The late master of gonzo journalism and dispenser of drug-addled opinion returns with this collection of his pieces for Rolling Stone magazine.
There was a time when Rolling Stone was hip, and Thompson (Kingdom of Fear, 2003, etc.), made it more so, even as he turned the world of straight journalism on its head. In 1970, he wrote his first piece for the magazine, a twisted manifesto/report on his campaign for a new kind of mayor in Aspen, Colo.: “Our program, basically, was to drive the real estate goons completely out of the valley…No more land rapes, no more busts for ‘flute-playing' or ‘blocking the sidewalk’….zone the greedheads out of existence.” (Thompson records that he lost by only six votes.) He followed with a closely reported, quietly angry piece on the murder-by-cop of Los Angeles activist and fellow reporter Ruben Salazar: “When he went to cover the rally that August afternoon, he was still a ‘Mexican-American journalist.’ But by the time his body was carried out of the Silver Dollar, he was a stone Chicano martyr.” After that piece, the going quickly turned weird as Thompson embarked upon his “Fear and Loathing” series of misadventures, the best (and best-known) of them being the immortal, howlingly funny Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas, followed by a superbly bizarre take on the Super Bowl and then, in 1992, a similarly wild piece recounting a supposed romp with Clarence Thomas in the outback of Nevada: “What the hell? I thought. It’s only rock & roll. And he was, after all, a Judge of some kind…Or maybe not. For all I knew he was a criminal pimp with no fingerprints, or a wealthy black shepherd from Spain.” Included here are numerous lesser-known pieces as well, among them an elegant obituary for Timothy Leary, one of the “pure warriors who saw the great light and leapt for it.”
Much of this work is available in earlier collections such as The Great Shark Hunt, but that doesn’t make this any less essential—a fine gathering by one of the best writers of our time.