It was bound to happen. First Ralph Steadman bares all (The Joke’s Over: Ralph Steadman on Hunter S. Thompson, 2006), and now the neighbors come bearing savage tales of the late, great gonzo god.
Hunter S. Thompson was lucky to have landed on a spot where the sheriff turns a blind eye to funny-smelling smoke and white lines not on the highway. Said sheriff has served his constituency well enough that they’ve returned him to office every election since 1986, though Braudis must have wished at times for a quieter and more law-abiding constituent, especially when Thompson discharged a firearm—a favorite pastime—directly into one of his employees. “Well, it could be marginal, and I emphasize marginal, criminal endangerment,” says the D.A., on hearing the improbable tale of the disappearing bear whom Thompson was aiming at. Concludes Braudis, “Hunter got a lecture from me, ranging from condemning cavalier reliance upon firearms to suggesting alternatives to ‘bounce-shooting’ in the interest of bear mitigation,” adding that though Thompson was miffed, the friendship survived. Aspen artist Cleverly chimes in with tales of his own, recounting odd encounters with Thompson groupies—a less sane lot than most, not surprisingly—and ingestions in the company of the grand man himself, who, we learn, mumbled not just when onstage and was even less reliable and regularly more tweaked than even the fiercest of previous reports revealed. Yet Thompson was also a Southern gentleman capable of ordinary chivalry and much generosity, and, of course, a hero to his friends, who thankfully keep the hero worship set to low here. “Not that Hunter didn’t merit the awe,” writes Cleverly. “It’s just that those who knew Doc knew that an attitude of awe rarely paid off.” There are even a few matters for biographers to ponder: Did Thompson really spend time in Saigon? Was he really pals with V.S. Naipaul?
A pleasant addition to Thompsoniana, though only completists will find it required reading.