3 Shots of Hunter S. Thompson

Daev reviews Hunter S. Thompson’s Hell’s Angels, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and The Rum Diary

Hunter S. Thompson - Hell's Angels

Hell’s Angels (Amazon.com)

Hell’s Angels (Amazon.co.uk)

Hell’s Angels (Powell’s Books – new or secondhand)

Hell’s Angels, Hunter S. Thompson’s first book, published
in 1966, is a highly involved, almost endearing, but highly critical
account of the civil chaos, the police hysteria, political polemic and
media hyperbole that trailed around after the Northern California
motorcycle gangs of the mid-sixties. Rather than assuming the distant
stance of the ‘objective’ journalist, Thompson spent a lot of time
partying with the Angels, going on ‘runs’ (mass bike rides to various
locations over holiday weekends) and just hanging out, talking about
everything and anything.

He was never a member – he was always under suspicion for being a
writer, he didn’t ride a chopped Harley Davidson (He rode a BSA,
which he totalled one night, and almost himself with it), and he
certainly didn’t (un)dress the part. Despite this, whenever Thompson
was at any mass meeting, he seems to have been between two stools –
his association with the gangs almost got him strung up by local
vigilantes, while he was always conscious of the Angels’ potential for
violence. Things came to a head when he was beaten up by them in 1966.

Throughout the book, Thompson does well to draw a comparison of the
extremes of 1960s America – here was the button-down collar American
Dream, the Norman Rockwell assumed innocence of post-war utopia…
confronted with their worst nightmares: smelly, dangerous
*bearded* madmen on gleaming bikes, licentious anarchists, people
without a future – The Hell’s Angels. Things were changing:

‘It may be that America is developing a whole new category
of essentially social criminals… persons who threaten the police and
the traditional social structure even when they are breaking no law…
because they view The Law with contempt and the police with distrust,
and this abiding resentment can explode without warning at the
slightest provocation.’

Without every apologising for their behaviour – the rapes, or
the riots, Thompson in his own singular gonzo style, does a convincing
job of getting close to the soul of the biker outlaw, exploring the
history and social status of ‘white trash’, and the influences that
make them what they are.

‘They are urban outlaws with a rural ethic and a new improvised style
of self-preservation. Their image of themselves derives mainly from
celluloid, from Western movies and the two-fisted TV shows that have
taught them most of what they know about the world they live in. Very
few read books, and in most cases their formal education ended at
fifteen or sixteen. What little they know of history has come from the
mass media, beginning with comics… so if they see themselves in
terms of the past, it’s because they can’t grasp the terms of the
present, much less the future. They are the sons of poor men and
drifters, losers and the sons of losers. Their backgrounds are
overwhelmingly ordinary.

Hunter S. Thompson is a pleasure to read, whatever the subject, but
he’s all the more enjoyable when rapping on about his own experiences.
A damned fine read, Dr. Duke.

Hunter S. Thompson - Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: a savage journey to the heart of the American dream (Amazon.com)

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (Amazon.co.uk)

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (Powell’s Books – new or secondhand)

Well, HOLY FUCKING JESUS…what can be said about *Fear and Loathing* does justice? Raoul Duke, a certifiable Doctor of Gonzo Journalism and his Samoan attorney, Dr. Gonzo pack a wealth of substances, and fight the goddamn bats all the way from California to Las Vegas to cover some dusty motorcycle race, which they miss, end up covering a police narcotics conference, whilst endeavouring to consume the most fantastic drug cocktails known this side of the galaxy. An absolute howl of a book, recently filmed by Terry Gilliam, and starring Johnny Depp.

The Rum Diary

The Rum Diary (Amazon.com)

The Rum Diary (Amazon.co.uk)

The Rum Diary (Powell’s Books – new or secondhand)

Based on Thompson’s earlier days, this time as a 22 year-old hack working for a newspaper in Peurto Rico…classic Thompson, sans drugs…but they’re buying rum by the *gallon*! Apparently this book was lying around in his ranch in the boonies till a friend convinced him to publish it. Despite his popular mantle as a mere drug-writer, this little book is packed with hilarity, tragedy, beauty and horror… if it’s not the police beatings that the main characters receive, it’s the incomparable fear that pervades the mobbed party mania on the island of St. John.

This story is, in true Thompson style, neither all fiction, or all fact, but a blending of the two. This becomes more apparent on a reading of volume 1 of his letters *The Proud Highway*.

Chief Bottle Washer at Blather
Writer, photographer, environmental campaigner and "known troublemaker" Dave Walsh is the founder of Blather.net, described both as "possibly the most arrogant and depraved website to be found either side of the majestic Shannon River", and "the nicest website circulating in Ireland". Half Irishman, half-bicycle. He lives in southern Irish city of Barcelona.