Read 9 Free Articles by Hunter S. Thompson That Span His Gonzo Journalist Career (1965–2005)

Image  via Wiki­me­dia Com­mons

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. But in over 45 years of writ­ing, this pro­lif­ic observ­er of the Amer­i­can scene wrote volu­mi­nous­ly, often hilar­i­ous­ly, and usu­al­ly with decep­tive­ly clear-eyed vit­ri­ol on sports, pol­i­tics, media, and oth­er vicious­ly addic­tive pur­suits. (“I hate to advo­cate drugs, alco­hol, vio­lence, or insan­i­ty to any­one,” he famous­ly said, “but they’ve always worked for me.”) His dis­tinc­tive style, often imi­tat­ed but nev­er repli­cat­ed, all but forced the coin­ing of the term “gonzo” jour­nal­ism. But what could define it? One clue comes in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas itself, when Thomp­son reflects on his expe­ri­ence in the city, osten­si­bly as a reporter: “What was the sto­ry? Nobody had both­ered to say. So we would have to drum it up on our own. Free Enter­prise. The Amer­i­can Dream. Hor­a­tio Alger gone mad on drugs in Las Vegas. Do it now: pure Gonzo jour­nal­ism.”

You’ll find out more in the Paris Review’s inter­view with Thomp­son, in which he recounts once feel­ing that “jour­nal­ism was just a tick­et to ride out, that I was basi­cal­ly meant for high­er things. Nov­els.” Sit­ting down to begin his prop­er lit­er­ary career, Thomp­son took a quick job writ­ing up the Hel­l’s Angels, which let him get over “the idea that jour­nal­ism was a low­er call­ing. Jour­nal­ism is fun because it offers imme­di­ate work. You get hired and at least you can cov­er the f&cking City Hall. It’s excit­ing.” And then came the real epiphany, after he went to cov­er the Ken­tucky Der­by for Scan­lan’s: “Most depress­ing days of my life. I’d lie in my tub at the Roy­al­ton. I thought I had failed com­plete­ly as a jour­nal­ist. Final­ly, in des­per­a­tion and embar­rass­ment, I began to rip the pages out of my note­book and give them to a copy­boy to take to a fax machine down the street. When I left I was a bro­ken man, failed total­ly, and con­vinced I’d be exposed when the stuff came out.”

Indeed, the expo­sure came, but not in the way he expect­ed. Below, we’ve col­lect­ed ten of Thomp­son’s arti­cles freely avail­able online, from those ear­ly pieces on the Hel­l’s Angels and the Ken­tucky Der­by to oth­ers on the 1972 Pres­i­den­tial race, the Hon­olu­lu Marathon, Richard Nixon, and wee-hour con­ver­sa­tions with Bill Mur­ray. But don’t take these sub­jects too lit­er­al­ly; Thomp­son always had a way of find­ing some­thing even more inter­est­ing in exact­ly the oppo­site direc­tion from what­ev­er he’d ini­tial­ly meant to write about. And that, per­haps, reveals more about the gonzo method than any­thing else.

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.”

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” (, 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” (, 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.”

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Hunter S. Thompson’s Har­row­ing, Chem­i­cal-Filled Dai­ly Rou­tine

Hunter S. Thomp­son Calls Tech Sup­port, Unleash­es a Tirade Full of Fear and Loathing (NSFW)

John­ny Depp Reads Let­ters from Hunter S. Thomp­son (NSFW)

Hunter S. Thomp­son Remem­bers Jim­my Carter’s Cap­ti­vat­ing Bob Dylan Speech (1974)

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture and writes essays on cities, Asia, film, lit­er­a­ture, and aes­thet­ics. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on his brand new Face­book page.

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