Most readers know Hunter S. Thompson for his 1971 book Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream.
“The Motorcycle Gangs: Losers and Outsiders” (The Nation, 1965) The article that would become the basis for Thompson’s first book, Hell’s Angels: The Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs. ”When you get in an argument with a group of outlaw motorcyclists, you can generally count your chances of emerging unmaimed by the number of heavy-handed allies you can muster in the time it takes to smash a beer bottle. In this league, sportsmanship is for old liberals and young fools.”
“The Hippies” (Collier’s, 1968) Thompson’s assessment of the actual lifespan of American hippie culture. “The hippie in 1967 was put in the strange position of being an anti-culture hero at the same time as he was also becoming a hot commercial property. His banner of alienation appeared to be planted in quicksand. The very society he was trying to drop out of began idealizing him. He was famous in a hazy kind of way that was not quite infamy but still colorfully ambivalent and vaguely disturbing.”
“The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved” (Scanlan’s Monthly, 1970) A report from the bacchanal surrounding the Kentucky Derby, America’s most famous — and, in this depiction, by far its most grotesque — horse race. Also Thompson’s first collaboration with his longtime illustrator Ralph Steadman. (See also further background at Grantland.) ”Unlike most of the others in the press box, we didn’t give a hoot in hell what was happening on the track. We had come there to watch the real beasts perform.”
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (Rolling Stone, 1971) The Gonzo journalism classic first appeared as a two-part series in Rolling Stone magazine in November 1971, complete with illustrations from Ralph Steadman, before being published as a book in 1972. Rolling Stone has posted the original version on its web site.
“Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail in ’72” (Rolling Stone, 1973) Excerpts from Thompson’s book of nearly the same name, an examination of Democratic Party candidate George McGovern’s unsuccessful bid for the Presidency that McGovern’s campaign manager Frank Mankiewicz called “the least factual, most accurate account” in print. “My own theory, which sounds like madness, is that McGovern would have been better off running against Nixon with the same kind of neo-’radical’ campaign he ran in the primaries. Not radical in the left/right sense, but radical in a sense that he was coming on with a new… a different type of politician… a person who actually would grab the system by the ears and shake it.”
“The Curse of Lono” (Playboy, 1983) Thompson and Steadman’s assignment from Running magazine to cover the Honololu marathon turns into a characteristically “terrible misadventure,” this one even involving the old Hawaiian gods. “It was not easy for me, either, to accept the fact that I was born 1700 years ago in an ocean-going canoe somewhere off the Kona Coast of Hawaii, a prince of royal Polynesian blood, and lived my first life as King Lono, ruler of all the islands, god of excess, undefeated boxer. How’s that for roots?”
“He Was a Crook” (Rolling Stone, 1994) Thompson’s obituary of, and personal history of his hatred for, President Richard M. Nixon. ”Some people will say that words like scum and rotten are wrong for Objective Journalism — which is true, but they miss the point. It was the built-in blind spots of the Objective rules and dogma that allowed Nixon to slither into the White House in the first place.
“Doomed Love at the Taco Stand” (Time, 2001) Thompson’s adventures in California, to which he has returned for the production of Terry Gilliam’s film adaptation of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas starring Johnny Depp. ”I had to settle for half of Depp’s trailer, along with his C4 Porsche and his wig, so I could look more like myself when I drove around Beverly Hills and stared at people when we rolled to a halt at stoplights on Rodeo Drive.”
“Fear & Loathing in America” (ESPN.com, 2001) In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, Thompson looks out onto the grim and paranoid future he sees ahead. “This is going to be a very expensive war, and Victory is not guaranteed — for anyone, and certainly not for anyone as baffled as George W. Bush.”
“Prisoner of Denver” (Vanity Fair, 2004) A chronicle of Thompson’s (posthumously successful) involvement in the case of Lisl Auman, a young woman he believed wrongfully imprisoned for the murder of a police officer. “‘We’ is the most powerful word in politics. Today it’s Lisl Auman, but tomorrow it could be you, me, us.”
“Shotgun Golf with Bill Murray” (ESPN.com, 2005) Thompson’s final piece of writing, in which he runs an idea for a new sport —combining golf, Japanese multistory driving ranges, and the discharging of shotguns — by the comedy legend at 3:30 in the morning. “It was Bill Murray who taught me how to mortify your opponents in any sporting contest, honest or otherwise. He taught me my humiliating PGA fadeaway shot, which has earned me a lot of money… after that, I taught him how to swim, and then I introduced him to the shooting arts, and now he wins everything he touches.”