The Strange and Terrible Saga of Hunter S. Thompson
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 This breezy, superficial book is a ``violently unauthorized biography'' of America's notorious ``outlaw'' journalist. Part groupie, part hagiographer, Perry (coauthor, On the Bus, 1990--not reviewed) seems determined to prove that Thompson's life is interchangeable with his literary persona: a wild man whose capacity for drugs is Olympian, and who needs this excess to produce his eccentric art. Straightforward, conventional, and anecdotal, Perry's narrative avoids imitating Thompson's manic prose style. But there's something too sober and bland about this uncritical portrait based largely on interviews with Thompson's friends. As a 50's adolescent, Thompson raised hell in Louisville, Kentucky, where he failed to distinguish himself at school or sports. His obsession with ``the failure of the American Dream'' seems to be rooted in profound social resentment. A poor kid whose best friends were rich and Ivy-bound, Thompson landed in the Air Force, where he discovered that journalism could be both fictive and a free ride. As an angry young man, he wrote unpublished novels and committed unsavory deeds (woman-beating, gay-bashing, etc.). But his interest in literature and journalism, in Perry's view, redeems his boorish behavior. A stint with The National Observer allowed Thompson to develop his singular style of participatory reporting, but it wasn't until he covered the Kentucky Derby that his ``gonzo'' technique began. From then on, Thompson and his cohorts made themselves the story. ``Hooked on radical politics,'' Thompson found indulgence at Rolling Stone, where his work was coaxed out from him. Thompson's cocaine paranoia of the 80's accounts for his decline as a writer, says Perry, who nevertheless managed to midwife a piece from him as editor of Running magazine. A memoir of this experience adds a vivid, if self-serving, bit of detail to a legendary career. Despite much testimony to Thompson's debauchery, Perry skirts the important facts of his life (e.g., his family), and fails to see how sad a saga this is. (First printing of 50,000)

Pub Date: Jan. 15th, 1993
ISBN: 1-56025-012-7
Page count: 400pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 1992


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