A footnote to renowned journalist Hunter S. Thompson’s yearlong adventure in South America, which Thompson recounted with zest in The Proud Highway and elsewhere.
With zest, yes, but with some padding and stretching of the facts here and there. Travel writer Kevin does good work in following Thompson’s path across the continent, occasionally correcting the details, to revisit the places where the gonzo master lived and worked—some of them places that, readers of The Great Shark Hunt will remember, were thick with gringos who thought nothing of driving golf balls off penthouse decks into the teeming streets below. (“Golf,” one local rightly remarked to Kevin, “that’s only for the elite.”) Kevin spends much of his time, as did Thompson, in Colombia, where, half a century ago, Thompson marveled with thinly disguised fear at an epidemic of rural violence that left unfortunates beheaded and otherwise lifeless. Kevin updates the portrait by noting that among the last of the guerrillas in the Colombian outback, “there isn’t much ideology left, just a fanatical devotion to drug profits.” (Never mind that Thompson might have funded a squad or two with his consumption habits.) Kevin’s forays to places such as Machu Picchu have a by-the-numbers travel journalism feel, but when he’s onto meatier matters, he turns in memorable work—as when, for instance, he digs up some long-forgotten pieces that Thompson wrote in 1962 for the Brazil Herald, an expat publication with a readership in and around Rio de Janeiro and São Paolo of about 7,000. Writes Kevin, nicely wrapping up his perambulations, the paper’s society column “had a slightly glib, above-it-all tone, and I imagined it appealing to people like the British rooftop golfer and his well-connected chums.”
A minor but well-intentioned and entertaining entry in the ever-growing library of Thompsoniana.