Journalist-anarchist Hunter Stockton Thompson (a.k.a. Dr. Gonzo and Raoul Duke) came of age in the 1960s with New Journalism—a reporting style that, according to writer Tom Wolfe, uses scene by scene description, complete dialogue, third person point-of-view, and careful reporting of everyday gestures. Thompson's exaggeration of the style became known as Gonzo Journalism, epitomized by his classic, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream (1971). In it, Thompson, as Raoul Duke, dissects Las Vegas through a drug-twisted, weapons-wielding, paranoid filter.
Born July 18, 1937 in Louisville, Kentucky, Thompson started writing for the base newspaper while in the U.S. Air Force. Afterwards, he continued as a sports writer, Caribbean correspondent, and columnist for various publications. His first book, Hells Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga (1966), was written after riding with the Angels for eighteen months. In 1970, "The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved" was published in Scanlan's Monthly. The piece broke through the New Journalism style and was named "Gonzo," acknowledging its highly subjective style, its grit and spontaneity, conveying an impression of hastily scribbled notes rather than a polished work.
Thompson refined his Gonzo technique in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, in which his assignment of reporting on the Mint 400 off-road race and the National District Attorneys' Drug & Narcotics Conference takes a back seat to the story of his adventures in Las Vegas. Accompanied by Ralph Steadman's sketches, the story draws the reader into a highly-charged psychedelic nightmare where it is difficult to separate fact from fiction or hallucination. As a travelogue, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, as Thompson biographer William McKeen, says, "might frighten off would-be vacationers to Las Vegas."
From the 1960s through the 1980s, Thompson wrote for Rolling Stone and High Times. As a self-proclaimed anarchist, Thompson hated hypocrisy, which he saw everywhere. In his opinion, objectivity maintained the status quo of corruption; to be honest a writer could not be objective. His excesses with alcohol, weapons, sex and drugs, especially psychedelics, made him look like an out-of-control madman, an image he did little to dispel. Despite the personal abuse, he wrote continuously and produced numerous books and collected writings. The Gonzo Papers, Volumes 1-4 are primarily collections of correspondence.
Thompson was portrayed in the character of "Uncle Duke" in the cartoon strip Doonesbury. His life was brought to the screen in Where the Buffalo Roam (1980), with Bill Murray as Dr. Gonzo. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas was made into a 1998 movie with Johnny Depp as Thompson.
On February 20, 2005, at his home in Woody Creek, Colorado, Dr. Gonzo put a revolver in his mouth, pulled the trigger, and left others to clean up.
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