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Who is Hunter S. Thompson?

By Garry Crystal
Updated May 23, 2024
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Hunter S. Thompson was born in Louisville, Kentucky in 1937. He was a writer and journalist who created a new type of journalism called Gonzo. This involved not only writing what was happening, but also getting into the action of the story. Gonzo journalism also involved creating a story where there wasn't one before, stretching the truth until you couldn't tell the difference between reality and fiction.

Hunter S. Thompson got his first writing job with the US airforce. He wrote sports articles, but after only a year he left the airforce with an honorable discharge. Since his youth he had an adversity to authority and rules, and this continued throughout his life.

As a young man, Hunter S. Thompson embodied the concept of the roving reporter, forever on the move. Wherever there was writing work to be found, he would take off. San Juan, South America, Big Sur -- always writing and always in debt. His collection of writings from this part of his life, published in his book, The Proud Highway, chronicles a man wading through unrelenting debt and disaster. His only aim was to get his words into print.

Thompson's first book was, Hell's Angels: The Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gang. He wrote from a personal point of view, dispensing with objectivity and journalism protocol. Thompson immersed himself into the Hell's Angels way of life. The book became a best seller and the Hell's Angels thanked Thompson by giving him a severe beating.

In his next and most famous book, Hunter S. Thompson would take Gonzo journalism to the extreme. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream, published in 1971, is now seen as one of the great American novels. It details a drug-fuelled trip to Las Vegas with Thompson as Raoul Duke accompanied by his attorney, Doctor Gonzo. The book adheres to the rule that the best fiction is truer than any journalism.

Hunter S. Thompson was a savage satirist. Books such as The Great Shark Hunt and Songs of the Doomed struck a chord with a generation disillusioned by the atrocities of Vietnam and the Watergate scandal. Thompson loved to rail against corporate "greedheads" and corrupt politicians. The satire was biting, and although exaggerated, never strayed far from the truth.

Always a political animal, Hunter S. Thompson ran for Sheriff of Aspen County in 1970. He lost by a small amount of votes, but wrote up the account in his book, Better than Sex. Hollywood soon recognized the potential in Thompson's work and two films to date have been made about his life. Bill Murray played Hunter S. Thompson in Where the Buffalo Roam and Johnny Depp played him in the film adaptation of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

Hunter S. Thompson was never mainstream. He always embraced the underground and counter-culture ways of life. In 2005, Thompson committed suicide with a shotgun blast to the head. It was the same method used by Ernest Hemingway, one of his favorite writers. At his funeral, his ashes were shot from a cannon, a fitting epitaph for a man who lived his life weird, fast and dangerous.

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Discussion Comments
By anon73270 — On Mar 26, 2010

Actually, he shot himself in the head with a .45

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