Hunter gathers

Rating: NNNNAdmirers of "outlaw" Journalist Hunter S. Thompson will find this volume a treasure trove, for it contains Thompson's correspondence.

Rating: NNNN

Admirers of “outlaw” Journalist Hunter S. Thompson will find this volume a treasure trove, for it contains Thompson’s correspondence from the years in which he wrote his masterpieces, Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas and Fear And Loathing On The Campaign Trail.Thompson wrote to everyone from Rolling Stone editor Jann Wenner to then presidential candidate Jimmy Carter, from novelist Ken Kesey to Chicano activist Oscar Acosta. And he almost never wrote a typical writer-publisher letter, a simple “Where’s my money?”

His letters to Wenner, in particular, are monumental blends of paranoia and contempt that he occasionally tries to turn into veiled contempt, with little success.

The letters document a career (he was obviously a writer who carbon-copied everything, including grocery lists) but also provide commentary on and a road map to Thompson’s official writings. They’re written quickly but often at essay length, with strange digressions and musings that resemble the endings of some of his political stories.

Among the letters to Thompson are occasional gems, including one from Pat Buchanan (then a Nixon staffer) responding to Thompson’s inquiry about writing an article for Rolling Stone on the future of conservatism.

There’s also extended documentation on Thompson’s Freak Power candidacy for sheriff in Aspen, Colorado, where he planned to make marijuana possession a misdemeanour and to rename Aspen “Fat City” to discourage developers. If nothing else, the book is worth having for the two-page letter weighing the pros and cons of suing Garry Trudeau over the Duke character in Doonesbury.

The more time that passes, the more Thompson looks like the defining voice of his era ­– a terrible responsibility to hang on any writer, but one he can carry.

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