Discovering authors by chance is an indescribable thrill. Of the writers passed it brings them back to life again, and of the ones still drawing breath and enduring gravity, well they become notes, jotted down with headlines following rough bulleted interview questions. Such expectant wandering was how I got to know Hunter S. Thompson in a record store in Fremantle, Western Australia.
It was a copy of Rolling Stones magazine, issue 684, dated June 16 1994 in a pile stacked loosely on the floor that seemed long forgotten. Two names lined the top of the page — Nixon & Hunter S. Thompson.
Led by the contents to page 42, I found Hunter ruthlessly pounding on Nixon’s past in a fiercely transparent sleuth of personal memories and opinion in the wake of the 37th U.S president’s death. He recalled dialogue between him and his nemesis;
I have had my own bloody relationship with Nixon for many years, but I am not worried about it landing me in hell with him. I have already been there with that bastard, and I am a better person for it. Nixon had the unique ability to make his enemies seem honorable, and we developed a keen sense of fraternity. Some of my best friends have hated Nixon all their lives. My mother hates Nixon, my son hates Nixon, I hate Nixon, and this hatred has brought us together.
Nixon laughed when I told him this. “Don’t worry,” he said, “I, too, am a family man, and we feel the same way about you.”An excerpt from ‘He Was A Crook’ by Hunter S. Thompson, Rolling Stones, June 1994
After reading the article in full, available here, my own malaise towards Nixon pertaining nature’s impeccable gift turned infamous wonder plant was remembered… Access denied to fibre and remedy, destroyed at his hand with the dirty talons of plastic and paper company honchos in 1971.
One not only reads Hunter S. Thompson, she falls deep into the melody of a musician whose instrument is a typewriter. His rhythm is most compelling, awakening a spirit now passed but utterly familiar. Drug experiments and unreasonable murmurs turned bursts of ferocity. Curiosity without limits and relationships unearthed by flashing choices seared into time. These are the guidelines for a lawless gonzo journalist such as H.S.T.
An impeccable display of his life lived wildly was recently purchased by our local library, and I’m the first to borrow it.
I must have been more than halfway through ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas’ when I noticed the B on the spine. “It’s a biography?!” my thought cast a line into some twisted awe towards the guy on account of his survival, at least. Surely enough, yes, the two-part novel is a part fictional/fantasised retelling of consecutive journeys to Nevada with his attorney and Chicano activist Oscar Zeta Acosta in March and April 1971. The Nixon timeline merges and makes continued sense.
The text ebbs and flows to the pace of his own heart, in step with his angina pectoris, set to ease with amyls cracked below the nose. I read it in a week thanks to the drug-fuelled prose, at times my body seemed to mimic the mescaline and reds, moving beyond regular rhythm and senses.
Still yet to see the film, I wanted to ensure the book was through so the set in my mind was not comprised. I did, however, take a dive into YouTube where I learned more about Johnny Deep & Hunter’s friendship and the writer’s character at large. With the combination of reading the story and being equipped with such personal intel, I’m ready to dive headfirst into the warped scenes onscreen tonight.
In terms of reading H.S.T, next in line are the journalist’s four volume series, The Gonzo Papers.
Have you read any of them?
- Gonzo Papers, Vol. 1: The Great Shark Hunt: Strange Tales from a Strange Time. (New York, Summit Books, 1979; Simon & Schuster, 2003, ISBN 0-7432-5045-1)
- Gonzo Papers, Vol. 2: Generation of Swine: Tales of Shame and Degradation in the ’80s. (New York, Summit Books, 1988; Vintage, 1989, ISBN 0-679-72237-8; Simon & Schuster, 2003, ISBN 0-7432-5044-3)
- Gonzo Papers, Vol. 3: Songs of the Doomed: More Notes on the Death of the American Dream. (New York, Summit Books, 1990; Pocket, 1991, ISBN 0-671-74326-0; Simon & Schuster/Touchstone, 2002, ISBN 0-7432-4099-5)
- Gonzo Papers, Vol. 4: Better Than Sex: Confessions of a Political Junkie. (New York, Random House, 1994; Ballantine Books, 1995, ISBN 0-345-39635-9)
“I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence or insanity to anyone, but they’ve always worked for me.”Hunter S. Thompson