Hunter S Thompson would have been 75 today, had he not blown his brains out one cold winter’s day in 2005. Thompson was a brilliant and exuberant writer, who may have been the last great journalist to inspire generations of wannabes to follow in his footsteps - perhaps more for the drink, drugs and counter-culture life-style, than a dedication to the solitary toil.
Thompson’s best writing came between 1965 and 1980, with Hell’s Angels, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail and The Great Shark Hunt. These books contain the essays, articles and tales that revolutionized the contents of every editors in-tray, and spawned a flood of Gonzo-lite writers.
Sadly, the life of excess took its toll, and by 2005, Thompson’s writing was read with the affection one has for an old and trusty dog, now too gone to run and hunt through the woods, but one is warmed by a sense of longing for those past adventures shared. The problem for Thompson was he became, or was perceived to be his alter ego Raoul Duke, and a point he raised during a BBC documentary in 1978:
“I’m never sure which one people want me to be [Thompson or Duke], and sometimes they conflict… I am living a normal life, but beside me is this myth, growing larger and getting more and more warped. When I get invited to Universities to speak, I’m not sure who they’re inviting, Duke or Thompson… I suppose that my plans are to figure out some new identity, kill off one life and start another.”
It left Thompson the writer little scope to progress with his literary ambitions. He became cuffed to the drug-addled doctor, firing handguns into the reddening twilight.
Yet, for all that, Thompson has been and still is a major influence on journalism and blogging and literature. How long for, is up to those who can come fresh to his work and see the brilliance of the man and his talents. But today, let’s celebrate the great Gonzo’s 75th anniversary.
Happy Birthday Hunter S Thompson!
Below is Buy the Ticket. Take the Ride a profile of HST, with some fine moments, with rare archive, a selection of interviews (including John Cusack, Johnny Depp, Ed Bradley) and a bizarre opening sequence with the inimitable Gary Busey.