HUNTER S THOMPSON 1937-2005

The Gonzo writer apparently commits suicide…

The influential “GONZO” journalist HUNTER S THOMPSON was found dead at his COLORADO home yesterday (February 20).

According to the author’s son Juan, Thompson died at his fortified home in Aspen due to a self-inflicted gun shot wound. He was aged 67.

Thompson was best known for his 1971 book ‘Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas’, a funny, extreme and often bizarre account of a drink and drug-fuelled week spent running wild in America’s gambling capital. The book came to characterise “Gonzo Journalism”, a writing style the author pioneered which fictionalised real events, placing the journalist – and by extension the reader – at the centre of the story.

Hunter S Thompson was born Louisville, Kentucky, in 1937, however he did not really show an interest in journalism until he worked on the newspaper at Eglin Airbase while serving in United States Air Force in his 20s.

His independent attitude, which would later see him worshipped as an anti-establishment figurehead, saw him leave the military early and initially attempt to become a novelist. However using journalism to make-ends-meet, it was an assignment on Californian outlaw culture which saw Thompson make his name and led to his first book ’Hells Angels’.

Establishing the National Affairs desk at ‘Rolling Stone’ magazine, Thompson’s attacks on mainstream American society, plus his frank admissions of his drug habit, saw him become a voice for 1960 and 70s counter culture, however his unique insight and ability to dig deep into a story ensured that despite the “Dr Gonzo” caricature he encouraged he left a serious legacy of literary journalism, including his firsthand account of Richard Nixon’s re-election in ‘Fear And Loathing On The Campaign Trail ‘72’.

A passionate music fan, Thompson drew early inspiration from his hero Bob Dylan, and co-wrote the song ‘You’re A Whole Different Person When You’re Scared’ with his friend, the late Warren Zevon, while an audio sample of him reading his scathing Richard Nixon obituary appeared on Paul Oakenfold’s album ’Bunkka’.

However he retained a healthy disrespect for the music industry, famously calling it “a cruel and shallow trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men lie like dogs. There is also a negative side”.

Having published almost a dozen books in his career, a film of ‘Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas’ starring Johnny Depp appeared in 1998, while a big screen adaptation of Thompson’s sole novel ‘The Rum Diary’ is due out later this year.

As far as epithets, Dr Gonzo is quotable enough to provide his own, and his personal maxim: “When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro”, aptly sums his unpredictable, uncontrollable and extreme life.