A fresh biography of a significant period in the life of Hunter S. Thompson (1937-2005).
It was inevitable that Thompson’s canon would eventually reach the level of scholarly seriousness it had always merited. While many of his fans are still inspired to blaze off on desert road trips, spun on intoxicants and armed with copies of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, his other important work beckons re-evaluation, even renaissance. In his second book, Literary Hub nonfiction editor Denevi (MFA Program/George Mason Univ.; Hyper: A Personal History of ADHD, 2014) carves out a decade of prime terrain, chronicling Thompson’s career from his first big break with Hells Angels through publication of Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72, when he grew into a prized misfit American journalist. Beginning with the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the author stresses its impact on Thompson, whose already broad political worldview was quickly morphing into a personal mission: war against anything that threatened bedrock American principles. Whether chronicling Thompson’s coverage of the 1968 Democratic National Convention, his running for sheriff as a “Freak Party” candidate, his time embedded with George McGovern’s 1972 press entourage, or the eventual resignation of Richard Nixon, Denevi hits all the key events, underscoring that Thompson was a serious journalist, driven by passion and motivated by injustice. The author clearly conducted significant research; a full quarter of the book is endnotes and source citations. Fleshing out the narrative with minutiae like what Thompson was listening to with the Hells Angels on first meeting (“The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan”) or what he drank with right-wing pundit Pat Buchanan when they met (whiskey), the impressive details anchor the story with the kind of texture and scope that Thompson always appreciated.
A thorough, timely, tautly written, and credible volume certain to be assigned by scores of journalism professors and a great new book for fans ready to move past Thompson’s alter ego, Raoul Duke, to the next level.