was a great American writer, and the finest wordsmith of the West since Mark Twain. His was a rare and special talent, never to be seen again. Hunter brought wisdom and joy and madness and skill to so very many people around the world. He had a heart like a lion. He will always be missed, and I am saddened that I will never again read a new crazy screed from Dr. Thompson.

UPDATE IV. The Australian’s Robert Lusetich:

His groundbreaking coverage of the 1972 presidential election race between Richard Nixon - who Thompson loathed - and George McGovern was once recalled by a Democrat campaign aide as being the “least accurate yet most truthful” account of that campaign.

Nixon, who Thompson had called a “walking embarrassment to the human race”, once said Thompson represented “that dark, venal and incurably violent side of the American character”.

It was an insult Thompson would wear as a badge of honour.

Well, of course he would, seeing as he wrote it himself, about Nixon.

UPDATE V. Oh, God; the Boston Globe reports:

The 67-year-old author sat in his kitchen Sunday afternoon, stuck a .45-caliber handgun in his mouth, and killed himself while his wife listened on the phone and his son and daughter-in-law were in another room of his house. His wife had no idea what had happened until she returned home later.

Posted by Tim B. on 02/21/2005 at 12:13 AM
  1. reminds me of how Abbie Hoffman wound up

    Posted by benson swears a lot on 2005 02 21 at 01:26 AM • permalink

  2. Duke LIVES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Posted by Russell on 2005 02 21 at 01:27 AM • permalink

  3. Sad way to end an interesting life.

    Posted by Dog of War on 2005 02 21 at 01:33 AM • permalink

  4. such a shame

    Posted by flute on 2005 02 21 at 01:34 AM • permalink

  5. He was a political nutjob but a talented writer. RIP

    Posted by swassociates on 2005 02 21 at 01:43 AM • permalink

  6. At last- a lefty with principles. Can we mail Michael Moore a bazooka in the hope that there’s a trend afoot?

    Posted by Habib on 2005 02 21 at 01:57 AM • permalink

  7. RIP Dr Thompson. You were one of a kind.

    Classy eulogy Habib, very classy.

    Posted by thanasi on 2005 02 21 at 02:34 AM • permalink

  8. Hunter was one of my heros growing up. He helped to shape my politics and beliefs. Maybe there’s more to the story, cancer or some other disease he didn’t want to face.  Maybe he just couldn’t handle the changes. It’s also possible he was really drunk and was playing with one of his guns. Whatever it is I’ll always have a kind memory and respect for him. RIP Hunter.

    Posted by Arty on 2005 02 21 at 02:40 AM • permalink

  9. Holy shit.

    Posted by Jim Treacher on 2005 02 21 at 02:42 AM • permalink

  10. That’s too bad.

    I’m thinking he may have had some disease that he didn’t want to face, or else he suffered from depression and he felt he couldn’t go on.

    Posted by CJosephson on 2005 02 21 at 03:08 AM • permalink

  11. Not to be too callous or anything, but I’d have been shocked if he’d died in a non-suicide fashion. (Though I always pictured him flipping a car over for some reason).

    Posted by Sonetka on 2005 02 21 at 03:57 AM • permalink

  12. I’m sad that he’s gone. He was one of my literary heroes as well.

    Posted by Evil Pundit on 2005 02 21 at 04:14 AM • permalink

  13. Cripes, my 20-y-o grunge guitar playing son has embraced very few of my youthful heroes. Warren Zevon and HST were among them. He’ll be advising Jack Nicholson and Keith Richards to mount Grim Reaper watch.

    Posted by slatts on 2005 02 21 at 05:54 AM • permalink

  14. Baby-boomer smackhead alcoholic journalist ‘icon’ tops himself.

    How appropriate.

    ‘Hi, God! This is Hunter!’

    Posted by ilibcc on 2005 02 21 at 07:14 AM • permalink

  15. Well… this IS Dr. Gonzo we are talking about here

    I think we should wait a bit to see if this is a hoax

    Posted by karasoth on 2005 02 21 at 07:35 AM • permalink

  16. Interesting that his last piece is basically a drunken call to a friend at an ungodly hour.  That’s a clue about how his life was going right there.

    Posted by Mike G on 2005 02 21 at 09:30 AM • permalink

  17. HST was a great journalist and an even greater American.
    He lived the Dream.
    Its a pity that he was so handy with guns.

    Posted by Jack on 2005 02 21 at 09:38 AM • permalink

  18. I saw that 65/67 thing as well. Emailed the Times to ask them what was up….no response as yet. Developing, as they say.

    Posted by timworstall on 2005 02 21 at 09:41 AM • permalink

  19. Off topic - Anyone else noticed that Norman Hermant ABC correspondent in Iraq - always says “NUCULAR” just like Bush supposedly does.Judging by his accent maybe it’s just an American thing.Reminded by watching the wonderful Dead Ringers tonight…

    Posted by crash on 2005 02 21 at 10:00 AM • permalink

  20. NIXON MISQUOTED

    The Australian today contains the following paragraph in relation to the death of Hunter S Thompson:

    “Nixon, who Thompson had called a “walking embarrassment to the human race”, once said Thompson represented “that dark, venal and incurably violent side of the American character”. “

    Far be it for me to denigrate News Ltd against the BBC, but that quote was directed at Nixon by Thompson himself:

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/arts/4283349.stm

    Posted by Matthewgr on 2005 02 21 at 10:54 AM • permalink

  21. “Finest wordsmith of the West since Mark Twain”? What a crock.

    Posted by Donnah on 2005 02 21 at 10:56 AM • permalink

  22. Hunter S. Thompson scorned the society that made the pills he popped, and had no idea what he would do without either.

    Posted by richard mcenroe on 2005 02 21 at 11:18 AM • permalink

  23. I agree with the sentiment that most of his later stuff was a little too bitter to be entertaining; however, the Nixon takedown that he wrote in that mostly-lame “political junkie” book was one of the funniest things I’ve ever read, the counterculture “Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex.”

    Posted by tachyonshuggy on 2005 02 21 at 11:33 AM • permalink

  24. “Don’t forget that there was a reason he had a reputation. Read “Hell’s Angels.? That was a man who could hit the keys right.”

    first paragraph- “dirty thunder”

    Posted by Glenn Bowen on 2005 02 21 at 11:51 AM • permalink

  25. Has anyone noticed that Dr. Thompson died the same day as “Gidget” actress Sandra Dee?  Could his suicide be the result of heartbreak over Dee’s death? 

    I am a big fan of his writing, some of which is inspired and brilliant.  I heard him speak a couple of times, and he spoke the same way he wrote.  “Gonzo” journalism was to have immediacy, to record what was going on at that very moment without editing or reflection.  I don’t think anyone did that better than Thompson.

    Posted by Mystery Meat on 2005 02 21 at 12:08 PM • permalink

  26. Hunter Thompson’s early work was brilliant.  I absolutely loved Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.  Not only is it one of the funniest books I’ve ever read but it reveals a culture of excess gone completely off the rails better than any sober account by a crusading moralizer could ever do. 

    RIP Hunter.

    Posted by Randal Robinson on 2005 02 21 at 01:21 PM • permalink

  27. Did Thompson have a kind of depression where not mattering doesn’t even matter, death being better than the constant agony of not mattering not mattering = The Disease?

    Was he simply “played out” by declined life-power, a kind of “natural” death?

    What did drugs/alcohol have to do with it?

    Did the failed mentality of Liberalism contribute - the inherent masochism/meaninglessness of it? Or the ultimate uselessness of verbiage, sometimes known as “wordsmithing”?

    Did he leave a note?

    Does anyone close to Thompson care?

    Does anyone else care?

    RIP, but so what? [directed to us all.]

    Posted by J. Peden on 2005 02 21 at 01:32 PM • permalink

  28. And he died the same day as the best damn singer the U.S. ever produced - John Raitt. . . . not only a great singer, but a good and kind person.  I saw him and Bonnie sing together just about 2 months ago, what a treat.

    RIP, John Raitt, Sandra Dee, and HST.

    Posted by Polly on 2005 02 21 at 01:48 PM • permalink

  29. About the only stuff of his that I’ve ever read were some of his recent ESPN Page 2 columns, most of which were pretty standard alternative weekly lefty tripe, thus I have a bit of a hard time taking his stuff (earlier or otherwise) seriously.

    Posted by Vexorg on 2005 02 21 at 02:14 PM • permalink

  30. Rest in peace, Hunter! Thanks for producing some of the most original and fashinating stuff I have read!

    Posted by jorgen on 2005 02 21 at 05:03 PM • permalink

  31. End of an era: the age of youth narcissism dressed up as rebellion. Thompson’s works are destined to be slotted with all that other time-bound ‘60s-era junk for alienated adolescents like Vonnegut and Heimlin. Good riddance.

    Posted by thibaud on 2005 02 21 at 05:15 PM • permalink

  32. Vale Hunter S.

    Ken Layne’s wonderful obituary on this blog is right on the money. One of the greatest writers of the 20th Century has gone to the ether.

    Posted by Peter Hoysted on 2005 02 21 at 07:11 PM • permalink

  33. HST was certainly a bit of an enigma- given his predeliction for chemical relaxation, mindless violence, large noisy weapons and assorted ordnance, large noisy cars and motorcycles and the dangerous driving therof, loud fast rock and roll played at all hours, rampant sexism and gratuitous abuse of percieved enemies he should be the archetypal Right Wing Death Beast, yet he was the pinup boy of limp-dick liberals and lefties- go figure. Perhaps they harbour secret desires to be a wild boy and could live vicariously through Thompson’s excesses, without the risk of non PC behavior seeing them drummed out of their local Bush=Hitler collective. He was getting embarrassing over the last few years, especially his revolting statements following Sept 11th; like his fellow 60’s icon and personal hero Muhhammad Ali, his demented mutterings would have been best kept out of the public arena so he could be remembered as having some relevance and flair- instead he was a sad, bitter old fart with too much booze, too many weapons and too much hate.

    Posted by Habib on 2005 02 21 at 07:12 PM • permalink

  34. And you, Habib, are an asshole.

    As Layne mentioned in his obit - this is very interesting considering Thompsons article on Hemmingway in “The Great Shark Hunt” - a beautiful piece of writing, ending with something like “and given all this, it is no wonder he ended up finishing his life with a shotgun”

    Thats not the exact quote and I would love to read it again - anyone know where exerts or the whole thing might be posted online?

    Posted by TomG on 2005 02 21 at 07:34 PM • permalink

  35. Tom Gara, I’d have let you stay here as a commenter even though you re-submitted using another email without my permission after I banned you, but you can thank your inability to make a comment without insulting someone for this second and final banning.

    Posted by Andrea Harris, Administrator on 2005 02 21 at 07:49 PM • permalink

  36. John Raitt is dead???

    I’m a bit sad about that, but not the least interested in the fate of peripheral dickhead Hunter S Thompson.

    “GONZO” journalism - gimme a break.  He invented the stupid term and it never went beyond him.

    He had his 15 minutes of fame and has effectively been forgotten.  Raitt will be remembered long after HST has been completely obliterated from any cultural memory.

    Read that crap again, Tim (and others), in the light of where you stand today and I’m sure you’ll see that everything he wrote was little better than neanderthal meanderings

    Posted by jlc on 2005 02 21 at 08:22 PM • permalink

  37. His groundbreaking coverage of the 1972 presidential election race between Richard Nixon - who Thompson loathed - and George McGovern was once recalled by a Democrat campaign aide as being the “least accurate yet most truthful? account of that campaign.

    And nowadays we have “fake but accurate”...surely the gulf between fiction and journalism has never been more narrow. Given HST’s writings of the last few years, I suspect he approved.

    Posted by PW on 2005 02 21 at 09:22 PM • permalink

  38. I blame Karl Rove.  A “counterculture” guy offing himself with a GUN in or around ASPEN-the ultimate in yuppie, elitest culture. The elections in Iraq certainly are reverberating!
    Sandra Dee and John Raitt!  That is very sad.

    Posted by yojimbo on 2005 02 21 at 09:26 PM • permalink

  39. PW, the difference between Rather and Hunter is that Hunter never represented himself as an ‘objective’ journalist. And I quote:
    “So much for Objective Journalism. Don’t bother to look for it here—not under any byline of mine; or anyone else I can think of. With the possible exception of things like box scores, race results, and stock market tabulations, there is no such thing as Objective Journalism. The phrase itself is a pompous contradiction in terms.”

    Posted by Kathy K on 2005 02 21 at 09:44 PM • permalink

  40. “He was a political nutjob but a talented writer.”

    You took the words right outta my mouth, Swass.  Still, I loved the man for his (once great) talent and (consistently weird)  outrageousness.  Furthermore, I think his “gonzo journalism” form of writing has merit and will prove to be his greatest legacy - well, besides the Duke thing, that is….<g>

    As to his having “lived the dream”, I don’t agree.  His personal life sounds like it was a booze and drug fueled misogynistic nightmare to me. I’m rather surprised he lived as long as he did, considering his self-destructive lifestyle. I wasn’t a bit surprised that he died by his own hand. 

    Now John Raitt WILL be missed - a talent until the end. 

    And Sandra Dee?  Good Gawd, I thought she’d died years ago!  She’s been out of the public scene for decades.  Talk about a dippy, no-talent Hollywood blonde?!?

    Posted by Sylvan on 2005 02 21 at 10:00 PM • permalink

  41. “As to his having “lived the dream?, I don’t agree.  His personal life sounds like it was a booze and drug fueled misogynistic nightmare to me. I’m rather surprised he lived as long as he did, considering his self-destructive lifestyle. I wasn’t a bit surprised that he died by his own hand.”

    Agreed. His life and work raises the question, yet again, about the number of immensely talented people who have taken on board perverse and destructive values and attitudes.

    Posted by Rafe on 2005 02 21 at 10:24 PM • permalink

  42. hunter.s.thompson = the emperor’s new clothes.

    Posted by Lucky Nutsacks on 2005 02 21 at 11:12 PM • permalink

  43. With all his obsession with Nazis and Squaresville Republicans, did he ever have anything to say about the boat people?  The killing fields of Cambodia? And the explicit complicity of his good friend McGovern’s acolytes in both?

    Posted by richard mcenroe on 2005 02 21 at 11:37 PM • permalink

  44. Harpo Marx wrote of John Barrymore that it is sad when a great man passes but sadder when the greatness passes before the man does.

    Whatever he turned into or however lame he ended up he was one of the Greats.

    My own favourite piece was his own favourite; a piece at the end of Hells Angels (reproduced in The Great Shark Hunt) where he writes about taking his motorbike for a blast down the coast road alone late at night. He captured the essence of what it is to be alive as well as much as the essence of what it is to ride the big old English bikes.

    Posted by James Hamilton on 2005 02 21 at 11:59 PM • permalink

  45. ” His life and work raises the question, yet again, about the number of immensely talented people who have taken on board perverse and destructive values and attitudes.”

    Curious question indeed, Rafe

    I don’t know if immensely talented people have more personal demons than have those less creative types.  I rather doubt it, myself.  It could be that they simply express their angst more openly in their work, consequently more attention is focused upon it. 

    Perverse and destructive values and attitudes are developed in one’s childhood.  The true wonder is that so often talented people with rotten upbringings manage to beat back their demons long enough to create anything at all.

    Posted by Sylvan on 2005 02 22 at 12:12 AM • permalink

  46. Sandra Dee didn’t blow her brains out and leave her son to find the body. Gotta give her style points for that.

    Posted by Donnah on 2005 02 22 at 12:51 AM • permalink

  47. “He was getting embarrassing over the last few years especially his revolting statements following Sept 11th;..”

    I agree he made MANY revolting statements, even about 9/11. But, somehow I expected him to. I don’t know how to explain it, but even though I found much of what he said and did (especially as he became more drug addled) revolting, I never found him as revolting as say a Michael Moore. It’s probably because he was an icon while I was growing up, and his writings bring back some fond memories of youth.

    I can still get a chuckle reading some of his stories. Now, I realize how miserable and unhappy he probably was. But, I had to grow up myself before I could have any perspective on him.

    I don’t think his pontifications on 9/11 would embarrass today’s Left. He was anti-American PLUS an icon. If any of them were embarrassed, they would never say so in public. Their fellow Lefties would verbally beat them down.

    He HAD become an embarrassment to himself.
    People have related stories about making plans to hear him lecture, and being very disturbed to discover that the icon of one’s youth had become an old, incoherent drunk. At times he kept the audiences waiting for an hour, strolled onto the stage drunk, and gave a rambling talk.

    I have not collected URLS, but if you start here:

    Michelle Malakin

    and follow some of the links for HST she has, you should find at least 3 accounts, by different people, relating their experiences at seeing HST live.

    Very sad.

    I can see him as the drug and drunk addled old man who hated the US and could be used, along with Ozzy Osborne, as a poster kid for an anti-drug campaign. I can see all that yet still see the talent he had.

    It’s too bad he abused himself so much. Chronologically he wasn’t really that old, but he looked at least 20 years older. He could have had many more productive years ahead.

    Posted by CJosephson on 2005 02 22 at 01:52 AM • permalink

  48. You will find a very good obituary in the Daily Telegraph.

    Posted by jorgen on 2005 02 22 at 06:22 AM • permalink

  49. ..that sense of inevitable victory over the forces of Old and Evil. Not in any mean or military sense; we didn’t need that. Our energy would simply prevail. There was no point in fighting—on our side or theirs. We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave ...
    It was all an illusion. Purchased for the boomers by the greater generation which fought for freedom before giving life to them.
    The illusory high and beautiful wave has morphed into a tidal wave of hate which the current generation of fit and able soldiers will have to deal with:
    ... to take arms against a sea of troubles, and, by opposing, end them.
    There is no inevitable victory, but a need for much energy and focus on the nature of good and evil in order to prevail. We need that. The “no point in fighting” attitude has, hopefully, died with him.

    Posted by blogstrop on 2005 02 22 at 06:32 AM • permalink

  50. Am I alone in thinking Thompson was not a particularly talented writer, just a clever self-publicist who died because he ultimately relised that fact? I can name many better journalists without trying. - P. J. O’Rourke, Mark Steyn, Bernard Levin, Auberon Waugh, Colin Welsh, TE Utley, Emmett Tyrrell…

    I think that, like so many modern celebrities, his talent was simply a sort of mesmerism act, unsupported by real quality or content. His book on the Hell’s Angles was competent journalisn, no more.

    I predict that five years from now he will be utterly forgotten.

    Posted by Susan Norton on 2005 02 22 at 06:33 AM • permalink

  51. People have related stories about making plans to hear him lecture, and being very disturbed to discover that the icon of one’s youth had become an old, incoherent drunk. At times he kept the audiences waiting for an hour, strolled onto the stage drunk, and gave a rambling talk.

    How is Shane MacGowan these days?

    Posted by Jim Geones on 2005 02 22 at 08:28 AM • permalink

  52. It seems to me that most of the commenters here either have never read HST’s “old” stuff; or read the “new” stuff first and then were never able to appreciate the rest.

    The argument seems to be that he was ALWAYS a tired old hack and I just did not realize this in my youthful ignorance.  That could not be further from the truth - I always disagreed with many of HST’s views, I just loved his passion. 

    In a world where most pundits are just trying to “win” arguments (like that is possible); all Hunter did was opine - “like it” or “screw you”, he could not have cared less.

    That made me trust him in a way I still do not trust most people (pundits) I outright agree with.  People who don’t get this are missing the whole point of having a conversation/argument.

    Posted by rcburger on 2005 02 22 at 11:16 AM • permalink

  53. Concerning the Boston Globe, keep in mind the last election demonstrated they are neither a particularly honest or accurate newspaper.

    That said, if their version of the suicide is true, what a contemptible act.  A last petty display of arrogance and malice undeserving of sympathy.

    Posted by richard mcenroe on 2005 02 22 at 11:30 AM • permalink

  54. “I predict that five years from now he will be utterly forgotten.”

    Absolutely no way.

    Write that down.  I’ll see you in five years.

    He’ll go down in the history of American letters as a sensation on the order of, say, Poe, in terms of impact on form, and personal character, as well as (truly) Twain or (a comparison I don’t see as much as it deserves) Mencken for sheer high-wire audacity with a pen.  Thompson’s politics were nearly always obviously ass-end-up, to me, but I keep him with Mencken for his “there he stands” convictions, as well as the inborn talent beaten into blazing skill with which he laid them to page.

    No bullshit allowed.  Of course, that means one has to sort out, say, the John Chancellor LSD gag, etc.  But look: when he tagged Hubert Humphrey as a “contemptible and hopelessly dishonest old hack”, in 1972, that bullet was hitting a bone.  There was a point where he was doing this stuff all the time and just blowing everybody else’s doors off.  If anyone thinks “MSM” is lame today, go over Thompson’s stuff on Nixon and Watergate.  Yeah: it’ll be idly curious if we ever get to find out who Deep Throat was, but Thompson was painting the best big picture—in broad cultural/political terms—of what was going on.  At the time of those events, I was sixteen years old, son of an Air Force NCO living on-base where the bombers flew—knowing and living around kids who wanted to be hippies and professed all kinds of stupid hatred for what their fathers did—and several years in advance of my first joint.  Nobody’s anti-American freak.  And I didn’t read “Campaign Trail ‘72” until years later.  When I did, though, Thompson had written Nixon and (mostly) Watergate as it looked to me when it happened.

    Regardless of the ethics of taking up the subject, I’m not sure if “Hell’s Angels” is a genuine original contribution to literary form.  Whatever it is, it’s a pretty good example of something difficult to find anywhere else.

    Thompson will go a long, long way before he’s “utterly forgotten”.

    Posted by Billy Beck on 2005 02 22 at 12:27 PM • permalink

  55. I worked ‘security’ for Thompson duirng a piece of his ‘84 seaking tour thru Montana.  Got to spend 4 days with him From Billings to bozeman to Missoula.

    Even then it was easy to see his better days were behind him.  He’d run out of new ideas and could not see that the world had changed.  His rants against Reagan were the same rants against Nixon…only the names had changed. 

    There was plenty of booze during those four days. But HST was generous to me with his time during the off hours. I liked him, even as I concluded that by 1984 he had become Part Of The Past.

    Posted by outback71 on 2005 02 22 at 01:10 PM • permalink

  56. Poe invented the short story as an art form. When you walk into the bookstore and see the racks of mysteries, psychological thrillers,and horror novels, they all stemmed from Poe.  And that was just a side-line to his poetry.
    I don’t think HST will have that sort of impact.

    Posted by Donnah on 2005 02 22 at 06:11 PM • permalink

  57. “The 67-year-old author stuck a .45-caliber handgun in his mouth and killed himself while his wife listened on the phone and his son and daughter-in-law were in another room of his house.”

    Classy. The man taught us how (not) to live, and taught us how (not) to die.

    Posted by thibaud on 2005 02 22 at 07:29 PM • permalink

  58. Nice obithere!

    Posted by ilibcc on 2005 02 23 at 07:03 AM • permalink

  59. what an incredibly selfish, self-centered dick thompson was. his writing never did anything for me.

    Posted by Mr. Bingley on 2005 02 23 at 10:31 AM • permalink

  60. I think we are going to have to agree to disagree about his writing… Mr. B, Donnah, and the rest of the unimpressed crowd.

    Posted by Kathy K on 2005 02 23 at 07:29 PM • permalink

  61. Donnah?  You are making exactly my case.  I know who Poe is and what he did.  That’s why I cited him.  And Thompson is already approaching that sort of impact.  It’s been underway for decades, now.

    Posted by Billy Beck on 2005 02 23 at 07:43 PM • permalink

  62. Too young to catch the greatness, I suppose, but I didn’t really like his stuff either.  A lot of it was breezy stream-of-self-consciousness.  Once the hubbub simmers I’ll get to the library and read “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” or “Hell’s Angels.”  Then I’ll know.

    For now it occurs to me that HST, for all chemically-fueled brio, wasn’t living life to the fullest as much as avoiding life to the fullest.  He fled into substance abuse and the mythos of the counterculture, and submerged himself for decades.  His skills drowned long before he did.  God deliver us from such a life and death.

    Posted by Nightfly on 2005 02 23 at 07:51 PM • permalink

  63. “Hell’s Angels” is worthwhile.  It’s historically important as Thompson’s book-length debut, and—again—the form of the thing (the reporter in the story) is what’s important.  The story itself is a different matter.

    “Las Vegas” is horseshit.

    “Campaign Trail ‘72” is the most incisive commentary on American politics in the second half of the twentieth century.

    If my house was burning down and I only had time to make off with, say, ten books from about eight hundred or so around here, that would be one of them.

    Posted by Billy Beck on 2005 02 23 at 08:02 PM • permalink

  64. fair enough, kathy :)

    Posted by Mr. Bingley on 2005 02 23 at 09:40 PM • permalink

  65. Poe : Thompson = Hyperion : Satyr

    Posted by thibaud on 2005 02 24 at 02:16 AM • permalink

  66. For people who think that Hunter S Thompson left no mark on modern fiction, heck, you can see his influence in grunge fiction, the kids think it is new and fresh but it is just an aftershock from the example of the old pill popper.

    Posted by Rafe on 2005 02 24 at 06:51 AM • permalink

  67. “Poe : Thompson = Hyperion : Satyr”

    (cackle)  “Las Vegas” alone sold 60,000 copies last year.  He’s been doing that for over a quarter-century.

    Y’all just keep sniffing down your snoots and keep that lip curled like that.

    That’ll make it all right.

    Posted by Billy Beck on 2005 02 24 at 07:52 AM • permalink

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