A novel that shows our nation's path from refreshing nonconformity to end-times careerism.


This autobiographical novel about a year spent as Hunter S. Thompson’s personal assistant contains crazy highs (of course) and many dismal lows.

This is a harrowing book, depicting Thompson (here called Walker Reade) in the twilight of his career, with his writing powers waning and self-esteem in peril. He needs an assistant—and hires only young, female ones—to help him stay on track to finish a book. Della Pietra’s narrator, aspiring writer Alley Russo, wants to escape her dreary bartending gig on Long Island and the low expectations of her blue-collar family. She arrives in Colorado to find a group of hangers-on trying to keep Walker happy by laughing at his jokes and sharing his cocaine, and she feels the pressure to fall into lock step. The extent to which she does is what makes this story so horrifying, as well as fascinating. Alley clicks with Walker, and she captures his surly, blunt, occasionally brilliant dialogue with a writer’s ear. She joins in with the drug-taking and constant drinking, having been told it’s part of her duties, and also keeps him writing—an achievement in this atmosphere. But Walker has become a mean drunk and submits the women around him to a lot of abuse. He insists Alley dress sexier, even driving her to a local mall and giving judgments on outfits she models for him. He calls her “moron” one minute and has his hand on her knee the next. That an intelligent Ivy League graduate chooses to go along with this treatment, feeling there’s no other path away from anonymity, gives the book an undercurrent of horror. That said, it has the allure of a car crash—you’ll keep reading as Walker’s antics become more outrageous and his mood more foul. There's also something poignant in the vulnerability he occasionally reveals to his young assistant; they’re attracted to each other, but this is one area Della Pietra seems to have gauged as too dangerous to tap. Nevertheless, their intimacy grows even in a cloud of hangovers, freshly mixed drinks, and the ever present drugs. At one point, Alley muses that Walker can’t give up his wildly indulgent lifestyle because it’s too much a part of his public identity. It's simply sad, though, that a writer of Walker's caliber thinks the main thing he has to contribute to American letters is being constantly wasted.

A novel that shows our nation's path from refreshing nonconformity to end-times careerism.

Pub Date: July 28, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-5011-0014-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Touchstone/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: April 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2015

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A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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This is good Hemingway. It has some of the tenderness of A Farewell to Arms and some of its amazing power to make one feel inside the picture of a nation at war, of the people experiencing war shorn of its glamor, of the emotions that the effects of war — rather than war itself — arouse. But in style and tempo and impact, there is greater resemblance to The Sun Also Rises. Implicit in the characters and the story is the whole tragic lesson of Spain's Civil War, proving ground for today's holocaust, and carrying in its small compass, the contradictions, the human frailties, the heroism and idealism and shortcomings. In retrospect the thread of the story itself is slight. Three days, during which time a young American, a professor who has taken his Sabbatical year from the University of Montana to play his part in the struggle for Loyalist Spain and democracy. He is sent to a guerilla camp of partisans within the Fascist lines to blow up a strategic bridge. His is a complex problem in humanity, a group of undisciplined, unorganized natives, emotionally geared to go their own way, while he has a job that demands unreasoning, unwavering obedience. He falls in love with a lovely refugee girl, escaping the terrors of a fascist imprisonment, and their romance is sharply etched against a gruesome background. It is a searing book; Hemingway has done more to dramatize the Spanish War than any amount of abstract declamation. Yet he has done it through revealing the pettinesses, the indignities, the jealousies, the cruelties on both sides, never glorifying simply presenting starkly the belief in the principles for which these people fought a hopeless war, to give the rest of the world an interval to prepare. There is something of the implacable logic of Verdun in the telling. It's not a book for the thin-skinned; it has more than its fill of obscenities and the style is clipped and almost too elliptical for clarity at times. But it is a book that repays one for bleak moments of unpleasantness.

Pub Date: Oct. 21, 1940

ISBN: 0684803356

Page Count: 484

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1940

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