Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72

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From the legendary journalist and creator of “Gonzo” journalism Hunter S. Thompson comes the bestselling critical look at Nixon and McGovern’s 1972 presidential election.

Forty years after its original publication, Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72 remains a cornerstone of American political journalism and one of the bestselling campaign books of all time. Hunter S. Thompson’s searing account of the battle for the 1972 presidency—from the Democratic primaries to the ...

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From the legendary journalist and creator of “Gonzo” journalism Hunter S. Thompson comes the bestselling critical look at Nixon and McGovern’s 1972 presidential election.

Forty years after its original publication, Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72 remains a cornerstone of American political journalism and one of the bestselling campaign books of all time. Hunter S. Thompson’s searing account of the battle for the 1972 presidency—from the Democratic primaries to the eventual showdown between George McGovern and Richard Nixon—is infused with the characteristic wit, intensity, and emotional engagement that made Thompson “the flamboyant apostle and avatar of gonzo journalism” (The New York Times). Hilarious, terrifying, insightful, and compulsively readable, Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72 is an epic political adventure that captures the feel of the American democratic process better than any other book ever written.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“The best account yet published of what it feels like to be out there in the middle of the American political process.” —The New York Times Book Review

“The best stuff on the campaign I’ve read anywhere.” —The Washington Post

“An American original. He hit the high notes out on the ragged edge, and thousands of us heard him above the canned din of the safe center.” —Los Angeles Times

“Thompson should be recognized for contributing some of the clearest, most bracing and fearless analysis of the possibilities and failures of American democracy in the past century.” —Chicago Tribune

“Some of the finest political and social writing of our times.” —The Seattle Times

“Obscene, horrid, repellent . . . Driving, urgent, candid, searing . . . A fascinating, compelling book.” —The New York Post

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781451691573
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • Publication date: 6/26/2012
  • Edition description: Original
  • Edition number: 40
  • Pages: 481
  • Sales rank: 126,808
  • Product dimensions: 5.64 (w) x 8.24 (h) x 1.25 (d)

Meet the Author

Hunter S. Thompson

Hunter S. Thompson was born and raised in Louisville, Kentucky. His books include Hell's Angels, Fear and Loathing at Rolling Stone, Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72, The Rum Diary, and Better than Sex. He died in February 2005.


Hunter S. Thompson has always had taste for starting trouble. As an ornery Kentucky kid, he was the undisputed leader of the pack, getting himself and his willing followers into trouble. Not much has changed -- Thompson still has throngs of supporters and fans and is now an icon of outspoken, unapologetic social commentary.

Thompson realized in high school that he didn't fit in with society at large. Seeking direction, he joined the Air Force after graduation, determined to be a pilot. While on the long waiting list for pilot training, Thompson was offered a position as an editor and sportswriter for Elgin Air Force Base's The Command Courier. He jumped at the chance, quickly excelled as a journalist, and even began moonlighting at a local paper. Despite his numerous offenses against military protocol, he was given an honorable discharge in 1957.

Thompson knew that writing was going to be a fixture in his life. He was an avid letter writer, often mixing fact and fantasy. After allegedly stealing a box of carbon paper when he left the Air Force, he began keeping copies every letter he sent. Eventually, his letters would be published in The Proud Highway: Saga of a Desperate Southern Gentleman 1955-1967 (The Fear and Loathing Letters), three books of love letters, correspondence with his family, and scathing complaint letters to companies Thompson deemed bad for society. The collection is considered a must-read for the glimpse it gives of how desperately Thompson wanted to be a writer.

After the Air Force, Thompson bounced through newspaper jobs, barely making ends meet and working on his first novel, the still unpublished Prince Jellyfish. In 1960 Thompson moved to Puerto Rico. It was less than ideal -- paychecks bounced regularly -- but his time in the Caribbean yielded The Rum Diary. Thompson tried to sell the novel to Random House in the 1960s, but they declined (it was eventually published in 1998).

Thompson's first novel, Hell's Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga, came out in 1966, catapulting him to fame and intriguing readers with his fast-paced writing and mischievous, wicked sense of humor. With the success of Hell's Angels, Random House finally purchased The Rum Diary. However, as legend has it, Hunter felt that it needed more work, so he convinced a Random House secretary to steal his manuscript back for him.

By the time Thompson released Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream in 1971, he had perfected his signature style, Gonzo Journalism: wild and erratic, capturing events as they happen, stripped of motive yet decidedly fictionalized. Thompson isn't a passive observer but is instead another one of his freaked-out characters. In the voice of Thompson's alter ego, Raoul Duke, he and his attorney, Oscar Acosta (Dr. Gonzo), go on a destructive drug binge while traveling to Las Vegas to report on a motorcycle race and crash a district attorneys' convention. Thompson found an artistic counterpart in illustrator Ralph Steadman, who designed this cover and others. It's classic Thompson and in 1998 was made into a movie staring Johnny Depp.

A self-proclaimed political junkie, Thompson gave his readers a glaring testimony of the truth and lies found while following the 1972 presidential race in Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72. In fact, one of Thompson's grand, recurring themes is the myth of the American Dream. The four-volume Gonzo Papers consists of articles, essays, and fiction. They are a massive attempt to expose the failure of the American Dream and show where hope is still possible. The four volumes, in order, are The Great Shark Hunt: Strange Tales from a Strange Time (1979), Generation of Swine:Tales of Decadence and Degradation in the Eighties (1988), Songs of the Doomed: More Notes on the Death of the American Dream (1990) and Better than Sex: Trapped like a Rat in Mr. Bill's Neighborhood (1994).

In 1980, Running magazine sent Thompson to Hawaii to cover the Honolulu Marathon. Friend and illustrator Ralph Steadman joined Thompson for the trip, and the result was The Curse of Lono, a fully illustrated, colorful, and strange mix of fiction and travelogue. Another oddity in Thompson's collection of works is his notorious 1991 release, Screwjack, a limited-print novella containing three short stories, ostensibly written by alter ego Raoul Duke.

In Thompson's 2003 release, Kingdom of Fear, he seems to have broken the rules one more time and written his own biography. The book tracks the life of a rebel -- the formative experiences of a wisecracking southern boy questioning authority and the unorthodox journalist who came to personify genre-bending, mind-bending outlaw stories.

Thompson's final book, Hey Rube (2004) brings him full circle; it's a sample of his columns from his stint as a sportswriter for ESPN.com. Thompson doles out searing indictments and uproarious rants while providing brilliant commentary on politics, sex, and sports -- at times all in the same column. Proving once again that he's on top of his game, his keen eye for corruption is as sharp and unforgiving as ever.

Fans and friends were shocked and saddened to learn of Thompson's death in February, 2005. While his narratives are often weird and ugly, he will always be respected and hailed as a professional risk taker, legendary agitator, and literary genius.

Good To Know

True to form, Hunter S. Thompson missed his high school graduation because he was in jail at the time, serving a six-week sentence for robbery.

Thompson once ran for sheriff of Aspen, Colorado, under his own Freak Party, whose platform included changing the city's name to Fat City in hopes of scaring off corporate investors.

Thompson was the original inspiration for Uncle Duke, a larger-than-life controlled substances buff created by Doonesbury cartoonist Gary Trudeau.

Mötley Crüe named their Generation Swine album after Volume Two of Thompson's Gonzo Papers. The book dealt with the debauchery and decadence of the era, and they found it perfect for their sleazy, irreverent brand of rock 'n' roll.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Hunter Stockton Thompson (full name)
    1. Date of Birth:
      July 18, 1937
    2. Place of Birth:
      Louisville, Kentucky
    1. Date of Death:
      February 20, 2005
    2. Place of Death:
      Woody Creek, Colorado

Table of Contents

Introduction Matt Taibbi xix

Author's Note 1

December 1971 9

Is This Trip Necessary?

Strategic Retreat into National Politics

Two Minutes & One Gram Before Midnight on the Pennsylvania Turnpike

Setting Up the National Affairs Desk

Can Georgetown Survive the Black Menace?

Fear and Loathing in Washington

January 25

The Million Pound Shithammer

Pros Scorn the Youth Vote

Fresh Meat for the Boys in the Back Room

"The Death of Hope" & A Withering of Expectation

Another McCarthy Crusade?

John Lindsay?

The Rancid Resurrection of Hubert Humphrey

Violence in the Press Box & Mano a Mano on TWA

Who Is Big Ed & Why Is Everybody Sucking Up to Him?

February 43

Fear & Loathing in New Hampshire

Back on the Campaign Trail in Manchester, Keene & the Booth Fish Hatcheries

Harold Hughes Is Your Friend

Weird Memories of '68: A Private Conversation with Richard


Will Dope Doom the Cowboys?

A First, Massive & Reluctantly Final Judgment on the Reality of George McGovern

Small Hope for the Hammer & No Hope at All for the Press Wizards

March 80

The View from Key Biscayne

Enter the Savage Boohoo; Madness & Violence on the "Sunshine Special"

Lindsay Runs Amok, Muskie Runs Scared

First Flexing of the Big Wallace Muscle; First Signs of Doom for the Democrats

Abandon All Hope, Ye Who Enter Here

Except Maybe Ted Kennedy

Later in March 103

The Banshee Screams in Florida

The Emergence of Mankiewicz

Hard Times for the Man from Maine

Redneck Power & Hell on Wheels for George Wallace

Hube Slithers out of Obscurity

Fear and Loathing on the Democratic Left

April 119

Stunning Upset in Wisconsin

McGovern Juggernaut Croaks Muskie

Humphrey Falters; Wallace Rolls On

Big Ed Exposed as Ibogaine Addict

McGovern Accosts the Sheriff

Bad News from Bleak House: Mojo Madness in Milwaukee; or How Nazis Broke My Spirit on Election Night

Mankiewicz Predicts First Ballot Victory in Miami

May 164

Crank Time on the Low Road

Fear and Loathing in Ohio & Nebraska

Humphrey Gets Ugly, McGovern Backs Off

Delirium Tremens at the National Affairs


Acid, Amnesty & Abortion

Massive Irregularities on Election Night in Cleveland; Death Watch in the Situation Room

Wallace Gunned Down in Maryland

Showdown Looms in California

June 200

California: Traditional Politics with a Vengeance

Return of the Vincent Black Shadow

The Juggernaut Roars on; McGovern Troops Ease off as Polls Predict Sweeping Victory

Hubert's Last Stand: Vicious Attacks, Desperate Appeals, Strange Tales of Midnight Money from Vegas

Free Booze & Foul Rumors in the Press Room

Ominous Eleventh-Hour Slump Reveals Fistula in McGovern's Woodpile

Later in June 232

Mass Burial for Political Bosses in New York

McGovern over the Hump

The Death by Beating of a Six-Foot

Blue-Black Serpent

What Next for the Good Ole Boys?

Anatomy of a Fixer

Treachery Looms in Miami

July 247

Fear and Loathing in Miami: Old Bulls Meet the Butcher

A Dreary Saga Direct from the Sunshine State

How George McGovern Ran Wild on the Beach & Stomped Almost Everybody

Flashback to the Famous Lindsay Blueprint & A Strange Epitaph for the Battle of Chicago

More Notes on the Politics of Vengeance, Including Massive Technical Advice from Rick Stearns & the Savage Eye of Ralph Steadman

Dark Interlude 304

August 316

Down & Out in the Fontainebleau

Nixon Sells

Out the Party

Goldwater on the Comeback Trail; Agnew in ?76

Mankiewicz Amok; Midnight

Violence at The Wayfarer

The Origins of Eagleton; Death Rattle for the New Politics

Can a Bull Elk in the Rut Pass through the Eye of a Camel?

A Vicious Attack on the Demonstrators: "These People Should Go Back Where They Belong"

September 370

Fat City Blues

Fear and Loathing on the White House Press Plane

Bad Angst at McGovern Headquarters

Nixon Tightens the Screws

"Many Appeared to Be in the Terminal Stages of Campaign Bloat"

October 390

Ask Not for Whom the Bell Tolls

November 394

At the Midnight Hour

Stoned on the Zoo Plane; Stomped in Sioux Falls

A Rambling, Manic/Depressive Screed in Triple-Focus on the Last Day of the Doomed McGovern Campaign

Then Back to America's Heartland for a Savage Beating

Fear and Loathing at the Holiday Inn

Be Angry at the Sun 434

December 435

Purging the McGovernites

Shoot-Out in the Dung-Heap Corral

Where Do We Go From Here: What Next for the "New Politics"?

A Crude Autopsy & Quarrelsome Analysis on Why McGovern Got Stomped


Four More Years

Nixon Uber Alles

Fear and Loathing at the Super Bowl

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 4 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 20 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 22, 2012

    Still Relevant

    I read this book in light of the current presidential campaign and found it relevant, insightful, funny and outrageous. Thompson was unique, fortunately, and while he could not be objective, he still presented the facts as he uncovered them. Some things have changed (for example, the national party conventions are now unimportant) and others have not (such as the need for skillful use of TV and on-the-ground volunteers).

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 10, 2012

    Shadow Link


    0 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 10, 2012


    Ok! I wanna go save a princess!!!*her long blue braid flies as she jumps* But we need to know where they are first.........rotten pumpkin.....

    0 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 12, 2007

    R.I.P. GONZO

    This is my favorite book period. Hunter S Thompson is the greatest writer ever because he tells it like it is bubba. This book (like all of Hunter's books) is both funny and insightful. I think this is Gonzo's best work.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 26, 2005

    Perfect Book for political junkies

    Doesn't matter how long after 1972 you were born (or how long before), this is one of the best books about the Primaries, the campaigns and the political process. It lags toward the end when it becomes obvious that McGovern doesn't have a chance of beating Nixon, but that doesn't detract from it in the slightest.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 8, 2005

    A Whirlwind

    Great insights into the wicked, perverted realm of America's first and last true Blood Sport: Politics! The author charges about his chosen arena with no less gusto than Tarzan zigzagging about the jungle, exploding from vine to vine - seemingly without calculation, yet, no denying it, adroit precision...readable and not in the least bit dated, although it should be since its primary concern the minutia of the 1972 presidential election. Eerily, perhaps, more relevant today. Look for the Florida swimming pool episode.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 27, 2004

    Great book; must read

    I read this book very thoroughly. George McGovern was the biggest idiot to ever grace American Politics. I never could understand for the life of me why Nixon was as crooked as he was. This shows the glory of the 1972 Campaign and the highs and lows of it

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 20, 2001

    The Bunker's Creation

    In Fear and Loathing On The Campaign Trail '72, Hunter S Thompson showed the world (and much to the chagrin of his publishers/editors) that he was the clearest and most concise voice of the Left. Following a presidential campaign from start to finish is more than just a daunting task or an exhausting dive into human foolishness, it is an art form and HST proves that his pallette is full of cynicism, wit, humor, fear and honesty. From primary to presidential election, HST gets down to the bare bones and marrow of each individual candidate with even an iota of hope to win the election that year, even if they were up against one of the most heinous and vile men of our time, Richard Milhous Nixon. Obviously Democratic and purely Left, this book is not for the faint of heart or the detail-challenged. Filled with insight and wisdom, often dotted with fantastic scenarios from Thompson's warped and beautiful imagination, F&L On The Campaign Trail '72 not only solidified HST's place in American Political Journalism, it shows that you don't have to be a genius to be involved in politics...you just need a cut-throat approach and a 'take-no-prisoners' attitude that so few in this world truly have. HST? He's chock full of it...with more to come

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 8, 2001

    Saucy and Scandalous: that¿s HST

    For anyone who is trying to catch a glimpse of the madness that was the early 1970's, read this book, everyone was in the Wasteland of what the 1960's had wrought and this book takes you to that very place where people from both sides were getting over the burn. This long & large book chronicles the events leading up to the re-election of the corrupt Nixon administration that rightly got swallowed up by its own greed & backdoor dealings, there is a stage where HST actually gets an interview w/ Tricky Dicky & they watch the football game together since it is a common interest/passion, & there weren't any others, HST throws himself into another stage as he gets in another drug haze & that chapter gets written by the editor, that¿s almost as surprising as when you get reminded several times the revelation of Muskie's Ibogaine addiction remains priceless. For someone who doesn't read political historical books like HST's writing style makes it more than interesting enough, he could probably write about paint drying & make it a genuine literary masterpiece. I most of the publications of this book included cover art by the one and only Ralph Steadmann & occasional illustrations and pictures inside too good stuff. Beyond that, HST was at the top of his form, weaving a maniacal tapestry of tales of debauchery, inside dope on what drives a campaign, and hard-nosed, clear-eyed evaluations of the losers who stormed the countryside looking for our votes. You can't read this book and ever think about Hubert Horatio Humphrey or Ed 'Ibogaine' Muskie or Tricky Dick the same way. And when your read the pale, evenhanded 'journalism' that recounts recent campaigns, you will long for HST back when he was in his prime.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 25, 2000

    Politics without filters

    Thompson describes the degredation of the national political system and still puts a smile on your face. Its impossible to put this book down, the Gonzo journalism treatment is the best way to cover any story, and Hunter is on top of his game. For politics junkies and other interested parties.

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