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Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S Thompson

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S Thompson has a cult following and was recommended to me by the co-ordinator of the first book group I ever joined. He found the author to be a very interesting character. Hunter Stockton Thompson was an American author and journalist. Born in Louisville, Kentucky to a middle class family, Thompson had a turbulent youth after the death of his father left the family in poverty.

The Blurb

‘We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold. I remember saying something like, “I feel a bit lightheaded; maybe you should drive …”’

Hunter S. Thompson is roaring down the desert highway to Las Vegas with his attorney, the Samoan, to find the dark side of the American Dream. Armed with a drug arsenal of stupendous proportions, the duo engage in a surreal succession of chemically enhanced confrontations with casino operators, police officers and assorted Middle Americans.

The Review

This particular novel Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is based on two trips to Las Vegas, Nevada, that Hunter S. Thompson took with attorney and Chicano activist Oscar Zita Acosta in March and April 1971. The book is wildly illustrated by Ralph Steadman and is Thompson's best known work. It is rooted in autobiographical incidents. The story follows its protagonist, Raoul Duke, and his attorney,Dr Gonzo, as they descend on Las Vegas to chase the American dream through a drug-induced haze, all the while ruminating on the failure of the counter-culture movement of the 1960s.

It has been notable variably for its lurid descriptions of illegal drug use, its early retrospective on the culture of the 1960s, and its popularization of Thompson's highly-subjective blend of fact and fiction that has become known as gonzo journalism. This is a style of reporting where reporters involve themselves in the action to such a degree that they become the central figures of their stories. Hunter is also known for his promotion and use of psychedelics and other mind-altering substances, his libertarian views, and his iconoclastic contempt for authority.

The novel first appeared as a two-part series in the magazine Rolling Stone in 1971. It was eventually printed as a book in 1972, and later adapted into a movie in 1998 by Terry Gilliam, of Monty Python fame. The film starred Johnny Depp.

The story is that the journalist Raoul Duke is asked to report on the outcome of the Mint 400 motorcycle race in Las Vegas. The book is one drug inspired adventure after another as Duke takes his 300+ pound Samoan attorney, Dr. Gonzo, along for the ride.They soon abandon reporting on the race as the duo begin experimenting with a cornucopia of recreational drugs. LSD, marijuana, cocaine, mescaline, ether, a pineal gland abstract drug, uppers, downers and all washed down with copious amounts of alcohol. The cocktail of drugs brings on imaginary flying bats dive bombing their heads, car crashes, and general mayhem perpetration on the tourists of Las Vegas.

Sadly, the book did nothing for me: I did not enjoy it at all. I do not care how highly thought of it is! Thompson is not one of my favorite writers, but I appreciate he was a dynamic personality. The artwork of Ralph Steadman was really the only positive the experience of reading the book for me.

The Author

Hunter S. Thompson is incomparably the most celebrated exponent of the New Journalism. His books include Hell's Angels, Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72 and Generation of Swine.


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