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 those goddamn animals?”
This is the opening paragraph to Hunter S Thompson’s Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas. With an opening like that you couldn’t help but want to read on. It’s a crazy, fictional account of a trip to Las Vegas to investigate the dark side of the American Dream. Fuelled with boot full of drugs, Hunter and his ‘Samoan attorney’ engage in a manic, surreal tour of the sleaze capital of the world.
His next book, Fear And Loathing On The Campaign Trail, has a similar premise, though it’s a factual account of a year spent on the campaign trail during the 1972 Us Presidential election with the likes of Nixon, Agnew, Wallace, Humphries, McGovern, Muskie etc. This book brought about the term ‘Gonzo journalism’, where the writer himself is just as much part of the story as his subjects. Perhaps he is even the STORY. We follow Hunter following the candidates, stoned/pissed out of his mind much of the time, trying to make sense of what is going on. We also see the corruption, the double-dealing, the thuggery that is all part and parcel of one of the great circus’s of modern America.
Hunter S Thompson was born in Lousville Kentucky in 1937, eventually becoming a journalist with Rolling Stone, where several of his books were serialized before being published. He once spent a year living and riding with Hells Angels before writing a book about them – Hells Angels: The Strange And Terrible Saga Of The Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs – which made his name internationally. He was known for his lifelong use of alcohol and illegal drugs, his love of firearms and his contempt for authoritarianism, and remarked that, “I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity to anyone, but they’ve always worked for me.”
While suffering a bout of health problems, Thompson committed suicide at the age of 67. Per his wishes, his ashes were fired out of a cannon in a ceremony funded by his friend, Johnny Depp, who starred in two films made of his books.


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