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HST Goes Into the Darkness

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In a strange and ironic turn of events, two days after I wrote my review of his recent essay collection Hey Rube, Hunter S. Thompson took his own life at his home Owl Farm in Woody Creek, Colorado. So far there is very little hard news about Thompson’s death, except that it was suicide and the body was found by his son Juan and his new wife Anita was out of the house at the time. Thompson’s close relationship with Pitkin County Sheriff Bob Braudis means that very little info about his death is getting out besides a basic AP report which all the newspapers are picking up for their late editions.

It’s no secret that Thompson had a very volatile personality and was given to bouts of fairly severe depression. From his recent writings he also seems to have been dwelling on the lung cancer death of his friend Warren Zevon several months ago. It’s hard to believe that Thompson would take his own life, especially since he always seemed to be so much more full of life that most people. It’s probably too early to speculate on the reasons, but if I were a betting man like Thompson, I’d give good odds that he was diagnosed with terminal cancer in late December when he missed 6 deadlines in a row for his ESPN column. In the wake of Zevon’s slow and unpleasant death that’s exactly the kind of news which would send him into the blackest of moods, and given the choice between a slow death and a quick clean exit I have no doubt which Thompson would choose. It’s very telling that his wife was away at the time, while his son Juan who lives with his family in Denver was on the spot to find the body and to take care of the details.

In his 67 years Thompson authored over 20 books, including many collections of extraordinary essays and a couple of recent novels. His most famous works are Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas which was made into a movie with Johnny Depp as Thompson and Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail which formed part of the movie Where the Buffalo Roam starring Bill Murray as Thompson. Perhaps even more significant was his early work from the 60s, Hell’s Angels where he went undercover with the motorcycle gang and chronicled their out of control lifestyle. Recent works of note include Generation of Swine, Songs of the Doomed and Generation of Fear.

Thompson’s writing style was unique and he pioneered what came to be called ‘gonzo journalism’ where the author was a character in his own writing and the reality depicted in the writing was filtered through his perspective, sometimes with bizarre results. His books amused, informed and forced you to think outside of normal conventions. They were funny and sometimes brilliantly philosophical and often dark and troubling. No writer of the modern era more effectively injected his own moodiness and personality into everything he wrote. After reading a Thompson book you felt like you knew him more intimately than you perhaps ever wanted to.

In many ways Thompson’s gonzo style is the parent of much of the best work being done by bloggers. As a medium the weblog is ideally suited to the kind of immediate, personal and expressive writing which Thompson was so good at. Some of the best bloggers have clearly learned from his work and his style and are perpetuating their own version of it, combining factual reporting, opinion, insight and wild speculation into something unique and original. Thompson’s series of sports columns on ESPN had much of the character of a blog, appearing weekly and addressing whatever he felt like talking about in a very conversational way which was both engaging and sometimes overwhelming. The first couple of years of these essays are collected in his recent (and now final) book Hey Rube and the most recent ones which came out after the book can be read at the ESPN Archives.

Thompson lived hard, did a lot of drugs, reveled in every sort of experience and surrounded himself with an amazing circle of friends and admirers. He was irrascible and unpredictable and enigmatic. He lived life on his own terms and clearly chose to die that way as well. His personality, his energy and his insights will be missed, but he left behind a legacy of some of the most influential and innovative writing of the 20th century, and that will never go away.


More views and information on Thompson here.

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About Dave Nalle

Dave Nalle is Executive Director of the Texas Liberty Foundation, Chairman of the Center for Foreign and Defense Policy, South Central Regional Director for the Republican Liberty Caucus and an advisory board member at the Coalition to Reduce Spending. He was Texas State Director for the Gary Johnson Presidential campaign, an adviser to the Ted Cruz senatorial campaign, Communications Director for the Travis County Republican Party and National Chairman of the Republican Liberty Caucus. He has also consulted on many political campaigns, specializing in messaging. Before focusing on political activism, he owned or was a partner in several businesses in the publishing industry and taught college-level history for 20 years.
  • j.r.e.2.da.breakadawn

    Brilliant. Well done, Dave. Mahalo, bubba. We won’t see the likes of you around here for many a moon…

  • j.r.e.2.da.breakadawn

    On the same night as the deaths of Sandra Dee and John Raitt, as well as the ironically-timed revelation of our president’s former marijuana habit, Dr. Hunter S. Thompson is dead. And, almost immediately, I feel like the world is emptier as a sad result.

  • Wow, didn’t realize Sandra Dee died too. Can’t forget her fine work in The Dunwich Horror with Dean Stockwell. Rarely has H. P. Lovecraft been so surreal.

    That said, I feel a strange urge to post a review of something by Harlan Ellison. With Thompson gone Ellison and P. J. O’Rourke are the best we have left who follow in his footsteps.


  • j.r.e.2.da.breakadawn

    The summer before my sophmore year of high school is when I got turned on to Hunter Thompson. I was trying to sound more grown up than I was at 15 years old and I name-dropped PJ O’Rourke to an older friend of mine, trying to impress him. I’d read his stuff in Rolling Stone in the mid-80’s and liked what little I understood of it. Anyway, I mention his name and my friend immediately says, “You need to read ‘Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas’ by Hunter S. Thompson. Makes O’Rourke look like the fraud that he is!” That convinced me.

  • Hunter S Thompson and the way less well known but just as vital Claude Bessey were great influences on my young self.

    Great piece Dave, thanks.

  • Great Piece, Dave – the forefather of bloggers has checked out

  • KOB

    Nice write-up on Thompson. You made an interesting and thoughtful observation connecting writing styles by bloggers, immediate, fast-past, to Thompson’s legacy. In a way, perhaps. But while Thompson is often cited for his writing style, what made his writing interesting was his biting analysis and social commentary. It was the work of a remarkable genius, and true genius is a very rare thing. But while Thompson’s style is fast-paced, I believe his writing was the product of many revisions. He labored.

    >In many ways Thompson’s gonzo style is the parent of much of the best work being done by bloggers. As a medium the weblog is ideally suited to the kind of immediate, personal and expressive writing which Thompson was so good at.<

  • >>Makes O’Rourke look like the fraud that he is!” That convinced me.< < O'Rourke's not a fraud by any means, he's just not HST. His style is different, lighter, but he's a very good writer in his own way. >>But while Thompson’s style is fast-paced, I believe his writing was the product of many revisions. He labored. << Many bloggers labor too, and many aspire to achieve the immediacy of Thompson's work. The fact that Thompson wrote almost exclusively for print in periodicals is part of the character of what he wrote, and blogs certainly draw on the tradition of underground weeklies and counter-culture magazines. Dave

  • Dave: I want to apologize to you for thinking, and writing you were a poisonous pig-fucker with no more sense or taste than a septic tank.

    Now you’ve done your reading, do some learning, and find the truth in fiction.

    Remember profane means being of, and involved in the world.

    This was a really good article.

  • gonzo marx

    “when the going gets weird, the weird turn Pro” HST

    the Curse of Lono is finally fufilled…the greedheads and swine can rejoice…i can almost hear the Tin Man with his gravelly chortle pulling his hand out of the Shrub’s ass for a second so he can squirt some Iraqi’s blood onto the corners of his rusted mouth, enabling that shark like smile….screw them…i refuse to allow this Horror to drown me in the Kingdom of Fear

    a giant has fallen in the Wilderness…none of the “legit” Citizens will do more than a token Notice…but the freaks,the outlaws,the strange, the thinkers, the Doomed….they will notice.

    among the Tribe of the Weird there will be much Lamenting and consuming of peyote buttons as we Spirit Walk and rail against the gods as to why our Shaman has been taken from U.S.

    the gods won’t Answer, of course…they never do, and now there is one less Voice to put our muddied feet on the Path…one less Visionary to rub our noses in the fact that the Emperor is ALWAYS naked…you can almost hear the cackling from Hell as Nixon masturbates violently in small souled glee…

    when most of the hippies that had tuned in,turned on and dropped out shed their tye dye clothes for the yuppie suits and BMW’s of Reagan’s 80’s…becoming the fascist neo-Cons, epitome of all they had railed against, Hunter stood firm on the slippery muck of Principle and Truth…spewing the Words that helped tear away the Veil of Corporate propaganda and hauling us out of the rut induced by cowardly, politically correct, right-think.

    he was not the kind of man that burst thru a concrete wall spitting dust and looking good doing it, he was more the guy who watched that Freak consume the room, and then picked up all the loose change on the floor after the bar fight…but he always “stomped on the terra”, leaving indelible boot prints on the necks of our Spirits as he gnawed on the Skull of Truth with his very own teeth.

    so wash down that mescaline with a quart of Wild Turkey, spark a joint and wait for it all to kick in…give the good Doctor the mother of all Wakes that he deserves….

    me…i’ll be wondering who is going to feed the mojo-wire with the flotsam of America’s id, and wailing and gnashing my teeth in the realization that half a continent away in the quiet snows of Owl Farm, the peacocks are crying….


  • HW Saxton

    alienboy, Are you talking about Claude
    Bessy that used to be the editor and a
    writer for “SLASH” magazine from L.A.???

  • HW Saxton

    alienboy, Are you talking about Claude
    Bessy that used to be the editor and a
    writer for “SLASH” magazine from L.A.???

  • HW Saxton

    Whooops! Sorry ’bout dat double post.

  • >>This was a really good article.<< Why thanks, Jim. Now, next time you try to spread the gospel of liberalism, take a deep breath and consider whether what you type would convince Hunter S. Thompson of if he'd just scoff at you. Dave

  • gonzo marx

    yeah..i did forget to say thanx, Dave…a damn fine Article and a useful preAmble fer my lil screed..hope it got a few smiles…

    “this Body holding me,
    reminds me of my own Mortality;
    embrace this Moment,
    we are Eternal,
    all this pain is an
    Illusion” from Parabola by Tool

    a bit of a comforting Thought, eh?


  • HW Saxton: yes, that’s the guy. we worked together for some time and had similar attitudes and interests.

    Of course, I forgot to mention that other late great writer, Lester Bangs.

  • Dave, I was willing to think about liking you, but when you accuse me of supporting the Liberal Party, you might as well just spit in my drink.

    I have never, and never will support the corrupt shenanigans of the Liberal Party, and to aid as a stooge in smear tactics in turning words meaningless means you are nothing more than fungal rot.

    Good intentions do not make you less corrupt, for that is the slipway on which most of the evil vessels are greased with and launched.

  • Liberal Party? I didn’t say anything about the Liberal party. I said Liberal in the more generic sense. I realize now that I should have said socialist or perhaps communist – then you’d have been able to identify with it better.


  • Read like a press release IMHO – nothing but a reiteration of facts. And the blogger analogy, Dave doesn’t have the good grace to say, was made by many before him.

  • What so terrorizes and strikes fear into the average stupid USAian that they won’t acknowledge the the blind, dumb foot on their neck. That they fear thinking or expressing dissonant thoughts.

    They are too cowardly to even disagree with their own bad choices.

    Polluted simpletons not even up to the standard to hold in contempt.

  • And let me guess, your favourite New Order album is “Power, Corruption and Lies” because that suits your world-view without having to think about what it means.

  • Jim, please try and make some sense here. And who you’re replying to. Obliged.

  • Temple writes:
    Jim, please try and make some sense here. And who you’re replying to. Obliged.

    What, you’re trying to tell me his favourite New Order album is “Low-life”?

  • Actually, “Low-life”, now that I re-listen to it, is the favourite New Order album of internet fucktards, they just don’t realize it underminds what they think they believe in, while corrupting everything.

    Oh I’ve just come
    From the land of the sun
    From a war that must be won
    In the name of truth
    With our soldiers so brave
    your freedom we will save
    With our rifles and grenades
    And some help from God
    I want to see my family
    My wife and child waiting for me
    I’ve got to go home
    I’ve been so alone, you see

  • >>Read like a press release IMHO – nothing but a reiteration of facts. And the blogger analogy, Dave doesn’t have the good grace to say, was made by many before him.<< I wrote that within 3 hours of Thompson's death, so I hadn't exactly had a lot of chance to read other peoples comments, so the blogger analogy was new to me - plus the fact that others agree makes it more appropriate, not less. BTW, who or what is New Order? I take it they're some form of music that I've never heard? Dave

  • Nalle: never heard of New Order? If that’s not some subtle attempt at humour (unlikely!), you need to spend a lot more time in Receive mode, rather than Transmit.

    In addition to the above mentioned, BOTH fine albums, you can find “Movement” or, for a quick introduction, go for the non-stop fun remixes and 12″ versions found on the “Substance” compilation.

    Then you might want to consider exploring their ancestor band Joy Division – but if you do, please don’t say that their best song is “Love Will Tear Us Apart” as most people do. It isn’t, not by a long way.

    *wanders off, muttering to self…*

  • Not sure if the suicide connection (JoyDiv/NewOrd and HST) was intentional in Jim’s choice of band to berate Dave.

    Natural comparison to bloggers, Dave

  • Ok, Joy Division I’m familiar with. Is ‘hate’ too strong a word? Can’t stand their music. Though I did see an amusing and bizarre biopic on the guy who started the record label they were on. And I have heard of New Order, just known nothing at all about them and haven’t really heard their music to my knowledge. But if they’re like Joy Division I haven’t missed much.

    BTW, I am familiar with OMD and the Gang of Four – does that help?


  • Eric Olsen

    New Order is considerably less dark than Joy Division if for no other reason that Bernard’s high, thin vocals couldn’t be much more different than those of Ian Curtis. New Order is also, strangely, both more electronic and more organic than Joy Division.

    Bill Sherman reviewed a best-of collection here

  • Bleh, MORE electronic than Joy Division? Not my bag of fish.


  • The Factory Records label was one of the great artistic successes of the Manchester punk and post-punk scene.

    Itwas actually run by a group of people but I’d guess Nalle saw something featuring Tony Wilson, who is one of the more interesting brains of that scene. He was a journalist and TV presenter before the punk scene started. The fact that he got involved rather than simply maintaining journalistic disconnection always struck me aas impressive.

    If you listen to the first Joy Division album, Unknown Pleasures, on some dark angry night of the soul, really really loud, you will hear some of the most pained rock since iggy and the stooges first bled!

    And Olsen is right, New Order are both more Electronic and more Funky than JD

  • I was actually thinking more Martin Hannett.

    But all I really want is if I want somebody to die, I’ll suggest Dee Nalle graze their work, process what he can, and expell the methane cloud of death.

    Feel free to read Bukowski and Burroughs or Kathy Acker because they are already dead.

    If you go anywhere near Harry Crews, I will slap a retraining order on you. The same with Terry Gilliam.

    Courtney Love, on the other hand …

    oh, who am I foolin’, she’s got diseases which would kill you with a sneeze.

    You could probably try to bugger Tucker Carlson to death or give Coulter a blowjob.