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He first rose to prominence known with the publication of Hell's Angels , a book for which he spent a year living and riding with the Hells Angels motorcycle gang in order to write a first-hand account of lives and experiences of its members. In he wrote an unconventional magazine feature entitled The Kentucky Derby Is Decadent and Depraved for Scanlan's Monthly which both raised his profile and established him as a writer with counter-culture credibility.
It also set him on a path to establishing his own sub-genre of New Journalism which he called "Gonzo," which was essentially an ongoing experiment in which the writer becomes a central figure and even a participant in the events of the narrative.
Thompson remains best known for Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas , a book first serialized in Rolling Stone in which he grapples with the implications of what he considered the failure of the s counterculture movement. It was adapted on film twice: Politically minded, Thompson ran unsuccessfully for sheriff of Pitkin County, Colorado in on the Freak Power ticket.
He became well-known for his dislike of Richard Nixon , whom he claimed represented "that dark, venal, and incurably violent side of the American character". Thompson's output notably declined from the mids, as he struggled with the consequences of fame, and he complained that he could no longer merely report on events as he was too easily recognized.
He was also known for his lifelong use of alcohol and illegal narcotics, his love of firearms , and his iconoclastic contempt for authoritarianism. Thompson committed suicide at the age of 67, following a series of health problems. In accordance with his wishes, his ashes were fired out of a cannon in a ceremony funded by his friend Johnny Depp and attended by friends including then-Senator John Kerry and Jack Nicholson.
Hari Kunzru wrote that "the true voice of Thompson is revealed to be that of American moralist On December 2, , when Thompson was six years old, the family settled at Ransdell Avenue in the affluent Cherokee Triangle neighborhood of The Highlands.
Hunter and his brothers were raised by their mother. Hunter also had a much older half-brother, James Thompson, Jr. Virginia worked as a librarian to support her children, and is described as having become a "heavy drinker" following her husband's death.
Interested in sports and athletically inclined from a young age, Thompson co-founded the Hawks Athletic Club while attending I. Bloom Elementary School ,  which led to an invitation to join Louisville's Castlewood Athletic Club,  a club for adolescents that prepared them for high-school sports.
Ultimately he never joined any sports teams in high school. Also in , he was accepted as a member of the Athenaeum Literary Association , a school-sponsored literary and social club that dated to Its members at the time, generally drawn from Louisville's wealthy upper-class families, included Porter Bibb , who later became the first publisher of Rolling Stone at Thompson's behest.
During this time Thompson read and admired J. Donleavy 's The Ginger Man. As an Athenaeum member, Thompson contributed articles to and helped produce the club's yearbook The Spectator. The group ejected Thompson in , citing his legal problems.
He served 31 days and, a week after his release, enlisted in the United States Air Force. He applied to become an aviator, but the Air Force's aviation - cadet program rejected his application. While serving at Eglin, he took evening classes at Florida State University. As sports editor, Thompson traveled around the United States with the Eglin Eagles football team, covering its games.
He could not use his name on the column because the Air Force did not allow airmen to hold other jobs. Thompson was discharged from the Air Force in November as an Airman First Class , his commanding officer having recommended him for an early honorable discharge.
Evans wrote to the Eglin personnel office. While working, he used a typewriter to copy F. In Time fired him for insubordination. He was fired from this job after damaging an office candy machine and arguing with the owner of a local restaurant who happened to be an advertiser with the paper. In , Thompson moved to San Juan, Puerto Rico , to take a job with the sporting magazine El Sportivo , which folded soon after his arrival.
Kennedy , turned him down. Nonetheless, the two became friends, and after the demise of El Sportivo , Thompson worked as a stringer for the New York Herald Tribune and for a few stateside papers on Caribbean issues, with Kennedy working as his editor. Highway 40 , eventually ending up in Big Sur working as a security guard and caretaker at Slates Hot Springs for an eight-month period in , just before it became the Esalen Institute.
While there, he published his first magazine feature in the nationally distributed Rogue magazine, on the artisan and bohemian culture of Big Sur.
Thompson had had a rocky tenure as caretaker of the hot springs, and his unflattering portrayal of Big Sur was not well-received by the residents. Even though Thompson promised to "retreat down to the rocks or up in the canyon whenever I feel the need to shoot," she evicted him on August 12, During this period, Thompson wrote two novels, Prince Jellyfish and The Rum Diary , and submitted many short stories to publishers - with little success.
The Rum Diary , a novel based on Thompson's experiences in Puerto Rico, was eventually published in His longtime girlfriend Sandra Dawn Conklin a. They married on May 19, , shortly after returning to the United States, and lived briefly in Aspen, Colorado , where they had a son, Juan Fitzgerald Thompson born March 23, The couple conceived five more times, but three pregnancies were miscarried , and the other two produced infants who died shortly after birth. Hunter and Sandy divorced in but always remained close friends.
In the family relocated to Glen Ellen, California , where Thompson continued to write for the National Observer on an array of domestic subjects. One story told of his visit to Ketchum, Idaho , to investigate the reasons for Ernest Hemingway 's suicide. He immersed himself in the drug and hippie culture that was taking root in the area , and soon began writing for the Berkeley underground paper Spider. The article appeared on May 17, , and after that Thompson received several book offers and spent the next year living and riding with the club.
The relationship broke down when the bikers perceived that Thompson was exploiting them for personal gain and demanded a share of the profits from his writings. An argument at a party resulted in Thompson suffering a savage beating or "stomping", as the Angels referred to it. Random House published the hard-cover Hell's Angels: A reviewer for The New York Times praised the work as an "angry, knowledgeable, fascinating and excitedly written book", that shows the Hells Angels "not so much as dropouts from society but as total misfits, or unfits—emotionally, intellectually and educationally unfit to achieve the rewards, such as they are, that the contemporary social order offers".
The reviewer also praised Thompson as a "spirited, witty, observant and original writer; his prose crackles like motorcycle exhaust". He criticized San Francisco's Hippies as devoid of both the political convictions of the New Left and the artistic core of the Beats , resulting in a culture overrun with young people who spent their time in the pursuit of drugs.
By late , Thompson and his family moved back to Colorado and rented a house in Woody Creek , a small mountain hamlet outside Aspen. From his hotel room in Chicago, Thompson watched the clashes between police and protesters, which he wrote had a great effect on his political views. The book was never finished, and the theme of the death of the American dream would be carried over into his later work.
A few weeks after the contract was signed, however, Johnson announced that he would not seek re-election, and the deal was canceled. In , Thompson ran for sheriff of Pitkin County, Colorado , as part of a group of citizens running for local offices on the "Freak Power" ticket.
The platform included promoting the decriminalization of drugs for personal use only, not trafficking, as he disapproved of profiteering , tearing up the streets and turning them into grassy pedestrian malls , banning any building so tall as to obscure the view of the mountains, disarming all police forces, and renaming Aspen "Fat City" to deter investors.
With polls showing him with a slight lead in a three-way race, Thompson appeared at Rolling Stone magazine headquarters in San Francisco with a six-pack of beer in hand, and declared to editor Jann Wenner that he was about to be elected Sheriff of Aspen, Colorado, and wished to write about the "Freak Power" movement.
Thompson Candidate for Sheriff. The Republican candidate agreed to withdraw a few days before the election in order to consolidate the anti-Thompson votes, in return for the Democrats withdrawing their candidate for county commissioner. Thompson later remarked that the Rolling Stone article mobilized his opposition far more than his supporters. For that article, editor Warren Hinckle paired Thompson with illustrator Ralph Steadman , who drew expressionist illustrations with lipstick and eyeliner.
Thompson and Steadman collaborated regularly after that. Although it was not widely read, the article was the first to use the techniques of Gonzo journalism , a style Thompson would later employ in almost every literary endeavor. The manic first-person subjectivity of the story was reportedly the result of sheer desperation; he was facing a looming deadline and started sending the magazine pages ripped out of his notebook.
The first use of the word "Gonzo" to describe Thompson's work is credited to the journalist Bill Cardoso. Cardoso first met Thompson on a bus full of journalists covering the New Hampshire primary. If this is a start, keep rolling. Horatio Alger gone mad on drugs in Las Vegas. Salazar had been shot in the head at close range with a tear gas canister fired by officers of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department during the National Chicano Moratorium March against the Vietnam War.
Finding it difficult to talk in the racially tense atmosphere of Los Angeles, Thompson and Acosta decided to travel to Las Vegas, and take advantage of an assignment by Sports Illustrated to write a word photograph caption on the Mint motorcycle race held there.
What was to be a short caption quickly grew into something else entirely. Thompson first submitted to Sports Illustrated a manuscript of 2, words, which was, as he later wrote, "aggressively rejected. The result of the trip to Las Vegas became the book Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas , which first appeared in the November issues of Rolling Stone as a two-part series. It is written as a first-person account by a journalist named Raoul Duke on a trip to Las Vegas with Dr.
Gonzo , his "pound Samoan attorney", to cover a narcotics officers ' convention and the "fabulous Mint ". During the trip, Duke and his companion always referred to as "my attorney" become sidetracked by a search for the American Dream , with "two bags of grass , seventy-five pellets of mescaline , five sheets of high-powered blotter acid , a salt shaker half full of cocaine , and a whole galaxy of multi-colored uppers , downers , screamers , laughers Coming to terms with the failure of the s countercultural movement is a major theme of the novel, and the book was greeted with considerable critical acclaim, including being heralded by The New York Times as "by far the best book yet written on the decade of dope".
The articles were soon combined and published as Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ' As the title suggests, Thompson spent nearly all of his time traveling the "campaign trail", focusing largely on the Democratic Party 's primaries - Nixon, as the Republican incumbent, performed little campaign work - in which McGovern competed with rival candidates Edmund Muskie and Hubert Humphrey. Thompson was an early supporter of McGovern and wrote unflattering coverage of the rival campaigns in the increasingly widely read Rolling Stone.
Thompson went on to become a fierce critic of Nixon, both during and after his presidency. After Nixon's death in , Thompson described him in Rolling Stone as a man who "could shake your hand and stab you in the back at the same time" and said "his casket [should] have been launched into one of those open-sewage canals that empty into the ocean just south of Los Angeles.
He was a swine of a man and a jabbering dupe of a president. While The Washington Post was lamenting Nixon's "lonely and depressed" state after being forced from the White House, Hunter wrote that '[i]f there were any such thing as true justice in this world, his [Nixon's] rancid carcass would be somewhere down around Easter Island right now, in the belly of a hammerhead shark.
Thompson's journalistic work began to seriously suffer after his trip to Africa to cover " The Rumble in the Jungle "—the world heavyweight boxing match between George Foreman and Muhammad Ali —in He missed the match while intoxicated at his hotel, and did not submit a story to the magazine.
As Wenner put it to the film critic Roger Ebert in the documentary Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Thompson , "After Africa he just couldn't write. He couldn't piece it together". Plans for Thompson to cover the presidential campaign for Rolling Stone and later publish book fell through after Wenner canceled the project without informing Thompson.
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