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Thompson, Hunter S(tockton)

fear loathing tom book

(US, 1939–2005)

Thompson worked for magazines and newspapers from the late 1950s onwards, becoming a seminal figure in the ‘New Journalism’ along with Tom Wolfe and Norman Mailer, introducing subjectivity and fictional techniques into reportage. Thompson's so-called ‘Gonzo’ writing used unrestrained language and deadpan commentary to capture an increasingly bizarre era of drugs, rock music, and political reaction, and he became a counterculture hero. His books evolved from magazine assignments, often with Rolling Stone, and from his experience of alternative lifestyles in San Francisco with the Hippies and the Hell's Angels. His most widely read book is Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1971), which begins as coverage of a motorcycle race and a district attorneys' conference. The book turns into the hallucinatory misadventures of Raoul Duke and his drug-crazed Samoan lawyer, a manic and very funny clash between the drug culture and representatives of the silent majority. Thompson's reporting on the American Nightmare continued with Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail (1973), about the Democratic Presidential primary elections, reflecting widespread public cynicism as well as his own personal excesses. A number of subsequent books have collected together fiction as well as Gonzo journalism, notably The Great Shark Hunt (1979). A ‘lost’ novel, The Rum Diary (1998), written in Puerto Rico during 1959, has been published. It concerns a young writer and his beach friends, with a menacing atmosphere of sexual and racial tension.

Tom Wolfe, Ken Kesey, Jack Kerouac  JS

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