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A counterculture icon, Hunter S. Thompson was an American journalist best known for writing 1971's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and creating "Gonzo journalism."
A short biography of Hunter S. Thompson who is considered one of the Great American Writers and the originator of “gonzo journalism.”
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Born in Louisville, Kentucky on July 18, 1937, Hunter S. Thompson is best known for authoring Fear and Death in Las Vegas, and is credited with creating "Gonzo journalism," a highly personal style of reporting where a writer becomes so involved in the story that they become central figures in their piece. His hard-driving lifestyle, which included the steady use of illicit drugs and firearms,
"When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro."
"[Fame is like] falling down an elevator shaft and landing in a pool of mermaids."
made Thompson a counterculture icon perpetually popular with college students. After several bouts of poor health, Thompson died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in 2005.
Hunter Stockton Thompson was born in Louisville, Kentucky, on July 18, 1939. The future author was the son of an insurance agent who died while he was in high school, and an alcoholic mother, who was left penniless.
A natural prankster and troublemaker, Thompson was arrested along with two friends for stealing a man's wallet while he was in high school. Given a choice of prison or the military, Thompson joined the United States Air Force.
Thompson got his first exposure to journalism as a sports reporter for an Air Force newspaper at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida. After being honorably discharged in 1958, Thompson pursued journalism as a career and landed a series of jobs at a variety of small-town newspapers, as well as a short stint as a copy boy at Time magazine.
Thompson later said that the "Gonzo journalism" was born while he trying to piece together a story about the Kentucky Derby on deadline. The resulting rambling first-person story, The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved, which was more about the experience of watching the race rather than the actual race, was published in Scanlan's Monthly in June 1970. At the time, the piece was hailed as a breakthrough in journalism. Thompson was inundated with fan mail and phone calls, which he said was like "falling down an elevator shaft and landing in a pool of mermaids."
Fueled by alcohol and drugs, Thompson was always on the lookout for a story and was especially interested in anything that would skewer what he saw as America's hypocrisy. Thompson chronicled the cultural shift occurring in America during the late 1960s and 1970s. He was not only a cultural observer, but also a participant in that he was often the central part of his stories.
Thompson wrote his first novel, The Rum Diary, based on his experience working as a freelance journalist in Puerto Rico, in 1959. The book was first published in 1998.
In his first book, Hell's Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga, published in 1967, Thompson, in typical gonzo journalism style, chronicled his time infiltrating the Hell's Angels motorcycle gang. "I was no longer sure whether I was doing research on the Hell's Angels or being slowly absorbed by them," he wrote about the experience.
In 1970, Thompson unsuccessfully ran for sheriff of Pitkin County, Colorado, on the "Freak Power Movement" ticket. His story about the campaign experience, The Battle of Aspen, was his first of many contributions to Rolling Stone magazine.
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